Princeton Magazine, Summer 2021

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The Campus Art Collection is always open — no tickets required

But are we ready for the next pandemic?







The Jersey Shore is a mecca for birdwatchers

Home thoughts on architecture and design






And the timing couldn’t be better! 28




Wilder’s timeless classic debuted at McCarter in 1938 40


ON THE COVER: Ursula von Rydingsvard’s Uroda, sited at the entrance to Princeton University’s Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment. (Photography by Weronika A. Plohn and Charles R. Plohn)




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| FROM THE EDITOR Dear Readers, Although the Princeton University Art Museum will be closed for the next several years for redesign and renovation, the outdoor sculpture collection nestled into the green campus of Princeton University is entirely accessible and always free. Information on all of the sculptures and the interesting history behind them is described in Ilene Dube’s article, “Designed for Public Viewing.” We are so fortunate as a community to have access to spectacular works by Pablo Picasso, Alexander Calder, Ai Weiwei, Frank Gehry, and more. Fans of the Princeton University Art Museum will be pleased to learn that virtual offerings will not slow down in the midst of construction, so be sure to visit artmuseum.princeton. edu for lectures, artist talks, and free art making classes. At press time, New Jersey ranked sixth in the nation for the percentage of the population that was fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The number of new cases is dramatically down and it’s a welcome relief to enjoy some normalcy, but we can’t rest on our laurels. Donald Gilpin’s article explains how scientists are working to predict and avert the next pandemic. Epidemiologists Jessica Metcalf at Princeton University and Michael Mina at Harvard have created a “Global Immunological Observatory,” a concept similar to tracking the weather to predict the next hurricane. A global blood observatory would track antibodies produced by the immune system that appear shortly after an infection begins, providing a valuable monitoring tool of disease outbreaks. It is a novel idea with daunting logistical challenges involving collecting millions of blood samples from a diverse population, but it is of monumental importance if it successfully averts the next pandemic. Bob Hillier and I wish you all a very happy and healthy summer as you gather with family and friends.

Antoine Pevsner, Construction in the Third and Fourth Dimension. (Photo by Weronika A. Plohn and Charles R. Plohn)




All best,

Lynn Adams Smith Editor-In-Chief


Summer is in full swing, and what a welcome arrival it is after a challenging year and a half. Bob Hillier and I are proud to share this uplifting and informative issue filled with nature, science, art, sculpture, food, academia, theater, and design. They say food is the language of love, and that rings especially true in Wendy Greenberg’s profile of three local cookbook authors who translated their infatuation with food into three unique cookbooks. From Turkish delicacies and travelogues to LiLLiPiEs bite-sized pies, these books are sure to delight. Those who cook for a family with dietary allergies will be especially interested in Mary Abitanto’s adaptation of classic Italian recipes for a modern table. Wendy has a refined interest in food, has prepared several of the recipes, and gave them high marks. Donald Sanborn III revisits a classic American play that made its debut at Princeton’s McCarter Theatre before arriving on Broadway. Thornton Wilder’s Our Town premiered on January 22, 1938. Wilder knew Princeton quite well, having lived in the area while teaching at The Lawrenceville School and earning his master’s degree in French literature from Princeton University. Wilder’s nephew Tappan states, “Princeton was his home for four or five years, and I think they were very happy years … he loved the students, and he also loved being near libraries.” The relevance of Our Town continues to reinforce itself, especially with the rise of COVID and the noticeable absence of live theatrical productions. Howard Sherman, author of Another Day’s Begun: Thornton Wilder’s Our Town in the 21st Century describes, “There are very few plays that have sustained in the American repertory over that time [83 years], and none more so than Our Town.” Did you know that South Cape May Meadows is considered to be one of the best places in New Jersey to scout out birds? Anne Levin takes readers on an ornithological journey and history of the 200-acre Nature Conservancy preserve located between the town of Cape May and Cape May Point. The “drama” of the live bird webcams captivated many house cooped viewers during 2020. A bit of competition between two Osprey families and Horned Owls over a roosting site kept bird enthusiasts, “glued to their screen.” Bird watching is a great hobby to pick up this summer, especially if you are headed to the Jersey Shore. Dive deeper into the literary world of “bird land” with Stuart Mitchner’s book recommendations including The Bird House Book: How to Build Fanciful Bird Houses and Feeders from the Purely Practical to the Absolutely Outrageous and Wild & Wacky Birdhouses and Feeders: 18 Creative and Colorful Projects That Add Fun to Your Backyard. Stuart goes on to describe a variety of architectural books that inspired him during this past year in isolation.





designed for public viewing

THE CAMPUS ART COLLECTION IS ALWAYS OPEN — NO TICKETS REQUIRED By Ilene Dube | Photography by Weronika A. Plohn and Charles R. Plohn

hile the Princeton University Art Museum will be closed for cutouts he made for his sister as a child. To create the large sculpture we the next several years as construction on the new Sir David see on campus, Nesjar built wooden forms and injected them with liquid Adjaye-designed building is underway, there are still plenty concrete. This was undertaken for an open seminar of undergraduates, in of ways to experience its offerings. which they could observe and participate in the on-site re-creation of a As part of its commitment to maintaining a presence on master’s work. campus, the museum opened Art@Bainbridge at Nassau and Vandeventer streets in 2019. Closed during the pandemic, Art@Bainbridge is expected MADE FOR INTERACTION to reopen this summer. Last year, when stores were closing, the museum partnered with Arnaldo Pomodoro’s shiny golden polished bronze sphere, just outside Fine merchants to create Art for the Streets, showcasing reproductions of works Hall, looks like a planet that has eroded in parts, opening up a view to its from the collection in shop windows in Palmer Square and the Princeton jagged edged interior. In a 1974 interview he said, “I can enjoy my sculptures Shopping Center. QR codes link to more information about artwork by in a park, in an ancient public square, like Pesaro, or on a great university Albrecht Durer, Edward Hopper, Edouard Manet, Ana Mendieta, Mario campus ... I like to see people lean their bicycles on the sculptures, and Moore, and Zhang Hongtu, as well as works from the Qing pigeons come to rest, to see them humanized.” Dynasty, a beaded African tunic, an Edo-period Japanese Unless you have a flying bicycle, you won’t be able to print, and a sculpture of a Mayan god. lean it up against Sol LeWitt’s multicolored Wall Drawing The museum’s virtual offerings of lectures, workshops, #1134, Whirls and Twirls (Princeton) – it’s up on the ceiling and symposiums have become so popular, quintupling of Bloomberg Arch in Bloomberg Dormitory. LeWitt’s museum membership, that Executive Director James practice was to write out instructions and diagrams for Steward plans to continue making them available. “We’re executing his artwork, outsourcing the making of it. You not putting that genie back in the bottle,” he said. can listen to a project assistant talk about this process: But for year-round enjoyment, nothing beats the “It was summer, and it was very hot and stifling outdoor sculpture collection. With 47 works already crammed atop the scaffolding…. The project was literally in the Campus Art Collection, additional commissions a pain in the neck – we had to crane our necks to work are underway. (The museum plans to announce these overhead – but it was an important experience for me as an sometime in the future.) artist and directly influenced my own art-making practice. Not only is the campus itself an arboretum but nestled Specifically, it gave me the patience and persistence to within its archways and allees are works by significant conceptualize, design, plan, and execute my paintings.” artists including Pablo Picasso, Alexander Calder, Michele Oka Doner, Isamu Noguchi, Frank Gehry, Kate SUBLIME ECSTASY Graves, Sol LeWitt, Maya Lin, Louise Nevelson, Odili Donald Odita, Richard Serra, Ai Weiwei, Beverly Pepper, Unveiled on campus in the spring of 2017 were two siteGeorge Segal, Shahzia Sikander, Ursula von Rydingsvard, specific installations by Shahzia Sikander. Soaring above Alexander Phimister Proctor’s Pair of Tigers. and more. the forum of the Julis Romo Rabinowitz Building on The Campus Art website ( helps Washington Road, home to the Department of Economics, is Quintuplet viewers navigate a self-guided tour. Walking tours can be broken down by Effect, an intricately layered painting on glass. Nearby, as one climbs the neighborhood, and there is an audio component – curators and other experts stairs in the Louis A. Simpson International Building, a shimmering, 66take you behind the scenes to learn about the history of the sculpture, the foot glass, marble, and ceramic scroll, titled Ecstasy as Sublime, Heart as artist, and the relationship of the artwork to the University. Vector, takes visitors “on a journey from the mortal bonds of humanity to The core was assembled for the John B. Putnam Jr. Memorial Collection, the realm of abstraction,” according to the museum’s description. Sikander funded by an anonymous benefactor and named for the World War II says it is about life and death, about imagination and lack of imagination, fighter pilot and member of Princeton’s Class of 1945. As stipulated by the and represents her first foray into glass. Putnam gift, the sculptures were installed outdoors so that students and the “I think of imagination as a soaring and empowering space that is free community could experience the works in the course of their daily lives. from constraints,” she said at the time of the installation. “And if you’re Picasso’s Head of a Woman, between University Place and Pyne Drive, thinking in terms of inter-connectivity, imagination is what ties all of was one of the first acquisitions made by the Putnam Collection. It was us together.… Imagination is very much about taking ownership of the executed by Carl Nesjar, from a one-foot-high study model Picasso made narrative; it is a fundamentally political stance.” in 1962 from a folded and painted sheet metal, inspired in part by the paper


Opposite, Henry Moore’s Oval with Points. SUMMER 2021 PRINCETON MAGAZINE

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Richard Serra’s The Hedgehog and the Fox, located between the Lewis Library and Peyton Hall.

Historical figures, spiritual events, and natural elements are intertwined. A 2006 MacArthur Genius Award recipient and the subject of a retrospective exhibition at the Morgan Library in New York this summer, Sikander weaves together iconography from South Asian, European, and American contexts. Born in Lahore, Pakistan, Sikander trained under master miniaturist Bashir Ahmed and was recognized both for her technical mastery and for her radical transformation of miniature painting through experimentation. You can view Sikander in her studio in a video on the Campus Art website.

“ONE GREAT THING” Another interactive sculpture is Richard Serra’s The Hedgehog and the Fox, located between the Lewis Library and Peyton Hall. It invites visitors to walk between its sinuous walls of Cor-Ten steel, where one can experience different perspectives of its curves or the sky, or just contemplate your place in the universe. The title refers to an essay by Isaiah Berlin, who quotes from the Greek poet Archilochus: “The fox knows many things but the hedgehog knows one great thing.” Ponder that while sandwiched between its walls! It’s hard to reconcile that the Serra of today, referred to as the bestknown living sculptor in this country by the New York Times, was a subject of controversy in the 1980s, when his work Tilted Arc outside the Federal Building in lower Manhattan was hauled off and dismantled by the General Services Administration. People objected to its hulking appearance. Fortunately, Serra’s reputation did not rust, like the surfaces of his sculpture – his massive works can be seen in major collections from Doha, Qatar, and Bilbao, Spain, to St. Louis, Missouri.

SOCIAL JUSTICE Internationally acclaimed Chinese contemporary artist Ai Weiwei’s 10-foottall bronze heads on pedestals, Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads, is sited across University Place from McCarter Theatre, near Dinky Bar and Kitchen. Ai Weiwei has reinterpreted the 12 bronze animal heads representing the

12 |


traditional Chinese zodiac – the snake, horse, ram, monkey, rooster, dog, pig, rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, and dragon. The Zodiac Heads are based on those that once adorned Yuanming Yuan, an imperial retreat in Beijing. In 1860, Yuanming Yuan was ransacked by French and British troops, and the heads were pillaged. In re-interpreting these objects on an oversized scale, Ai Weiwei focuses attention on questions of looting and repatriation, while extending his ongoing exploration of the fake and the copy in relation to the original. Different editions of the heads, some in bronze and some in gold, have been making a world tour. An anonymous Princeton University graduate made this a gift after an extended loan. Born 1957 in Beijing, Ai Weiwei is the son of Ai Qing, one of China’s most respected modernist poets whose work appeared in nearly every literature textbook until he was branded a rightist and exiled to a remote

Picasso’s Head of a Woman, between University Place and Pyne Drive, was one of the first acquisitions made by the Putnam Collection.

Maya Lin’s Einstein’s Table, made from granite with a base that forms an oblate spheroid.

Antoine Pevsner, Construction in the Third and Fourth Dimension.

James FitzGerald’s Fountain of Freedom. SUMMER 2021 PRINCETON MAGAZINE

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Louise Nevelson’s Atmosphere and Environment X.

Alexander Calder’s Five Disks: One Empty.

14 |


Designed by artist Walter Hood, Double Sights, in front of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, is considered a marker, yet can be seen as art on campus.

Several of Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads.

Williams. In 2015, when it was installed, James Steward called the piece a “heroic and layered work of art by one of the greatest sculptors of our time.” “Copper is so soulful and responsive to all kinds of climate,” said von Rydingsvard. “It instinctively felt like the right thing to do.” She wants people to touch it and interact with it — some of her installations have welcomed weddings. The Campus Art website includes the one-hour lecture she gave on campus in 2015. Although technically not a part of the Campus Art, Double Sights, in front of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, is considered a marker, yet can be seen as art on campus. Designed by artist Walter Hood, it addresses Woodrow Wilson’s complicated legacy. The vertical sculpture of two columnar elements, one leaning on the other, is wrapped with surfaces of black and white stone. The exterior columns are etched with quotations of Wilson, representing all aspects of his beliefs and actions. At the sculpture’s center, the two vertical planes face each other; one is reflective stainless steel with quotations by Wilson’s critics and the other is a glass lenticular surface with images of the critics. If you want to see some of this summer’s sensations in outdoor art, such as the site-specific sculpture Fallen Sky by artist Sarah Sze; Yayoi Kusama’s polka-dotted, star-shaped I Want to Fly to the Universe; or Alex Da Corte’s Big Bird-like As Long as the Sun Lasts, you’ll SOULFUL MATERIAL still have to go to Storm King Art Center, the New York Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads. Botanical Garden, or the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s From a distance, Ursula von Rydingsvard’s Uroda looks like a torqued tree Roof Garden. But if you don’t care to drive or take public transportation, or trunk that might extend to the heavens were it not abruptly ended in a plane. get tickets and wait in line, Princeton University’s Campus Art Collection It’s a 19-foot beacon made from 3,000 hand-hammered copper pieces, sited provides a plethora of world-class sculpture in a magnificently designed at the entrance to Princeton University’s Andlinger Center for Energy and setting. There’s no place like home. the Environment, a building designed by architects Billie Tsien and Tod outpost of western China. Growing up in exile laid the groundwork for Ai Weiwei’s future as a social activist and spokesperson for freedom of speech and against injustice. He has been openly critical of the Chinese government’s stance on democracy and record of human rights violations, and was held for 81 days at an undisclosed location in 2011. Since 2015 he has lived, sequentially, in Germany, Britain, and Portugal. Another interactive work is Maya Lin’s The Princeton Line, at the heart of the Lewis Center for the Arts complex just south of Ai Weiwei’s Zodiac Heads. Here, the earth undulates in wave-like craters. Like quirky hillocks with straight edges, they beckon a visitor of any age to climb to the top, walk the line, and roll down sideways, just as a child might. Nearby is a second Lin commission, Einstein’s Table, made from jet mist granite with a base that forms an oblate spheroid. Stone bollards connect the two pieces, like celestial bodies in a galaxy. The table’s elliptical shape was inspired by diagrammatic drawings of the Earth’s orbit around the sun and is an allusion to the work of the one-time Princeton resident and physicist. A video on the Campus Art website shows an aerial view of the project, which is perhaps the best way to view it.


| 15 Listed by Robin Wallack • Broker Associate • Cell: 609-462-2340 • Platinum Level Circle of Excellence Award • Five Star Professional Award Winner


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An Osprey prepares to catch fish. (By Wang LiQiang/

20 |


Birds By the Sea

The Jersey Shore is a Mecca for Birdwatchers


By Anne Levin

n an Osprey nest perched above South Cape May Meadows nature preserve this past spring, an ongoing drama kept birdwatchers glued to their screens. A camera focused on the nest revealed two pairs of the fish-eating birds of prey, fighting a territorial battle. The war began when the pair that ruled the roost last year returned to find another couple had taken up residency. “There was a bit of a squabble,” said Bob Allen, assistant state director at The Nature Conservancy, which features the nest, live, on its webcam. “Just as that got settled, a Great Horned Owl started showing up at night. And they eat babies.” The original pair eventually reclaimed the nest. But the drama was addictive while it lasted. “It’s like a soap opera,” said Allen. “We get emails from people who watch the camera the time. It’s amazing what they see and how connected they get to the birds.

Osprey Cam at South Cape May Meadows. (The Nature Conservancy) SUMMER 2021 PRINCETON MAGAZINE

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Shore birds migration at Cape May. (By Roman Canas/

Least Tern and chick. (By Harry Collins Photography/

A Herring Gull calmly prepares to have a crab lunch on the beach at Holgate. (By CWieders/

An American Oystercatcher pokes at a horseshoe crab on Sandy Hook beach. (By Dawn J Benko/

It’s like reality TV.” Keeping up with the Ospreys is just one of the reasons birdwatchers, or “birders,” flock to the Jersey Shore. With over 465 species to boast, New Jersey is a major seasonal migration path for birds and waterfowl. South Cape May Meadows is an internationally known birders’ paradise. The five-mile barrier beach of Sandy Hook is another prime spot. And just above Atlantic City, the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge is a major draw, with an eightmile, one-way loop that can be navigated by car with a good pair of binoculars, or “binos,” as birders often call them. To nitpick a little, there are birdwatchers, and there are birders. The difference, according to, can be a matter of degree. “Birders are more intense, more dedicated, more serious about the hobby and are sometimes offended by being called a

birdwatcher, even though that’s what they really are,” reads an explanation on the website. “While birdwatchers own a cheap pair of binoculars and a beat-up bird field guide, birders tend to have several pairs of binoculars, including a very expensive one, plus a spotting scope. Birdwatchers may keep a list of the birds they have seen, but are not very diligent about it. Birders are obsessive about keeping a life list, and often maintain country lists, state lists, county lists, and even zoo and TV lists of the birds they have seen. Birdwatchers might spend a few hours in the field on a birdwatching day, while birders arise before dawn, bird all day, and look for owls at night. Every person who watches birds has his or her own style and dedication to the hobby.” People often get hooked unexpectedly. For Allen, who grew up in Hopewell, the birding habit began when he was an undergraduate at

Rutgers University. “I was a biology major, and I needed to take some biology classes, so I signed up for this thing called ornithology,” he said. “I almost didn’t, because it met too early in the morning. But I did, and I fell in love with it, and have actually ended up doing it as a career.” Mike Elfassy, whose intricate photographs of birds appear on the website of Gateway National Park, where Sandy Hook is located, wrote, “Bird watching draws people in for a wide range of reasons: From science and conservation to art or just passing interest. The parts that I enjoy the most are the elements of discovery, connection, and sharing my experiences. When watching birds in their daily and annual cycles you start to recognize their individual behaviors and notice seasonality at play in the broader ecosystem.” Birds are everywhere, said Allen. “Once

22 |


The hawk watch platform at Cape May Point State Park.

Birdwatchers with binoculars, cameras, and field guides at the beach searching for shorebirds in Cape May during the peak of spring migration.

The Osprey nest at South Cape May Meadows.

A single Snowy Egret looking for food through the marshlands of New Jersey. (John Kotlowski/ SUMMER 2021 PRINCETON MAGAZINE

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A lazy seaside afternoon. (By Mad Hare Imagery/

you start to pay attention, you’re let into this whole world happening around you that you may not have noticed. It’s fascinating, beautiful-sounding, and colorful. It can be in your backyard, or places like the Jersey Shore. It takes me to places I probably wouldn’t have gone otherwise.” That can be somewhere beautiful — or not. “When I was in Texas once, we went to the Brownsville city dump to see a rare Mexican Crow,” Allen said. “It was the only place it would show up. We saw it almost immediately.” South Cape May Meadows is considered one of the best places in New Jersey to scout out birds. The 200-acre Nature Conservancy preserve is located in between the town of Cape May and Cape May Point, and borders Cape May Point State Park. The site has a surprising history. From the mid-to-late 1800s to the 1940s, it was a vacation town with houses, hotels, tourist attractions including a three-story wooden elephant, and a railroad. That all came to an end after years of storms eroded the land. “It was getting hit by too many flooding events,” said Allen. “By 1944, it was abandoned. A couple of the houses got moved to Cape May. There are pictures of people pulling them with horses. It was a cow pasture for a long time, and there were plans to develop it into a campground. But in the late 1980s, The Nature Conservancy purchased it and protected it, and then opened it to the public. We’ve improved the habitat and made it a lot more

24 |


friendly to walk around. What’s neat is that the main trails were actually streets — 6th and 9th avenues.”

Bob Allen, assistant state director at The Nature Conservancy.

Birders and birdwatchers who look along the shore are likely to see Herons, Egrets, and lots of Ducks. “Then there are birds, like the RedWinged Blackbird,” said Allen. “Among my favorites that are more unusual are the Osprey, which almost went extinct in New Jersey during the time of [the pesticide] DDT. The fact that

they are here should make everyone happy, because it’s a sign of things getting better.” What is out there to see, and hear, depends on the time of year and the time of day. “In spring, I would start out early because you want to hear all the birds that are singing in the forest and the woods. They sing for first hour or two of the day and then get quieter,” said Allen. “Then from there, I would probably go to various wetlands along the Jersey coast. There are great freshwater wetlands, and great salt marshes. It’s good to be there in the middle of the day, because the birds are active — Egrets, Great Blue Herons, etc. That’s where I take people who are just beginning You can keep going, of course, and as it gets closer to dark, they start to sing again.” Looking and listening for birds along the Jersey Shore is unique. “It’s a mixture of lots of different kinds of habitats, and there are different kinds of birds in very close proximity,” said Allen. “And the location is key, especially in the spring and fall migrations of birds. They end up concentrated there, so you get to see lots of species, and lots of individuals of those species as well. There are so many more things to see.”




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Local Cookbook Authors Offer Recipes That Draw Us Together And the Timing Couldn’t Be Better! By Wendy Greenberg

Cucumber pomegranate salad (recipe on page 33).

TIPS FROM MARY ABITANTO: • Don’t be afraid to fail. Not every meal will be a great success. • Go out to dinner. Those meals inspire your cooking.


Lavender-infused cheesecake. (Photo by Nicole Gugliemo)

he food couldn’t be more different. But meals as a means to gather, to celebrate, and to connect with friends and family is the underlying theme of three newly published cookbooks by local authors. Mary Abitanto of Mercer County, Jen Carson of Princeton, and Joy E. Stocke of Stockton take the power of shared meals a step further by giving us their advice and recipes. They are passionate about their food, and the aromas practically permeate the print. For them, preparation can be as significant as the meal itself. The cookbooks from home cook and prolific author Abitanto; baker Carson at LiLLiPiES; and from travel and food writer Stocke extend the boundaries of the region’s reputation as a mecca for flavorsome and meaningful meals. As we all emerge from different degrees of isolation, the timing is ripe for food that inspires us to gather together. Meet three authors who encourage us to do so.

• Plan, plan, plan — do your shopping. I shop every three days. Everything is fresh. Always work with what’s in season.

Charred Asian inspired pulled pork tacos. (Photo by Mary Abitanto)

squash macaroni and cheese; and lavender-infused cheesecake. She launched her cooking journey for her family and didn’t stop. Her first book, Food That Will Gather Your Family, published in 2017, includes “goto meals” including Italian classics like meatballs, eggplant parmesan, and homemade pastas.

married, Abitanto had to jump into cooking, while working full-time. “When I got married, I got out the Betty Crocker cookbook and made a lot of things from scratch,” she said. It was then that she discovered a passion and a talent. Among her three children — now ages 21, 19, and 15 — the youngest, Jack, had food allergies, most of which he has since outgrown. “Having to accommodate Jack’s allergies is what started me on a journey of adapting recipes, but I was also compelled to make amazing foods,” said Abitanto. “I was on a quest. I did that full throttle for years.” The first book is not an allergy-free cookbook, but contains notes, like ‘no egg,’ or suggests substitutions. “Me having to accommodate Jack’s allergies was the catalyst that started the journey,” she said. But, as she wrote in her introduction, “I had developed a knack for inventiveness which carried over into all my recipes – it was a gift. But what good is a gift if you don’t share it?” She is now sharing her knowledge in a third book, Gather For The Holidays, scheduled for publication this fall. This book includes make-ahead dishes and time-saving tips to plan for holiday menus, as well as charcuterie and other food boards, and traditional celebratory holiday meals.

Growing up, she was spectator in a loving Italian kitchen. “When I was little, my grandma made ravioli, pasta, and seven fishes Christmas Eve dinner. I didn’t actually get involved in the cooking,” she said. When her mother died right before she got


MARY ABITANTO Mary Abitanto is preparing to launch her third cookbook which, like her first two, promises to reflect her bountiful home kitchen that connects her family and friends. Her most recent book, Food From My Heart & Home, published in November, is a cornucopia of entertaining and styling tips, and creative spins on recipes like coffee cake with blueberries made with sweet potatoes; smoked Gouda butternut

• Get your kids involved. You may discover a hidden talent.

Before the cookbooks there was a blog she started in 2015. The blog and website,, SUMMER 2021 PRINCETON MAGAZINE

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TIP FROM JEN CARSON: • The most useful kitchen tool: “Before I worked in professional kitchens, I had never used a portion scoop. Now I use it for everything — at work and at home.” Her home set is used to scoop muffins, scones, and cookie dough, and also for meatball shaping, hamburger portioning, and of course, serving ice cream.

Strawberry rhubarb pie, gooey butter cake (see recipe on page 33), and bacon, egg, cheese sandwich from the “LiLLiPiES” cookbook.

was a way to document Italian recipes from her dad’s side of the family. (Her mom was Irish and Swiss). “This was the beginning of the cookbook process, which included a lot of experimentation and soon the launching of my first book, Food That Will Gather Your Family. I wanted to document the classics: lasagna, eggplant parm, and of course meatballs. It’s to honor the Italian heritage. My aunt wrote down what she had. Some of the recipes were lost and forgotten,” said Abitanto. Seeing a cookbook through to its publication was a challenge in itself. Abitanto decided to become her own publisher and creative director. She had some familiarity with the process from writing a children’s book, Rebecca’s Secret, launched last June, and knew that self-published books can be of high quality. She suggests writing a complete manuscript; finding a niche or specialty; and approaching literary agents, but “move on if you get turned down.” She also advises testing each recipe three times or more, and recommends Amazon for sales. All her books are self-published, but she calls it “a community effort.” Abitanto herself took many of the food photos, did the food styling, and handled all the creative marketing. Abitanto’s very active Instagram @marioochcooks (with more than 20,000 followers and mouth-watering photos) has captured the attention of followers like Giadzy (a website from Food Network star Giada de Laurentis). She has received endorsements from Princeton food expert Raoul Momo; author and nutritionist Dr. Michelle Braud; award-winning celebrity chef David Burke; model and entrepreneur Christie Brinkley;

30 |


women’s fitness expert Denise Austin; and chef and author of The Chef of Greenwich Village, Joanne Mosconi. Abitanto has taken her talents beyond writing. She has opened for celebrity chefs and cookbook authors Graham Elliot, Anne Burrell, Daphne Oz, and Sasha Pieterse at Great Food Expo, “where I talk about cooking and share recipes, do giveaways, and have audience participation. This is something that I love doing. I always say I love a good crowd,” she said. Throughout, her faith has been important. She writes about volunteering at the area nonprofit organization HomeFront for a year and a half (her last day was in March 2020, the day before its teaching kitchen closed for the pandemic). Apprehensive of driving near big trucks on the highway, she decided to go, to share her talents, and did not encounter one truck. She called being at HomeFront “a wonderful experience. You want to make cooking accessible to everyone and affordable.” In Food From My Heart & Home, Abitanto explores other cultures and hones in on her creative talents with eye-catching food boards. “I enjoy exploring cuisines from other cultures and sharing healthy recipes developed in my home kitchen,” she said. “I am goal-oriented and wanted to document my cooking journey and parlay my talents into something tangible.” Her favorite meal is eggplant. “I can eat it every day.” (One of her favorite eggplant recipes with basil is in the book.) She likens her philosophy to the Zac Brown Band song, “Family Table”: “So won’t you come

on in? Supper’s almost done … Let’s make some memories....” “It’s the cornerstone,” she said of the family table. “I am a firm believer that you bring your kids to the table. Guard, honor, and cherish the family dinner. If you want to open your world and mind, open your palate.” All of Mary Abitanto’s books can be ordered on


Naturally, Jen Carson’s cookbook, LiLLiPiES, was launched on Pi Day, March 14, 2020. Then the pandemic shut down book celebrations and indoor

dining at the namesake LiLLiPiES Bakery in the Princeton Shopping Center. But the book took off because, as Carson surmised, people took a greater interest in baking at home. “During the pandemic, everyone wanted to bake,” she said. “Who would have guessed that everyone would want to learn to make sourdough bread in 2020? And a lot of people wanted to make cookies and gooey butter cake, too, and scones and muffins.” It’s all in the cookbook, along with helpful tools, baking tips, and instructions on babka twisting and challah braiding, scone mixing, and pie crimping. The recipes go way beyond pie — from ham and cheese-filled pretzel buns to vegan chocolate donuts. Carson started cooking in an Italian family where four generations lived in the same house. “I’m glad I had that experience,” she said. As a child in Belleville she made ravioli with her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. “Food was an important part of every celebration. It was a way to show love, an excuse to come together and share,” she wrote in her book introduction. In fact, she dedicates the book to her mother, who gave her confidence in the kitchen, “and allowed me to use pie dough as Play-Doh when I was 4.” But she was discouraged from owning her own business, especially a food business, because of the grueling lifestyle and the physical exhaustion that comes with it. Her grandfather and his brothers ran a butcher shop in Newark and her father had a travel agency. They warned against the rigors of food businesses and self-proprietorship. As a drummer, Carson considered making a career in music, but she decided to instead attend Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, where she studied elementary education and mathematics. To earn money she played in rock bands and babysat, but also worked in the college café and realized she loved it. She eventually earned a teaching degree and taught elementary school for six years before getting married and becoming a parent. Carson and her husband Ken (a bass-playing pharmaceutical chemist) are the parents of Sara, James, and Sean, now ages 16 through 22. When Sean wanted to bring birthday treats to kindergarten the rule was that treats should be single-servings. Most moms sent cupcakes, but Sean wanted pie, so Carson baked mini-apple pies in cupcake tins. They were a big hit. LiLLiPiES cookbook is available at LiLLiPiES Bakery at the Princeton Shopping Center, Labyrinth Books, Homestead Princeton, and through Amazon. com.

WHAT’S IN THE NAME? Around the same time, she was asked by a friend to bake treats for the friend’s company. The pies again were a hit, and it was suggested she needed a name for them. She brainstormed. “What is another word for little? The word ‘lilli’ reminded me of Lilliputians and Lilliput (a nation of tiny subjects in the book Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift). The name

stuck. I liked the way it sounded. And the little pies were named lillipies.” But she had not opened her own business yet. “I fought it, but my career seemed to fall into place on its own. It just felt right. The business evolved organically.” Carson found a commercial baking space, and sold to local shops like Princeton’s Small World Coffee, where she said she “learned how to create a positive company culture, and how it feels to be part of a strong team.” She trained at the International Culinary Center (formerly the French Culinary Institute) in New York City to hone her baking and management skills. In 2016 LiLLiPiES Bakery opened at the Princeton Shopping Center where Carson and her team bake small batches throughout the day for freshness. (The hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 8 a.m. to “Tree of Life” cookbook authors Angie Benner and Joy E. Stocke. 2 p.m.) The shop bakes everything from scratch using organic flour, and sources local JOY E. STOCKE ingredients. LiLLiPiES hosts community events like open In her own words, Joy E. Stocke traveled across mics and jazz brunches, and is looking forward to Turkey “kitchen by kitchen.” As a result, Tree of Life: hosting baking classes again. “People are intimidated Turkish Home Cooking for the American Table invites by baking,” she said. “It’s such a good feeling to us to join her in an immersive experience. guide students from intimidated to ‘Look — I can do The book (written with co-author Angie Benner this!’” and published in 2017 by Burgess Lea Press, a The shop, she said, “is like a member of the member of Quanto Publishing, Minnesota) is a love family that needs attention. That is a good thing. It’s letter to the food of Turkey, more significantly to the nice to see my kids proud of it and working to make passion that goes into the preparation. it succeed. They now know what it is like to serve The reader might be surprised to learn that Stocke other people in a service industry. They also saw me grew up in Wisconsin and attended the University of struggle and work really hard to build the business. I think it’s important that they saw that hard work can Wisconsin, Madison, where she earned a degree in journalism and minored in food science, where she pay off.” was taught the science behind recipe-testing. A food For the cookbook, Carson collaborated with two scholar and writer, she also has written poetry and Princeton High School students. Sophia Schreiber fiction, an article in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food did the illustrations and Chiara Goldenstern took the and Drink (second edition), and discovered the joys photos. They self-published and “are very proud of of living and eating in Turkey. the final product.” “I’m from Milwaukee,” she said. “Born into a When asked to choose, Carson said her favorite German, Polish, and Czech family, who at the time recipe is the Sourdough English Muffins. “It’s not a were recent immigrants, who lived in immigrant very difficult recipe, and it is surprising how good a neighborhoods. I was the first grandchild and cooked fresh-baked English muffin tastes,” she said. with my German grandma starting at age 2, on a The book features a full page of “pie pointers” footstool next to her in her sunny yellow kitchen.” offering trouble-shooting tips as well as a chart of The book’s inscription, “For Grandma Grete and how to convert pie recipes to different types and her daughter, Dorothea, my mother; generous cooks sizes. “I was a teacher before I was a baker,” she said. and loving teachers,” alludes to Stocke’s formative “I just wanted people to have guidance in an easy-toexperiences as a child in the kitchen. use format. I’m happy to give away all of our secrets The cover is adorned with a tree of life symbol. to people who want to bake at home.” It is explained that as a man and woman guarded As she writes in her introduction, “Bakers have an unquenchable need to share want we’ve imagined, the tree, they had everything they needed in the garden: fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers. developed, and prepared, and hope that it will give The growing zones in Turkey, where the Tigris you a little bit of joy.” and Euphrates rivers meet, are vast and fertile, Stocke said. The recipes make liberal use of cumin, pomegranate, molasses, dill, basil, mint, bulgur wheat, and especially the Aleppo pepper, a spicy, SUMMER 2021 PRINCETON MAGAZINE

| 31


Between olive oil and grapeseed oil, grapeseed holds up for frying and has a neutral fl avor for dressing. Don’t use good

olive oil for high heat, but for seasoning, simmering. •

How much saffron? “It depends on the cooking but less is more. I love it, the fl avor is romantic.”

Shrimp with orange zest topped with nigella seeds from the “Tree of Life” cookbook. (Photo by Jason Varney)

Nourishing lentil soup from “Tree of Life.” (Photo by Jason Varney)

deep red-colored pepper that originates in Syria, but can be found in specialty stores or ordered online. Stocke describes her discovery of Turkish cooking as “kismet” (the word comes from Arabic and describes the concept of fate). In 1997 she managed a guest house in a village called Kalkan, on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey, with her daughter, and met, through a mutual friend, her co-author on a balcony. They bonded over their observation that when eating in Turkey, the ingredients and preparation are part of the conversation, and the preparation becomes the celebration. They were immediately captivated by the meze table tradition (which became popular in the Ottoman culture to prolong an enjoyable evening), an array of small plates with marinated olives, nuts, cheeses, hummus, stuffed grape leaves, and more. But the book delves into kofte and kabobs, manti, makarna and pilafs, soups, chicken, and seafood. “I became fascinated with the country,” said Stocke. “Because the history is so complex.” The county spans both Europe and Asia. “If you are there, you are enveloped in layers of culture and myth.” Stocke has been writing about food for 30 years and the intersections between food, religions, and culture. Her first book, Anatolian Days and Nights: A Love Affair with Turkey, Land of Dervishes, Goddesses and Saints, was published by Wild River Books. She is currently researching a book on the fusion of culture and cuisine of the Mexican Baja Peninsula culture, and has led cooking tours there. Stocke co-founded Wild River Review, a Bucks County, Pennsylvania-based online literary magazine. She has gone on to found Tree of Life

Photographer Jason Varney “has a beautiful studio in the Northern Liberties neighborhood of Philadelphia where the recipes were styled and photographed for the cookbook,” said Stocke. “It was thrilling and nervewracking in equal measure to watch the food stylists recreate the recipes from a draft of the cookbook and see them turn out as they were intended. Many of the serving pieces in the photo shoot are from my collection, and chosen by a prop stylist. It gave me a deeper appreciation of the steps that go into creating a cookbook.” She writes in the book: “We set off in search of history, culture, and art, but the most tangible evidence of our great adventure is the recipes we learned along the way – the same ones we now cook every day at home.” Her world, she admits, is food-centric, but she is interested in elevating and celebrating “humble” dishes. Tucked among the recipes are travelogues. One of these nuggets tells of traveling on the Mediterranean coast, two women in shorts and hiking boots who run across another woman gathering olives. The olive gatherer leaves a handful of olives on a stone ledge, an offering for the hikers, Stocke and Benner. “I have traveled to the borders, and I have never felt in danger,” she said.” I felt that the families take care of you. I love the culture for that. I have been in villages that have very little and they give you what they have. I found nothing but generosity.” The appreciation for the country, its people and its food, is found in the book, and in the recipes. Tree of Life: Turkish Home Cooking for the American Table can be ordered from

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Books with a team of writers, editors, and designers with whom she has worked for 20 years.


“We had something to say, it was original material,” she said, regarding finding a publisher for the cookbook. There were some serendipitous connections, like a person sitting next to her on a mini-bus in Jamaica who was a publisher specializing in cookbooks. The book has had two printings. Quanto Publishing, based in London, hand-picked a designer who owns a house in Bodrum, Turkey, and has an understanding of the culture.

CUCUMBER POMEGRANATE SALAD From Food From My Heart & Home by Mary Abitanto Serves 8

The Cucumber Pomegranate Salad is a delicious and refreshing salad for the spring or summer months as well as a wonderful accompaniment to a hamburger or veggie burger. I love this salad for the following reasons: easy to prep ahead, visually appealing, a showstopper, healthy, tasty, and won’t spoil in the heat! If you are bringing it to a picnic, I would skip the cheese. When you add the pumpkin seeds do so the last minute before serving, so they remain crisp. Be sure to pick up salted and roasted pumpkin seeds. Adding a few sprinkles of pink Himalayan salt to this salad is highly recommended before you add the dressing. Feel free to keep dressing on the side for guests to add themselves, or toss the salad with dressing upon serving. Ingredients: 3 English cucumbers, thinly sliced 1 pomegranate, cut in half 1 medium red onion, cut into thin slivers 3 tablespoons salted and roasted pumpkin seeds 1 bunch fresh dill, chopped Pink Himalayan salt and black pepper Optional, feta cheese crumbles Optional, 3 watermelon radishes, thinly sliced (recommended) Pomegranate Salad Dressing: A drizzle of a good quality extra virgin olive oil 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar A drizzle agave syrup or honey A sprinkle pink Himalayan salt A dash of black pepper Sprinkle dried basil and dried oregano

GOOEY BUTTER CAKE From LiLLiPiES by Jen Carson Yield: 12 Bars

As I tell our customers, these are probably the sweetest items we make . . . but they are very popular. If you are from the Midwest you are likely familiar with this very American bar cookie (not really a cake at all). Ingredients: Crust: 1 ¼ cups of all-purpose flour ¾ cups granulated sugar 1 teaspoon baking powder ¼ teaspoon salt 2 tablespoons whole milk 1 large egg 4 tablespoons melted, unsalted butter Directions:

Filling: 2 sticks room-temperature, unsalted butter ¾ cups all-purpose flour ½ teaspoon salt 2 ¼ cups granulated sugar 2 large eggs 4 tablespoons whole milk ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

• Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9” x 12” baking pan, then line the pan with parchment, with a few inches overhang on opposite sides. (The overhang will allow you to remove the bars after they’ve been baked chilled for easy slicing.) • Make crust. Combine crust ingredients in a mixer with paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until dough comes together. Final mixture should resemble cookie dough. • Press this dough into prepared pan. • Make filling. Cream the 2 sticks of butter. Beat in flour and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, then add milk and vanilla. • Pour filling onto prepared crust. Smooth out surface. • Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes (middle rack) until set.

2 tablespoons pomegranate juice 1 tablespoon pomegranate seeds A pinch of chopped fresh dill A tablespoon finely diced red onion or shallots Optional, a drizzle of rosé wine Mason jar with lid Directions:

• Start by cutting the pomegranate in half. • Squeeze out some juice from each half and save for salad dressing – about 2 tablespoons. Then soak the pomegranate halves in a bowl of water and break apart the flesh, and the seeds will come right out and sink to the bottom. Drain in a colander. Pick out all the white pulp. Set aside the seeds. • Next, rinse and dry the cucumbers. Cut off the skin if you wish or keep some skin intact to create a design along the edges. The English cucumber’s skin is not tough. You will need a good chef’s knife to cut the cucumber into paper thin slices. • Now, slice the onion into very thin slivers. You will need roughly 1 cup of onions. You don’t want the onions to overpower this salad. • Chop a small handful of fresh dill, discard the stems. Using a large, white bowl (so the colors pop) add the cucumbers and red onions, and gently toss until everything is well incorporated. • Next, add in the chopped dill, and then the pomegranate seeds (save some seeds for dressing). Add in roughly 3 tablespoons of pumpkin seeds. A handful of crumbled goat or feta cheese is a nice addition as well. You can even try some fresh, creamy burrata chunks. Adding thinly sliced watermelon radishes is highly recommended so you have a gorgeous eye-catching salad. • Add all the salad dressing ingredients to a mason jar with lid and shake well right before serving.

STUFFED CHICKEN THIGHS, OTTOMAN STYLE (Sofistike Kadinbudu) From Tree of Life: Turkish Home Cooking for the American Table by Joy E. Stocke

It is said that Kadinbudu, oblong-shaped, gently spiced meatballs, were created in the 16th century Ottoman kitchens of Topkapi Palace in Istanbul as an homage to the assets of the women who lived in the Sultan’s harem. In tribute to these women about whom we know so little, we created a modern version of the traditional recipe. Made with boneless chicken thighs, feta, parsley, and lemon, this dish is simple to prepare. You can bake it at time of serving, or make it ahead and keep it for up to two hours on the warm setting of your oven. While perfect for a casual dinner party, our version of Kadinbudu works well as part of buffet or picnic. Ingredients: 12 ounces crumbled feta cheese 1 ½ teaspoons dried ground lemon, or 2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1 cup chopped parsley 12 boneless chicken thighs, skin on, about 3 pounds Directions:

• Heat oven to 375 degrees F. • In a bowl, combine the feta with the lemon, black pepper, and chopped parsley. Mix well. • Lay the chicken thighs, skin side down, on a work surface. Open and flatten slightly by hand. • To stuff the thighs, scoop 1 generous tablespoon of cheese filling into your hand and press into an oval. Place the filling in the center of each chicken thigh. Fold the meat over the filling, right side, then left side to create small packets. • Place the packets, seam side down, in a baking pan large enough to hold the thighs tightly together. It’s okay if a bit of filling falls into the pan. If additional filling is left after stuffing the thighs, scatter over the chicken. • Cover the pan with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake for 15 minutes more, until the internal temperature of the thighs reaches 165 degrees F. and the skin has turned golden brown. • Let rest for five minutes before serving. Can be served hot or at room temperature.


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“Another Day’s Begun” for “Our Town” Wilder’s Timeless Classic Debuted at McCarter in 1938 By Donald H. Sanborn III


he performance at Princeton was an undoubted success. The large theatre was sold out with standees,” wrote Thornton Wilder in a letter to his attorney and friend, J. Dwight Dana. The theater was McCarter; the performance was the premiere of Our Town on January 22, 1938. Eight decades after that Princeton debut, Our Town — which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama — is undiminished in its popularity and resonance. In 2003, a year after the most recent Broadway revival opened, a new edition of the script was published. It featured an afterword by Tappan Wilder, the playwright’s nephew and executor of his estate, who curates his literary legacy. The play is the subject of a new book: Another Day’s Begun: Thornton Wilder’s Our Town in the 21st Century (Methuen Drama/ Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2021). Author Howard Sherman says that the purpose of the book is to “show how the play remains relevant more than 83 years after that first performance. There are very few plays that have sustained in the American repertory over that time, and none more so than Our Town.” WILDER IN PRINCETON AND LAWRENCEVILLE

At the time of Our Town’s premiere at McCarter, Wilder (1897-1975) knew Princeton well, having lived in the area a decade earlier. After earning his Bachelor of Arts degree at Yale University in 1920, Wilder taught French at The Lawrenceville School (from 1921-1925 and 1927-28). The school’s Stephan Archives hold a collection of Wilder materials, including pages from Our Town, which were donated by the playwright. After his first four years at The Lawrenceville School, Wilder enrolled at Princeton University to pursue a master’s degree in French literature, which he completed in 1926. “Princeton was his home for four or five years, and I think they were very happy years,” says Tappan Wilder. “He loved the students, and he also loved being near libraries.” While he was a graduate student Wilder completed his first novel, The Cabala (1926), much of which had been drafted when he was at Lawrenceville. “Then he wrote The Bridge of San Luis Rey (1927), which was one of the great literary explosions of the 1920s,” says Tappan Wilder. For the latter novel Wilder won his first Pulitzer Prize, in 1928. Wilder’s third novel, The Woman of Andros (1930), was also conceived during his time in New Jersey. The Wilder Society’s website observes that the novel, which is set in a fictional Greek island circa 200 BCE, anticipates Our Town in its exploration of “questions of what is precious about life and how we live, love, and die.”

Opposite: The Peterborough, New Hampshire. Town Hall. (Photo by Howard Sherman)


In creating Our Town Wilder drew inspiration from, among other sources, his own work — in particular, two one-act plays from 1931. Tappan Wilder notes that Pullman Car Hiawatha has a train go “through Grover’s Corners, Ohio.” The Long Christmas Dinner depicts 90 years of a family’s life. A stage manager appears in another play, The Long Happy Journey to Trenton and Camden. Sherman observes, “You can see those techniques — the compression of time, and the paring back of storytelling just to get at the essentials — in his one-acts.” Our Town is set in the fictional town of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire. Most of the action takes place from 1901 to 1913, though in the third act there is a flashback to 1899. In the first act the Stage Manager introduces the play and its characters, describing in detail the town — and noting its cemetery. George Gibbs and Emily Webb are sent off to school by their parents. In act two (which is partly inspired by the wedding of Tappan Wilder’s parents in Moorestown), the now-grown Emily and George get married. In the third act several of the characters have died, including Emily (who died in childbirth); the act depicts her funeral. Despite the warnings of multiple characters, Emily chooses to revisit Earth for one day, to relive her 12th birthday. She painfully realizes that people fail to treasure the simplest moments of their lives while they have them. The Stage Manager replies, “Saints and poets maybe ... they do some.”

Our Town was directed by Jed Harris, with whom Wilder frequently was in conflict. Harris wanted co-author credit, which Wilder was unwilling to grant. In Thornton Wilder: A Life (Harper Perennial, 2013), biographer Penelope Niven records that the playwright “fought for the integrity of his script” and feared that Harris had a “weak sense of visual reconstruction.” After the tense rehearsal period, Our Town opened at McCarter, “where Wilder had seen so many tryouts during his years in New Jersey,” observes Niven. The cast included Frank Craven as the Stage Manager, his son John Craven as George, Martha Scott as Emily, and Evelyn Varden as Mrs. Gibbs. Most of the McCarter cast subsequently appeared in the Broadway production, which opened on February 4, 1938, after a tryout in Boston. Craven and Scott reprised their roles for the 1940 film, as did Doro Merande, who played Mrs. Soames. Variety had harsh words for the McCarter premiere. “It will probably go down as the season’s most extravagant waste of fine talent,” the critic wrote. “Once the novelty has worn thin, the play lacks the sturdy qualities necessary to carry it on its own.” Sherman remarks, “For a play that only a few months later won the Pulitzer Prize, that review doesn’t look like the smartest assessment ever made.” He adds, “I happen to have — through a friend of mine who worked at McCarter years ago — the box office statement from the premiere. It was sold out.” Additionally, the Variety review seems

“Another Day’s Begun” author Howard Sherman in Peterborough, New Hampshire. Note the street signs. (Reprinted with permission of Steve Marsel Studio) SUMMER 2021 PRINCETON MAGAZINE

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Frank Craven as the Stage Manager, Martha Scott as Emily Webb, and John Craven as George Gibbs in the 1938 Broadway production of “Our Town.” All three actors were part of the cast for the premiere at McCarter Theatre. (Photo by Vandamm Studio, distributed by World Wide photo. Source: Wikipedia.)

to have been contrary to the reactions of the general audience at McCarter. In the Afterword to Perennial Classics’ 2003 edition of the play, Tappan Wilder excerpts the letter to Dana, in which the playwright reported that viewers were “swept by laughter often; astonishment; and lots of tears; long applause at the end by an audience that did not move from its seats.” Tappan Wilder believes that his uncle’s letter to Dana is an accurate recounting of the McCarter audience’s mood. “The Variety writer wasn’t paying attention to what the audience says — he just wanted to tell readers what he thought of the play,” he remarks to this writer, adding, “You can’t have a great play without telling the juicy story about the play nearly dying on its way to Broadway! But the story is a lot more complex than is normally told.”

devoted to a specific 21st-century production, and most of the text consists of comments made by the actors and creative teams involved,


Another Day’s Begun, which derives its title from a line of the Stage Manager’s opening monologue, is the latest of several works Sherman has authored about Our Town. His essays about the play have appeared in outlets such as American Theatre and The Guardian. In the first three chapters of Another Day’s Begun Sherman offers background information about the play’s production and adaptation history, as well as a consideration of differing attitudes toward it. Each remaining chapter is

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whom Sherman interviewed. The author neither critiques the productions, nor prints comments he made during interviews. The choice of structure and content was

deliberate. “I was highly aware of my own limitations; I’d never written a book before,” he says. Having conducted numerous interviews for outlets such as The Stage and the podcast Downstage Center, Sherman concluded that “creating new material by speaking with artists that worked on the show seemed best suited to what I knew how to do.” Sherman admits, “I thought, ‘I can’t possibly cover 83 years!’ So the idea of just looking at productions in the 21st century narrowed it down. Still, Our Town is done thousands of times a year. So I tried to find productions that seemed to have their own story.” Among the recent productions that have moved Sherman are David Cromer’s 2009 offBroadway production, and a 2013 production at Sing Sing Correctional Facility. He finds Emily Webb’s experience in the third act “similar to that of the inmates at Sing Sing. They were cut off from the world. I’m happy to say that at least four of the men have been released subsequent to having done the play. So after years of having their lives very limited and isolated from the world, they are able to go back out and be in the world. That is what Emily does not have.” Sherman points out that the play has “been done around the world in multiple languages, and it continues to be done with interpretations that allow Grover’s Corners to be much bigger and broader than it necessarily was in Wilder’s day.” He adds, “I think listening to the artists in the

Publicity poster for the premiere of “Our Town” at McCarter Theatre on January 22, 1938. (Reprinted with permission of The Wilder Family LLC.)

Thornton Wilder photographed on the deck of the S.S. Britannic in 1935, three years before the premiere of “Our Town.” (YCAL, reprinted with permission of The Wilder Family LLC.)

Page 1 of Wilder’s 1937 draft of “Our Town.” Yale Collection of American Literature. (YCAL, reprinted with permission of The Wilder Family LLC.)

Thornton Wilder’s Yale College graduation photo taken in 1920, a year before he started teaching at The Lawrenceville School. (YCAL, reprinted with permission of The Wilder Family LLC.)

A copy of the box office statement for the premiere of “Our Town” at McCarter Theatre. (Reprinted with permission of The Wilder Family LLC.)

Frank Craven as the Stage Manager in the 1938 Broadway production of “Our Town.” (Photograph by Alfredo Valente. Source: Wikipedia) SUMMER 2021 PRINCETON MAGAZINE

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productions that I chose gives a sense of what the breadth and potential appeal of Our Town is, across a variety of experiences for people.” CONTEMPORARY RELEVANCE

On the tendency of Our Town’s critics to disdain it as timeworn or overly nostalgic and sentimental, Tappan Wilder remarks, “Like a cat clawing on a tree, detractors claw on that notion. There’s a terrific amount of sentiment in the play, but sentimentality is in the eye of the beholder.” Tappan Wilder reports that he has been involved, along with Rosey Strub (the director of programming for The Wilder Family LLC), with “some remarkable productions of the play.” One was presented by Miami New Drama in 2017, and was “performed in three languages (English, Spanish, and Creole), all in the same show.” He adds that for him, this version let the audience see Our Town as the “great international community play that I think it is.” The production is the subject of chapter 12 of Another Day’s Begun. On May 19 the National Asian American Theatre Company (NAATCO) presented a one-night-only online reading of the play, to celebrate Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. In an interview with Tappan Wilder (on, the company’s co-founder Mia Katigbak — the production’s

director — explains, “I thought a reading of Our Town would be a great way to celebrate what NAATCO is devoted to — demonstrating what we have in common amongst all of our different cultures, rather than continuing to be so divisive. We had started the process of casting when antiAsian violence escalated.”

We have, for the most “ part, spent the past year

or so being told we need to stay indoors. If we go out, we have to be careful and wear masks, and we can’t socialize with people. Unlike Emily, we have the chance to go back and take what we’ve learned.

—Howard Sherman

This is not the first time the play has been juxtaposed against — or in response to — violence. The 2002 Broadway revival was a response to the events of September 11, and in England a 2017 Royal Exchange Manchester

production was in response to a suicide bombing at the Manchester Arena earlier that year. A New York Times article quotes Artistic Director Sarah Frankcom as saying, “There was a real sense that people were meeting each other in simple, everyday actions … it wasn’t about looking at flowers, but about needing to be together.” “The emotional climax of Our Town is Emily Webb realizing all of the things she’ll miss, and maybe all of the things she wasn’t paying enough attention to. She is in a place where she can no longer do that,” Sherman observes. “We have, for the most part, spent the past year or so being told we need to stay indoors. If we go out, we have to be careful and wear masks, and we can’t socialize with people. Unlike Emily, we have the chance to go back and take what we’ve learned.” He looks forward to the opportunity to see another live production of the play, postpandemic. “There is something deep in Our Town that can speak to people,” he reflects. “It is evocative, it is cathartic — and in some way, I think it becomes you.” Tappan Wilder offers, “The play gets rediscovered all the time; I think that’s the definition of a very great play. Our Town is an extraordinary statement about meaning, life, and community, to which we can all identify. It’s a wonderful rallying cry from the heart for what is deeply human and unifying in all of us.”

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Greenwood House amission-based nonprofit, mission-based organization rooted cherished Jewish traditions and an industry House is aisnonprofit, mission-based organization rooted inincherished Jewish traditions and an industry reenwood Greenwood House is a nonprofit, organization rooted in cherished Jewish traditions and an industry leader in providing high-quality senior health care the state NewJersey. Jersey. Seniors allfaiths faiths are welcome. leader inhigh-quality providing high-quality senior health care inin the state ofofNew Seniors ofofall are welcome. leader in providing senior health care in the state of New Jersey. Seniors of all faiths are welcome.

Call today; (609) 718-0587 us us today; (609) 718-0587 day;Call (609) 718-0587 Or email us at email us at us Walter Street 5353 Walter Street r Street Ewing Township, NJ 08628 Ewing Township, wnship, NJ 08628 NJ 08628 @GreenwoodHouseNJ @GreenwoodHouseNJ

@GreenwoodHouseNJ Parkway Ave/Scotch Exit & I-295) (Off(Off Parkway Ave/Scotch RdRd Exit & I-295) ay Ave/Scotch Rd Exit & I-295) Greenwood House a beneficiary agency Jewish Federation Princeton, Mercer, Bucks. Greenwood House is aisbeneficiary agency of of thethe Jewish Federation ofof Princeton, Mercer, Bucks. d House is a beneficiary agency of the Jewish Federation ofmade Princeton, Mercer, Bucks. *Greenwood House Health Care and Homemaker Program possible by the generosity Shirley&&Harold HaroldSilverman. Silverman. *Greenwood House Health Care and Homemaker Program made possible by the generosity ofofShirley od House Health Care andHospice Homemaker Programinmade possible byDenmark the generosity **Greenwood House was established memory Renee Punia. of Shirley & Harold Silverman. **Greenwood House Hospice was established in memory of of Renee Denmark Punia. ood House Hospice was established in memory of Renee Denmark Punia.

• Chemicals are ubiquitous in our modern lives...they are found in our food, drinking water, indoor and outdoor air, personal care and cleaning products, on our lawns, furniture, and clothing. • Chemicals are now found in the bodies of adults, teens, children, newborns, and even our pets. • Robust, world-wide data shows their harmful effects on human health, including obesity, diabetes, autism, heart disease, hypertension, ADHD, depression, autoimmune disease, thyroid disease, and cancer. • Many of these health conditions, and medications used to treat them, are associated with worse outcomes and even death from COVID-19 infection • There is no better time than NOW to reduce chemical exposure...let me show you how.

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the United States and the world gradually, unevenly, haltingly emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic after 18 months, there is ample cause for relief, joy, even celebration. People are coming out of their homes to reconnect with family and friends. Vacation spots, resorts, and recreation areas are alive again. Restaurants, shops, theaters, sports complexes, and entertainment centers are welcoming large numbers of visitors. But there have been pandemics in the past, and COVID-19 won’t be the last. After the initial exuberance dies down, will the nation and the world be able to embrace lessons learned from this pandemic that might help humanity survive the next one and the one after that? Jessica Metcalf, a disease ecologist and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs, already has a plan that might have saved hundreds of thousands of lives in the early days of COVID-19 and could save millions of lives in battles against future epidemics. PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY JEFFREY E. TRYON


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Photos coUrtesy of

Antibodies in the human immune system that fight against pathogens can serve as a record of those pathogens. (

Blood samples. (

A research team, led by Metcalf and Harvard epidemiologist Michael Mina, is on track to detect, define, and defeat disease outbreaks faster by testing for antibodies to infectious agents in millions of blood samples. Metcalf is working to create an observatory which would collect tiny samples of blood from blood banks, plasma collection centers, and elsewhere, identifying the samples only by geographical area. The samples would be tested for thousands of different antibodies and screened for signs of pathogens that might be spreading. “The big idea I’m really excited about at the moment, which I think would have put us in a much better place for dealing with this pandemic, but will also leave us in a better place for future pandemics, is a Global Immunological Observatory (GIO),” said Metcalf in a May 2021 Princeton University interview. She went on to explain how our immune system, examined through a small blood sample, can reveal an understanding of whether we have been exposed to a particular virus and how the spread of pathogens can occur. Antibodies in the human immune system that fight against pathogens can serve as a record of those pathogens, and scientists can determine, through blood (serological) testing, what viruses we have had, even if some of them never made us sick. “By going and taking samples from everyone we can get an extraordinary window into the past of what pathogens have circulated where

the world and how that data enables scientists to examine and predict weather patterns and chart indications of climate change. “The real value of a GIO will come if we can combine all this data into a single location and make it available to researchers around the world. It would be a single data base that contains a sense of what the global landscape immunity is.” The necessary investment would pay off richly in billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives saved if predicting the next pandemic could become as routine and reliable as predicting tomorrow’s weather. The GIO could alert the world to the emergence of dangerous pathogens like COVID-19, and coordinated responses from governments, public health, and citizens across the globe could be initiated early enough to control outbreaks. A few years ago a measles study that Metcalf was involved with in Madagascar found, through investigation of blood serum samples, that immunity to measles was dangerously low. Vaccinations had succeeded in almost eliminating the disease earlier in the century, but a portion of the population remained susceptible because they hadn’t been vaccinated. The available data was incomplete and the samples were not from a representative crosssection of the population, but the imperfect data did reveal that many people in Madagascar lacked immunity to measles, and the researchers predicted a future outbreak. Unfortunately that outbreak came in 2018 with an epidemic that was especially severe among young children.

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and who has been exposed and who hasn’t,” Metcalf noted, “but we also have a sense of what vulnerabilities are in the future because that pathogen exposure tells me whether I’m protected or not and it also tells us something about whether that pathogen, whether that influenza virus, will be able to spread or not.” She added, “So our own immune systems contain the data that we want, and what we’d like to be able to do is capture that information and put it into our data systems and capture it routinely across seasons and across years and capture it globally.”

Jessica Metcalf, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs.

“An EArly WArning SyStEm” Metcalf compared the way that sea surface temperature data has been collected into a single data base by buoys, sensors, weather stations, and satellites across all the oceans of

Princeton University, office of the Dean for research, sameer a. Khan/ fotobUDDy.

Blood donation. (


Further investigation of blood serum antibodies would have provided definitive early warning of the danger long before the outbreak occurred. Susceptible individuals could have been vaccinated, and the effort could have saved Madagascar from the deadly effects of the 2018 measles outbreak. Metcalf and her colleagues wrote, in a June 2020 eLife article, “Science Forum: A Global Immunological Observatory To Meet a Time of Pandemics,” that “as this pandemic has repeatedly shown, early warning and rapid response can make dramatic differences that translate directly to immensely favorable outcomes.” In her May 2021 interview Metcalf also noted, “There are many potential advantages to a Global Immunological Observatory. The first would simply be detecting where there are gaps in immunity to pathogens for which we know we have the ability to fill those gaps, for example by vaccination for measles or rubella or other vaccine preventable diseases.” She continued, “The other thing we can do is detect anomalies. So if we suddenly see an uptick in coronavirus immunity in a part of the world which doesn’t normally have that immunity, we might wonder if there has been a pathogen emergence event, or it might be an early warning system.” The GIO, Metcalf noted, will also provide scientists and medical professionals with a better understanding of “the central mystery of how the immune system works.”

CHALLENGES AHEAD Metcalf and her team face a number of challenges in the ongoing development of the GIO. Mina, who is a physician at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, has hundreds

of thousands of blood samples from across the country in his lab and is seeking funding to expand testing capacity and pursue the necessary ongoing research. Interpreting the samples is difficult. “More fundamentally,” Mina, Metcalf, and their team wrote, “despite huge recent progress in immunology, the complexity of the immune


system remains a barrier: a revolution in the infrastructure of immune surveillance and systems immunology to generate new understanding and resultant techniques is required.” Perhaps even more troublesome than the scientific and financial concerns are the challenges of overcoming the foibles of human nature. As masks are removed, social distances eliminated, and normal life resumes, will the lessons of this pandemic be forgotten? Will we all be able to work cooperatively and collaboratively with each other to achieve coordination among nations across the globe? Getting scientists, doctors, government leaders, and citizens working together to prepare for the future has never been easy, and it remains to be seen if the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed society and opened doors for cooperation and progress on life-saving endeavors like the GIO. “There’s a host of infections from which we should no longer be dying,” Metcalf noted in Princeton University’s Discovery research magazine. “The COVID-19 pandemic has been an extraordinarily difficult time for all of us,” she added. “As a scientist it has also been amazing how much all of us have learned. Of course I would have preferred to learn these things in any other way, but it is undeniable that the progress that has been made in vaccinology and also immunology has been utterly remarkable.”


Princeton International School of Mathematics and Science

Princeton International School of Mathematics and Science


Congratulations! We are proud of you! Congratulations to the PRISMS Class of 2021!

We wish you all the best with your future endeavors and good luck to you with your continued education at the following institutions: California Institute of Technology; Carnegie Mellon University (2); Cornell University, School of Architecture; Illinois Institute of Technology; Massachusetts Institute of Technology (4); New York University; Northwestern University (2); Purdue University; Rutgers University, 6-year Pharm. D. Program; Stanford University; Tufts University; University of California, Berkeley; University of Cambridge (2); University of Chicago (2); University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (2); Yale University. We are proud of you!

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’m beginning the summer Book Scene in the spirit of the old Billie Holiday song, “Back In Your Own Backyard,” where “the bird with feathers of blue is waiting for you.” The traffic at our community of bird feeders kept us smiling during the long haul of the work from home mandate, providing a cheerful, melodious alternative to “sheltering in place.” It helped to imagine the chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, and goldfinches as a microcosm of pre-pandemic society where the only masks were worn by the cardinals, with comic relief coming from the acrobatics of squirrels; even the mob scenes made by starlings and grackles were welcome signs of life. Taking the architectural/design theme to the backyard, I see a miniature Swiss chalet favored by the goldfinches, a rustic green bungalow for the cardinals, and a suet feeder with a rust-red roof favored by the woodpeckers, and, on either end, two elegant Edwardian towers, the larger of which reminds me of Norman Foster’s London Gherkin. After checking out the possibilities in birdland, I found The Bird House Book: How To Build Fanciful Bird Houses and Feeders from the Purely Practical to the Absolutely Outrageous by Bruce Woods and David Schoonmaker; Paul Meisel’s Wild & Wacky Bird Houses and Feeders: 18 Creative and Colorful Projects That Add Fun to Your Backyard, in paperback from Fox Chapel Publishing; and 23,000 Bird Feeders: A Common Sense Guide for Crafting Success by Connie M. Thompson, which describes how the author and her husband Pat sold 23,000 of their hand-painted bird feeders at craft shows and art fairs for over 20 years, “as well as thousands of bat houses, squirrel feeders, snow gauges, walking sticks, and butterfly houses.” UNDERSTANDING WHO WE ARE

Advised to look into’s recommended architecture and design books to read during quarantine (stir stands for “see.think.inspire.reflect”), I found Alain de Botton’s The Architecture of Happiness (Penguin UK), in which he says, “It is in dialogue with pain that many beautiful things acquire their value .... We might, quite aside from all other requirements, need to be a little sad before buildings can properly touch us.” In the same key, he suggests that “bad architecture is in

the end as much a failure of psychology as of design,” a result of “the tendency not to understand who we are and what will satisfy us.” What he’s getting at is in line with the way the pain and paranoia of the pandemic mindset was eased by our five backyard bird feeders. SPIRITUAL IDEAS

Between Silence and Light (Shambala) by architect Louis I. Kahn and John Lobell is “a luminous book” that “beautifully captures the essence of my father’s spiritual ideas about architecture,” according to Nathaniel Kahn, Academy Award–nominated filmmaker of My Architect. Stirworld presents Between Silence and Light as “an insightful book to refer to while under isolation.” A review in the New York Times declares, “Ideas change society; architecture changes the visible, functioning environment. Occasionally, one man’s creativity spans both; and the way men build to express their emotional and physical needs is never quite the same again. Louis Kahn was such a man.” THINKING AND LIVING

With its Dali-esque cover, Juhani Pallasma’s The Thinking Hand: Existential and Embodied Wisdom in Architecture (Wiley) is offered as “a manifestation of the primal connection between the hand, body, mind, self, and the artist.” In Postmodern Architecture: Less is a Bore (Phaidon), Owen Hopkins showcases examples of the movement in all its forms, taking his subtitle from postmodernist Robert Venturi’s response to Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s dictum that “less is more.” According to Design Anthology, “The book features some gleefully nonconformist postmodern architecture from around the globe.” Another book from Phaidon is Living in Nature: Contemporary Houses in the Natural World, a selection of 50 architect-designed houses that have in common a special relationship with their green surroundings.

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Christie Pearson’s The Architecture of Bathing: Body, Landscape, Art (MIT Press), which ponders “the bath’s utopian and dystopian aspects,” was one of the New York Times’ “5 Books to Take a Deep Dive Into Design.” In her October 1, 2020 review, Eve Kahn (no relation to Louis) notes that Pearson “has peered into Indian stepwells shaped like upside-down ziggurats and wandered mazes of domed masonry bathhouses in Budapest, illuminated only by ‘rays coming through tiny stars of glass, articulating mathematical symmetries.’” While she “does not shy away from the dark side of underwater realms,” Pearson “still conveys the transformative power of a soak.” “FAIRY TALE ARCHITECTURE”

Notable among the other books in Kahn’s “deep dive” is brother and sister team Andrew and Kate Bernheimer’s collection of 19 case studies, Fairy Tale Architecture (Oro Editions), wherein Jack’s beanstalk as designed by the firm Levenbetts looks like, in the reviewer’s words, “a terrifying amusement park ride snarled in garden hoses. Little Red Riding Hood, according to the architects Mary English and Xavier Vendrell, was swallowed by the wolf

at Robert Venturi’s famed 1960s gabled house designed for his mother, Vanna Venturi. The engineering firm Guy Nordenson and Associates proposed a concrete and timber tower for Rapunzel, reinforced by ‘intermittent outrigger beams.’ Just below its conical roof, her blonde braid cascades from a narrow opening and is kept clear of eye-gouging thorn bushes even while princes are climbing. ‘Strength of locks shall satisfy live load requirements,’ the rendering’s notations caution, in a welcome dose of deadpan escapism for a year otherwise so drained of joy.” 102 STORIES

Architecture begins at home. In this room, in fact. A day ago, it was a hodgepodge ghetto of books, leaning towers, and ramshackle tenements about to topple until I put them right, not so much rebuilding as redistributing. The magic password is “stories,” the Open Sesame to a childhood fantasy of Art Deco New York, where each tower, from the RCA Building to the Empire State, could be imagined housing floor after floor of narratives, essays, adventures. Yes, I was once so naively new-to-the-world that I thought the 102 stories of the Empire State Building were somehow magically equivalent to the stories in books. SUMMER 2021 PRINCETON MAGAZINE

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A Window on Windrows

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Live Your

Best Life

Now is the time to pursue your passions! There is truly something for everyone at Princeton Windrows. Explore your talents and interests in a wide range of activities, classes, and programs that will engage you intellectually and socially, and energize you physically. Art Lovers - Draw or paint in an art group, view resident art in our Art Gallery, and take day trips to Princeton area galleries and museums. Literature and Film Aficionados - Join our book and film discussion groups, use our extensive library, and participate in our photography club and weekly lecture series. Fitness Fans - Stretch your muscles in yoga and strength classes, tai chi, table tennis, swimming, water aerobics, and water Zumba. Head outdoors for pickleball, tennis and croquet, and walk along our wooded paths. Gamers - Join friends for party and duplicate bridge, mahjong, Mexican dominoes, Scrabble and poker. Music Devotees - Rehearse and participate with our chorus or sing along at monthly gatherings. Attend vocal and instrumental performances by Windrows residents and invited performers. Science and Technology Enthusiasts - Continue your lifelong learning with our science group discussions and lectures. Pet Parents - Meet others with fine furry friends and take your pet around our campus for socializing and exercise.

Discover Princeton Windrows Come and experience our unique, welcoming community. The expertise of our caring and dedicated staff, our beautiful 35-acre campus, a rich selection of services and amenities, and maintenance-free lifestyle are what make us truly... A resident-owned and managed 55-plus independent living condominium community Princeton Windrows Realty, LLC | 2000 Windrow Drive, Princeton, NJ 08540 609.520.3700 | | All homes located in Plainsboro Township. Photo Credits: Princeton Windrows Photography Club