Saturday, January 30, 2010

One Top Cookie

Here's one man's idea of how to support your local sacred musician. Thanks to Frank Goodwin, The Boston Globe, and Alex Beam. Enjoy!


One top cookie

Frank Goodwin sells macaroons to assist Episcopal choir schools

By Alex Beam
Globe Staff / January 29, 2010
In March , 2008, The New York Times reported on a “crisis’’ at Manhattan’s Century Association, a posh membership club. The venerable Century had lost its 60-year supplier of macaroons, which it serves to all guests at the end of both lunch and dinner. The search for the perfect macaroon had dragged on for six months and threatened to last forever.
That quest eventually led to a ramshackle, three-story building at the corner of Everett and Lamson streets in East Boston, where a remarkable 75-year-old man named Frank Goodwin makes his St. Emilion macaroons. These are not the squishy coconut macaroons favored by some bakeries. They are silver-dollar-size, honey almond macaroons, made according to a recipe popularized by Ursuline sisters in France, later adopted by Melrose caterer Stanley Flagg, and passed on to Goodwin.
It would be interesting enough that a retired engineer, dockmaster, Coast Guard swabbie, and lobsterman - that’s the same person - hand-makes macaroons, alone, laboring in front of a creaky Edison oven while listening to Howie Carr on the radio. “He seems like an irreverent slob,’’ says Goodwin, who clearly has a soft spot for irreverent slobs.
Goodwin is quite a character, in the good sense. He tosses off Burma Shave doggerel - e.g., “Hardly a man is now alive/ Who passed on a hill at 75’’ - and manages to weave his former neighbor at Commercial Wharf, the publisher Bernie Goldhirsh, and serial killer Lenny “The Quahog’’ Paradiso into adjacent sentences. Hint: They both liked macaroons.
Goodwin doesn’t drive, and hand-delivers his treats to Locke-Ober, the Somerset Club, the Harvard Club, and elsewhere by riding the subway or cadging a ride from some old salt-water pals. He carries a cellphone but has to phone a friend to ascertain the number. His website,, is awful, but he has lost track of the webmaster. “I think he’s gone out of business,’’ Goodwin moans. “I really don’t get the Internet.’’
Here is the rub. Goodwin lives like an anchorite in a shared home on Bayswater Street, 2,000 feet northeast of Logan runway 22 left. Much of his personal income, and all of the proceeds from the macaroon business, go to charity. And not just any charity. Goodwin is a firm believer in Anglican musical education, and usually pays for two students to attend the St. Thomas Choir School on Manhattan’s West Side. He also donates to All Saints Parish in Ashmont, which has a famous boys’ choir, and to the Boston City Singers.
How did Melrose-born Frank Goodwin, raised a Roman Catholic and publicly educated, become an angel for Episcopal choir schools? While serving at New Jersey’s Fort Dix in 1957, Goodwin and a few Army buddies asked a New York cab driver to ferry them to a Catholic church on Easter Sunday. By mistake, the cabbie dumped them at St. Mary of the Virgin on West 46th Street. An Episcopalian was born. “I liked the smells, the bells, the music,’’ Goodwin remembers. “And the rector had a wife, which was pretty interesting.’’
Goodwin is not musical himself, although he is convinced that music is the ideal handmaiden for elementary education. He is not obsessively religious. “I go to All Saints a few times a year, and I venture down to St. Thomas’s now and then,’’ he says. He calls Trinity Church in Copley Square “the quintessential expression of Western Christianity,’’ but he’s not a regular there, either. “I am what I am,’’ he told me in the course of several conversations. “I hate to be defined.’’
When we met this week, he lit a couple of gas jets to warm up his Everett Street bakery, and put on a DVD of Simon Chase, then an eighth-grader from Dorchester, playing Bach’s Violin Concerto in A minor at the St. Thomas’s graduation four years ago. Goodwin helped pay for Simon and two of his brothers to attend St. Thomas’s. “He also buys a Swiss Army wristwatch for every boy,’’ Simon’s mother told me, “because he noticed that they don’t all get prizes at graduation.’’
“This is as good as it gets,’’ Goodwin mumbled as we watched Chase finish the four-minute piece, to thunderous applause. Yes, I think it is.
The St. Emilion macaroons passed the Globe’s taste test: “Incredible!’’ said my colleague Bella English; “Growrff!’’ said Charlie Pierce. Order them from Woodstock, Vt.-based, and help make the world a more euphonic place.
Alex Beam’s e-dress is

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