Schindlers are a ‘Mod­ern Stone Age Fam­ily’

Kent County News - - FRONT PAGE - By HAN­NAH COMBS [email protected]­times.com

CHURCH HILL — “It’s about bal­ance. It’s about con­nec­tions. It’s about learn­ing to live and eat like hu­mans again,” say the Schindlers, Bill and Christina.

The Church Hill res­i­dents and ed­u­ca­tors took their jour­ney and shared it not only with their fam­ily, but through so­cial me­dia and the web to any­one who wanted to be able to share the ex­pe­ri­ence of liv­ing life abroad for a year with them. Cov­er­ing four con­ti­nents and 13 coun­tries, the Schindlers — along with their three chil­dren — em­barked on their trip in Au­gust 2017 and re­turned to Mary­land just be­fore school be­gan this past fall.

The two are self-de­scribed op­po­sites. Christina for­merly over­saw in­struc­tional tech­nol­ogy at Queen Anne’s County Pub­lic Schools and now works for Caro­line County, and Bill is an ar­chae­ol­o­gist-chef and ex­pert in prim­i­tive tech­nol­ogy at Wash­ing­ton Col­lege in Ch­ester­town.

They quip, “she can build a web­site, but he can knap a stone tool.” Blend­ing those op­po­site ends of the tech­nol­ogy spec­trum make for amus­ing con­ver­sa­tions over fer­mented home-cooked meals, say the cou­ple, but there is no deny­ing they are both aligned to find­ing a healthy bal­ance in this mod­ern world.

Dubbed “The Mod­ern Stone Age Fam­ily” by a news ar­ti­cle in the Lon­don Times, the name quickly took hold.

Although, their trav­els and in­ter­est would soon gain no- to­ri­ety, when Christina first be­gan de­pict­ing the fam­ily’s ad­ven­tures on In­sta­gram she said, “We are far from per­fect. If any­thing, The Mod­ern Stone Age Fam­ily is a way to show how much we need to learn. By vis­it­ing dif­fer­ent coun­tries and learn­ing from dif­fer­ent cul­tures, we can de­velop a deeper un­der­stand­ing of what it means to be hu­man and truly how to live again — not just be alive. This jour­ney is about find­ing out how our fam­ily op­er­ates, how we can im­prove to be our best selves pos­si­ble and how we can sup­port one an­other along this jour­ney.”

Their year abroad, liv­ing just out­side of Dublin city cen­ter in Air­field Es­tate, a 38-acre farm, came at a time that was fit­ting for both of their ca­reers. Bill was on a sab­bat­i­cal from Wash­ing­ton Col­lege to con­duct re­search and to write, while Christina was able to take a leave of ab­sence.

That didn’t mean though that they were granted a year’s va­ca­tion, said Christina. They would con­tinue to travel and work across Europe and Asia, and vis­ited Thai­land, Ger­many, Italy, Si­cily, Slo­vakia, Greece, Crete, and in Africa, Kenya and South Africa to name a few of the 17 coun­tries they vis­ited.

The chil­dren — Bri­anna, Billy and Alyssa, in high school, mid­dle school, and el­e­men­tary school, re­spec­tively — were en­rolled in school while the fam­ily used Ire­land for their Euro­pean home base as an op­por­tu­nity that al­lowed them to be­come very in­volved in the com­mu­nity, forg­ing re­la­tion­ships with par­ents and other stu­dents along with col­leagues.

No stranger to bring­ing his con­cept of liv­ing and eat­ing like our ear­li­est an­ces­tors, three years ago Bill co- starred in Na­tional Geo­graphic’s tele­vi­sion se­ries “The Great Hu­man Race.” The year in Ire­land was in many ways an ex­ten­sion of the Na­tional Geo­graphic ex­pe­ri­ence and was a pow­er­ful re­search col­lab­o­ra­tion bridg­ing two aca­demic in­sti­tu­tions — Wash­ing­ton Col­lege in Ch­ester­town and Univer­sity Col­lege Dublin in Ire­land — with Odaios Foods, a cut­ting edge food- ser­vice provider in Ire­land to form an in­no­va­tive Food Evo­lu­tions pro­ject.

The pro­ject fuses an­thro­po­log­i­cal knowl­edge, food and farm­ing sciences, culi­nary arts, and ex­per­i­men­tal ar­chae­o­log­i­cal ev­i­dence to en­cour­age lead­er­ship, in­no­va­tion, and change in mod­ern food habits and culi­nary prac­tices; and to ed­u­cate the pub­lic to take con­trol of their food and eat like hu­mans again. The Food Evo­lu­tions pro­ject helped to lay much of the foun­da­tion on which Bill’s new­est pro­ject, the East­ern Shore Food Lab at Wash­ing­ton Col­lege, is built.

Learn­ing to cook from scratch is an im­por­tant part of their fam­ily dy­namic, said Christina. Whether mak­ing homemade pasta, cook­ing fresh veni­son or bak­ing a birth­day cake, all three kids are hands on with their food and diet, and take an avid in­ter­est in their fa­ther’s work.

Spend­ing a year to­gether brought the fam­ily closer and al­lowed the cou­ple not only to have qual­ity time with each other, but also cre­ated new re­la­tion­ships with their chil­dren. Away from the con­stant flurry of their Amer­i­can life­style and friend­ships, Christina said, it al­lowed them to have more in­di­vid­ual time with each child, to get to know them as in­di­vid­u­als and deepen those re­la­tion­ships.

Christina said that dur­ing their year abroad Bill was able — via Skype and email — to com­plete plans for the East­ern Shore Food Lab that would be near­ing com­ple­tion on their re­turn. And just re­cently, she and Bill were asked to present at an ar­chae­ol­ogy con­fer­ence — his pre­sen­ta­tion on an­ces­tral di­ets was fol­lowed by hers on us­ing so­cial me­dia to share re­search. It was more well re­ceived than she would have an­tic­i­pated, she said. The jour­ney af­forded the Schindler fam­ily the op­por­tu­nity to ex­pe­ri­ence how food is har­vested and pre­pared in dif­fer­ent parts of the world.

Trac­ing the his­tory of food and its prepa­ra­tions is Bill Schindler’s pas­sion, “This is what my work is all about ... pre­his­tory, ter­roir, nu­tri­ent dense mean­ing­ful food,” he said.

An­other high­light and one of Bill’s fo­cus points at the col­lege — in­sect eat­ing — fea­tured heav­ily when they vis­ited Thai­land. Bill had lob­bied for many years to be al­lowed to serve in­sect-laden foods he pre­pared with his stu­dents at events at Wash­ing­ton Col­lege and was only re­cently granted the priv­i­lege of ac­tu­ally bring­ing the event into the din­ing hall so that the cam­pus com­mu­nity could ex­pe­ri­ence eat­ing in­sects in a con­text that con­veyed the mes­sage that what they were eat­ing was, in fact, real food. Nearly a year later and back in the states, Christina wrote to their Mod­ern Stone Age Fam­ily fol­low­ers, “We miss Ire­land. A lot.”

“It’s crazy how some things will hit you out of nowhere and you re­al­ize how much you have been miss­ing some­thing and didn’t even know it. To­day that hap­pened for me. We were driv­ing to go shop­ping to get dec­o­ra­tions for the East­ern Shore Food Lab and Ed Sheeran’s ‘ Cas­tle on a Hill’ came on. Be­fore I knew it, tears were welling in my eyes. No more ran­dom cas­tles as we drive down back coun­try roads. No more walk­ing down our hill and hop­ping on the LUAS to head into Dublin for a night out. Our life (in the states) is won­der­ful, but to­tally dif­fer­ent liv­ing (in Ire­land).”

From fam­ily pizza-mak­ing lessons with Chef John Nocita of the Ital­ian Culi­nary In­sti­tute to the Val­ley of the Tem­ples in west­ern Si­cily, and a be­hind the scenes tour of Google head­quar­ters in Dublin — the Schindlers had noth­ing less than a whirl­wind year.

She said she knew it couldn’t last for­ever, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t miss the trip plan­ning and more re­laxed morn­ings en­joy­ing cof­fee with Bill.

“It was truly mag­i­cal,” says Christina, “and I sin­cerely hope ev­ery­one can ex­pe­ri­ence a frac­tion of what we had as a fam­ily last year. Love to you all.”

Now, the next chap­ter of the Schindlers’ jour­ney con­tin­ues. The East­ern Shore Food Lab at Wash­ing­ton Col­lege re­cently launched — pro­vid­ing an in­fra­struc­ture from which to re­con­nect stu­dents and the com­mu­nity with their health, en­vi­ron­ment and one an­other through an ap­proach that fuses a com­pre­hen­sive un­der­stand­ing of our an­cient di­etary past with mod­ern culi­nary tech­niques in very ac­ces­si­ble, mean­ing­ful and prac­ti­cal ways.

The book Bill was writ­ing dur­ing his sab­bat­i­cal leave is nearly com­plete and will be avail­able soon, Christina said.

Over the Christ­mas break, the en­tire fam­ily is learn­ing the 6,000-year-old process of nix­ta­mal­iza­tion first­hand from tra­di­tional groups in the moun­tains of Oax­aca, Mex­ico. Although this an­cient food pro­cess­ing tech­nol­ogy is the only way to make avail­able to the hu­man body all of the nu­tri­ents in corn — it is prac­ti­cally ab­sent in the mod­ern west­ern world.

And, of course, they have plans to re­turn to Ire­land in Jan­u­ary for a brief re­union with their new-found Ir­ish friends, and are al­ready schem­ing how to stretch air­line miles and get flight deals to visit their other new friends in places like Kenya, Crete and Mon­go­lia, said Schindler.

If any­thing, this year abroad for the Schindlers has taught them just how cul­tur­ally rich and di­verse the world is and, that food is a pow­er­ful ve­hi­cle through which to ex­pe­ri­ence it. Gath­er­ing, pre­par­ing and shar­ing food with peo­ple from all walks of life has al­lowed them to not only con­nect with other peo­ple, but also with their health, en­vi­ron­ment and one an­other in life a chang­ing ways.

And, for the Schindlers, that is what eat­ing like hu­mans is all about.

You can fol­low The Mod­ern Stone Age Fam­ily on In­sta­gram and Face­book @the­mod­ern­stoneage­fam­ily or via their web­site at www.the­mod­ern­stoneage­fam­ily.com.

Fol­low along with Bill’s work at @dr­billschindler and www.an­ces­tralin­sight.com as well as the Wash­ing­ton Col­lege East­ern Shore Food Lab at @es­food­lab.

CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO

In this photo cour­tesy the Mod­ern Stone Age Fam­ily, the Wash­ing­ton Col­lege pro­fes­sor Bill Schindler, fourth from left, wife Christina and chil­dren visit Kenya dur­ing their year abroad.

CON­TRIB­UTED PHO­TOS

Wear­ing shirts that read, “In­sects: Our first nu­tri­ent dense food,” Wash­ing­ton Col­lege pro­fes­sor Bill Schindler and stu­dents serve cricket soft tacos, in this photo cour­tesy the Mod­ern Stone Age Fam­ily.

For the Schindlers, pizza mak­ing is al­ways a fam­ily af­fair. Christina and son Billy en­joy a les­son from Chef John Nocita of the Ital­ian Culi­nary In­sti­tute in this photo cour­tesy the Mod­ern Stone Age Fam­ily.

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