Originally published in Castine Patriot, February 28, 2019 and Island Ad-Vantages, February 28, 2019 and The Weekly Packet, February 28, 2019
A life of love, and food: Remembering Harry Kaiserian
Harry Kaiserian held several cooking courses with the youth in Castine. Pictured here is Kaiserian with a group of children in 2007.
by Monique Labbe
When a person thinks of Harry Kaiserian, one almost always thinks of food. Food in film, food in music, in art, and food eaten around a table cooked by Kaiserian himself.
At the age of 80, Kaiserian died at his home on La Tour Street on February 20. That same home has played the venue of hundreds of five course meals, cooking classes, and gatherings of family and friends, all with food cooked in a kitchen Kaiserian tailored to his guests.
Kaiserian also penned the K’s Kwisine column in the Castine Patriot, The Weekly Packet and Island Ad-Vantages for over two decades.
Rich Hewitt, who worked with Kaiserian through various talks, projects and presentations at Witherle Memorial Library, said that Kaiserian had a certain je ne sais quoi, and it was his story telling abilities that Hewitt felt most drawn to in their encounters.
“It was rare that his visits to the library didn’t include a tale, usually tall or outright fabrication, often related to food, the Navy, a New York Times headline, food, a new book or food; and always told with a gleam in his eye and a half smile that made you wonder if it was true. Sometimes it takes a minute for the penny to drop, but it always brightened the day,” said Hewitt.
Kaiserian wore many hats, from newspaper columnist, library board and Wilson Museum board member, to educator, writer, and of course, chef. In addition to teaching various classes about food, film, literature, etc. to the adults in Castine, he also worked closely with the younger generation.
Kaiserian worked with the library to ensure that children received books for gifts, an incentive to attract young readers to the summer reading program. He also partnered with the Wilson Museum to offer cooking classes to the youth in town, teaching them basic skills they could use in the kitchen to spend time with their parents.
Though he was a member of the Navy, Kaiserian’s big, bright personality was anything but rigid, though the organization in his kitchen was one not rivaled. His love of life and food touched everyone he met, including Wilson Museum director Patty Hutchins.
“Harry once told me that his goal in retirement was to give back to the community,” she said. “He wanted to wake up each morning knowing he had a plan that day to do just that. Harry was an amazingly gifted person, who loved life and made life better for everyone around him.”
“He could and would talk with anyone, age 6 or 96, and, given his wide travels and interests, always with an appropriate story, plus a smile and a twinkle in his eye. Furthermore, not only did he talk, but he listened and listened well,” said Keith Hagel, who spent time with Kaiserian through work at the library.
Since his passing last week, an outpouring of support for Kaiserian’s wife Berna, their daughter Alice and son Harry has been shared on the social media page You Know You Are From Castine Maine, If…, along with several stories and cherished memories from anybody who spent time with him.
“[Kaiserian] was wonderful to work with at [Maine Maritime Academy],” wrote Debbie Hamblen, co-owner of the Captain’s Catch in Castine. “I will miss seeing him this coming summer.
From his laughter, to his smile, his stories, and the delicious food he put in front of those he cooked for, Kaiserian’s love of life is something many in Castine will miss.