As the owner of the Washington Square staple The Fireplace, Jim Solomon has a widely-regarded dedication to New England-inspired cuisine. However, he possesses another passion that extends beyond the kitchen. Since he was a young boy, Solomon has been a lover of American history. His interest first peaked as an elementary school boy in Lincoln, Massachusetts while participating in local activities and exhibitions during the American bicentennial celebration of 1976.

Today, Solomon weaves together his livelihood as a restaurant owner with his interest in history by catering history inspired dinners throughout the Boston area. He has provided dinners at the Boston Tea Party Museum, and Boston Public Market’s Eat like a Sailor, Dine like a Captain dinner where he has presented and served the different classes of food that would have been consumed by both sailors and captains during the 1700s. The Fireplace has also hosted and contributed to historical-themed dinners including John & Abigail Adams Love Letters by the Fire, Jane Austen’s 240th birthday celebration at the Gore Place in Waltham and William Shakespeare’s 451st birthday celebration at the Boston Center for Adult Education.

“The Fireplace is a manifestation of my love of colonial America and a celebration of place for New England,” Solomon said. “This is really a celebration of place. I look at colonial influences for inspiration – including Native American cooking and old British and French cooking — and try to use ingredients from all six New England states and buy local ingredients.”

Jim Solomon Helps Brookline Celebrate JFK 100

The town of Brookline can now enjoy Solomon’s talents in celebrating the life of President John F. Kennedy. May 29 marks what would have been the 100th birthday of the slain president. The town will be presenting a series of exhibitions and events to commemorate this Brookline-born American icon.

“Growing up in the Boston area, I was really imbued with the spirit and the ideals of the Kennedys,” Solomon said. “My father was even on the pilot program of the Peace Corps.”

Honored and thrilled to be contributing to JFK 100, Solomon has loaned his extensive Kennedy memorabilia collection to the exhibit displayed at Brookline Town Hall. Some of the memorabilia pieces include campaign buttons, Inauguration Day police badge, a 1962 edition of Profiles in Courage, a Christmas card from Kennedy to a friend, original photographs and newspaper articles about the young president.

Solomon is also excited to infuse the JFK celebrations with his spin on Kennedy-style cuisine. Solomon is cooking for the May 29 Sock Hop at the Devotion School, which will be a 1960s style party where he will serve the popular dishes of the time like casseroles and Jell-O molds. The Fireplace will also feature Kennedy-related dishes like clam chowder and Crème Brulee inspired by First Lady Jackie Kennedy’s love of French culture. Solomon believes that food serves an evocative cultural purpose and plays a key role in bringing history alive.

“Food dishes can really capture the feeling of time,” he said. “Was it a time of abundance, indulgence or gluttony? Was it a time of mechanization or production efficiency, indicated in preserving or canning? Is it a time of rationing like in wartime?”

Food also reflects cultural influences and trade with other countries. Many may mistakenly assume that because they were such a wealthy family, dishes the Kennedys may have eaten would be high-end and fanciful, but their meals were quite simple, consisting of many canned fruit and vegetables and whipped cream, which was reflective of war-time rationing and limited access to foreign goods.

Asked why he thinks JFK’s legacy is so enduring despite his relatively short time in the White House, Solomon says that is it quite simple.

“JFK remains popular because he represents hope,” he said. “He was a handsome young man with a beautiful family and that image is forever engraved in public memory. He was a phenomenal orator and inspired a whole generation of activists with the creation of the Peace Corps. He was determined to put a man on the moon, which created a drive to look further beyond the ocean to the skies. He represented possibility.”

You can find out more about the JFK 100 celebration by visiting the National Park Service’s website.

To find out more about the history-themed dinner presentations at The Fireplace, please visit its website.

Alicia Landsberg