Food Books Galore!

In September, we will have lived in Richmond, V.A. for three years. I continue my quest to get to know not only my new city: Richmond, but also my new state: Virginia.

My February trip to Mt. Vernon inspired me to read some of the treasures I discovered in their bookstore and my local library.

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It’s taken me several months, but I have finally finished these five great reads: Eight Flavors by Sarah Lohman, Southern Food and Civil Rights by Frederick Douglas Opie, Thomas Jefferson’s Crème Brulee’ by Thomas J. Craughwell, The Best of Virginia Farms by Ci Ci Williamson and Julia Reed’s South- Spirited Entertaining and High Style Fun All Year Long.

Eight Flavors

At first, I thought Lohman’s Eight Flavors was going to be a dry history of American cooking, but Lohman’s anecdotes brought depth to the history because at it’s core, history is about personal stories: people.

Eight Flavors reminded me that we bring our personal fears, bias, and racism to food, yet in spite of ourselves, we love the food of those we fear. Food builds bridges, brings acceptance of a new culture, even if that culture is misunderstood or muddled in interpretation. I.e.: chow mien, chop suey, spaghetti and meatballs….

Southern Food and Civil Rights

Frederick Douglas Opie is a history professor at Babson, College and a regular contributor to Splendid Table. Southern Food and Civil Rights, is just one of his food history books. Opie’s premise is Napoleon’s observation that “an army marches on its stomach”. Throughout the book, Opie demonstrates that feeding protestors was central to all successful civil rights movements. As a child born in the 60’s, my understanding of American civil rights movements was more limited than I realized, so I appreciated learning that as early as the 1930’s, Black communities began protesting and using boycotts to force white store owners to hire people from the neighborhoods where they had businesses and from the communities that shopped in their stores. Once one campaign was successful, word spread throughout the country. One grocery store was even put out of business because it refused to comply. I think that is called “cutting your nose off to spite your face”.

Professor Opie graciously answered my questions about eliminating food deserts in our inner city neighborhoods and offering “great tasting healthier options”. He also directed me to a helpful webcast by Dr. Alvenia Fulton of Chicago.

Thomas Jefferson's Cre'me Brule'e

I knew that Thomas Jefferson was a man of many interests and talents, but I had no idea that he was America’s first foodie.   Thomas Jefferson’s Crème Brulee’ by Thomas J. Craughwell chronicles Jefferson’s enthusiasm for European foods and their introduction into American culture. Jefferson even went to far as to bring his slave, James Hemmings over to Paris so that James could be trained as a French chef. Because slavery was illegal in France, James was officially a free man, so Jefferson had to pay him regular wages and allow him to roam freely on his time off. James even learned to speak French better than his owner. Jefferson promised to give James his freedom once they returned to Virginia, if James would first return to the Virginia and train another slave at Monticello. Jefferson went back on his word, delaying James freedom for several years…because he could. Nonetheless, we have our third President to thank for introducing many varieties of fruits and vegetables, as well as popular dishes like macaroni and cheese and ice cream to the U.S.A.

The best of VA Farms image

The Best of Virginia Farms by Ci Ci Williamson inspired me to make my own list of maple sugar farms, bed and breakfasts, gardens, arboretums, and national parks that I want to visit now that I live in Virginia.

Julia Reed's South

I finished up with Julia Reed’s South Spirited Entertaining and High Style Fun All Year Long by Julia Reed. Julia has inspired me to try to re-create her menus for dinner parties and holiday celebrations. Southern hospitality is real and Ms. Reed brings it alive in her gorgeously photographed book. The photographer, Paul Costello chooses idyllic settings to showcase Ms. Reed’s beautiful food and table settings.




Heavenly, Fluffy,Cloud-like goodness.

I was learning how to ride the bus. Did you know that GRT will send someone out to your home to teach you how to understand their website and figure out Richmond’s bus transportation? GRT even sends someone out to your home to ride the bus with you so that you understand how everything works!  I was with the fabulous Kelsey on our trial bus ride around Richmond, waiting at one of our bus stops when I spied Early Bird Biscuit Co..  Kelsey said that it was one of her favorite haunts, so since we had some time to kill, I indulged in Early Bird’s heavenly, fluffy, cloud-like goodness.

I chose their ABC biscuit:  Apple, Bacon and Cheddar Cheese.  The Granny Smith apple was cooked until slightly tender, but still a bit crunchy.  It was an amazing combination of tart, salt and rich creaminess.  The biscuit itself was the best biscuit I have ever put in my mouth.

I decided to relax and enjoy the quaint seating in Early Bird’s cozy establishment.  I missed my bus, but it was totally worth it.


See you next week…I’m introducing you to a friend.

The Fancy Biscuit: Shyndigz’ savory twin

I often pass by The Fancy Biscuit/ Shyndigz on my way home down Cary Street, yearning to stop and give it a try.  Last Wednesday, I convinced my mom to break out of her Panera Bread box and join me for brunch. The decor is clever and inviting, using all manner of repurposed objects like rolling pins, shutters and pennies. The menu is imaginative and fun.  I enjoyed the Freshy Fresh Biscuit: collard greens, stewed grape tomatoes, cheddar cheese and a poached egg. My mom chose the Mediterranean Quiche with Arugula salad and fresh fruit. Both were flavorful and filling. We were too full to indulge in a Shyndigz dessert, but we did admire the mile high cakes through the glass cases. Maybe next time.