The Art of Bread, and a New Year’s Resolution

December 31, 2015
By Holly Jennings

I hate to waste food. Even bad food.

That’s how a loaf of bread made with more ingredients that I can count on both hands worked its way into the two photographs below, illustrating quotes that get at, with more folk wit and elan than I could wring from a slice of milk-soaked bread, why you should avoid processed, or “white,” bread.

“The whiter the bread, the sooner you’re dead.” —Folk saying, dating from the mid-1920s* Bread #1, 8 November 2015, Holly Jennings, America Mixed Media: Premium Potato Bread (Enriched Wheat Flour [Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Reduced Iron, Niacin, Thiamin Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid], Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Yeast, Potato Flour, Soybean Oil, Salt, Wheat Gluten, Corn Flour, Mono- and Diglycerides, Datem, Calcium Propionate (Preservative), Monocalcium Phosphate, Calcium Sulfate, Grain Vinegar, Spice & Coloring, Soy Lecithin, Natural & Artificial Flavor, Soy Flour.), 18 October 2015; Pigment print by Joseph Sudek entitled The Cemetery of Mala Strana, 1940–1950 (reprinted in Josef Sudek [1896–1976]: Sixty Pigment Prints from the Artist’s Estate [New York: Salander-O’Reilly Galleries]). *At the time this saying was coined, ultra-refined, ultra-white, and less-nutritious flour, possible with the invention of the roller mill and bleach, had become common. Not until the 1940s did American milling operations start to enrich flour with thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, and iron in an attempt to compensate for the loss of nutritional value in flour milled using modern milling techniques.

“The whiter the bread, the sooner you’re dead.”
—Folk saying, dating from the mid-1920s*
Bread #1, 8 November 2015, Holly Jennings, America
Mixed Media: Premium Potato Bread (Enriched Wheat Flour [Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Reduced Iron, Niacin, Thiamin Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid], Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Yeast, Potato Flour, Soybean Oil, Salt, Wheat Gluten, Corn Flour, Mono- and Diglycerides, Datem, Calcium Propionate (Preservative), Monocalcium Phosphate, Calcium Sulfate, Grain Vinegar, Spice & Coloring, Soy Lecithin, Natural & Artificial Flavor, Soy Flour.), 18 October 2015; Pigment print by Joseph Sudek entitled The Cemetery of Mala Strana, 1940–1950 (reprinted in Josef Sudek [1896–1976]: Sixty Pigment Prints from the Artist’s Estate [New York: Salander-O’Reilly Galleries]).
*At the time this saying was coined, ultra-refined, ultra-white, and less-nutritious flour, possible with the invention of the roller mill and bleach, had become common. Not until the 1940s did American milling operations start to enrich flour with thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, and iron in an attempt to compensate for the loss of nutritional value in flour milled using modern milling techniques.

“People who eat white bread have no dreams.” —Diana Vreeland, Empress of Fashion Bread #2, 8 November 2015, Holly Jennings, America Mixed Media: Premium Potato Bread (Enriched Wheat Flour [Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Reduced Iron, Niacin, Thiamin Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid], Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Yeast, Potato Flour, Soybean Oil, Salt, Wheat Gluten, Corn Flour, Mono- and Diglycerides, Datem, Calcium Propionate (Preservative), Monocalcium Phosphate, Calcium Sulfate, Grain Vinegar, Spice & Coloring, Soy Lecithin, Natural & Artificial Flavor, Soy Flour.), 18 October 2015; Silver gelatin photograph by Marcia Due entitled Columbia County, New York, 1993 (reprinted in Design Quarterly 164 [Spring 1995]).

“People who eat white bread have no dreams.”
—Diana Vreeland, Empress of Fashion
Bread #2, 8 November 2015, Holly Jennings, America
Mixed Media: Premium Potato Bread (Enriched Wheat Flour [Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Reduced Iron, Niacin, Thiamin Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid], Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Yeast, Potato Flour, Soybean Oil, Salt, Wheat Gluten, Corn Flour, Mono- and Diglycerides, Datem, Calcium Propionate (Preservative), Monocalcium Phosphate, Calcium Sulfate, Grain Vinegar, Spice & Coloring, Soy Lecithin, Natural & Artificial Flavor, Soy Flour.), 18 October 2015; Silver gelatin photograph by Marcia Due entitled Columbia County, New York, 1993 (reprinted in Design Quarterly 164 [Spring 1995]).

The mixed media, faux egg-colored (or it the color meant to conjure butter?) loaf of bread that I sacrificed to art came into my possession this October, during a weekend get-a-way with my husband. Destination: My family’s

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A Christmas Story from Burt and I

December 24, 2015
By Holly Jennings

The Pet TurkeyThe Pet Turkey

(Click on the link above to hear the story.)
“The Pet Turkey”
by Marshall Dodge, Robert Bryan
Originally published in an album titled Bert and I Stem Inflation (1976)

Steve Kim—Creator of KimKim Sauce (the Most Flavorful and Fiery Stocking Stuffer)

December 14, 2015
By Holly Jennings

Christmas and KimKim Sauce

Forget about candy canes. Try KimKim Sauce. It’s the perfect stocking stuffer. The colors are right—from the rich deep red color of the sauce itself to the splash of green color on the label that sets off Korean characters—and the price is right. At at suggested retail price of $6.99 a bottle, you can spice up a loved one’s or work colleague’s life with an affordable gift that keeps giving. (Sixteen fluid ounces of moderate heat packaged in an easy-to-use squeeze bottle will brighten many many meals.)

I didn’t come up with this gifting idea on my own. I heard it first-hand from the inventor of KimKim Sauce, Steve Kim, who, during a phone interview, told me how KimKim Sauce got its start. Prudently, Kim sought to get his trial production run as small as possible. He began with a small batch of 150 cases of the sauce requiring an outlay of a few thousand dollars. To limit risk, Kim had done market research before committing to the initial run; yet, even after doing diligent research, it can be

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The Not Pardoned Turkey

November 15, 2015
By Holly Jennings

Red Bourbon and Broad Breasted Whites_2

Last Friday the 13th, on a mild, blue-skied mid-November afternoon, I took a drive out to Keenbell Farm. Fridays are the Farm Store day at the farm, and are a good time to catch C.J. Isbell. The purpose of my trip was to run a couple of embryonic story ideas past C.J. and to check up on my pardoned turkey, a Bourbon Red hen who will remain nameless. Of course she is not “my” turkey, but upon hearing her story, I was immediately taken with this feisty broad who managed to escape the dinner table fate of her colleagues. Somehow I felt invested in telling her story for the Thanksgiving holiday, and I was curious to know how she was getting on.

C.J., co-owner of Keenbell Farm with his father, Eddie, had relayed the story to me in late August during a farmyard walkabout. (I was there to interview him about Keenbell Farm for a story published in the Nov/Dec issue of Edible Richmond Magazine.) During the tour C.J. introduced me to some of the farm’s outliers: Mimi, a fainting goat; Charley and Ritzy; two riding horses; and an escapee Bourbon Red turkey who moved so quickly I could hardly catch sight of her. Undoubtedly lonely but glad to be alive, she was the sole survivor from

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Bloody Butcher Cornbread—The Official Bread of Halloween

October 30, 2015
By Holly Jennings

Official Bread of Halloween copy

Owing to its phenomenal flavor, striking blood-red color, suitably macabre name, and Old Dominion pedigree, I name Bloody Butcher Cornbread the official 2015 Virginia State Bread of Halloween.

Even though not as commonly associated with Virginia as, say peanuts or ham, Bloody Butcher corn traces its roots directly to the state, where the first reference to the variety, a style of dent corn ideal for flour, cornmeal, and grits, was made in 1845.

When Bloody Butcher was named, referencing, as the story goes, the bloodied apron of a butcher, slasher films hadn’t yet been invented.

Back then, I imagine the colorful words connoted something of the ordinary facts of life, rather than the horrifying, especially for farmers, who would have had intimate knowledge of processing meat.

Until the recent whole-animal butchery renaissance, the sight of a bloodied butcher apron

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Holly’s Cow Peas — Authentic Country Cooking

October 13, 2015
By Holly Jennings

Holly's Cow Peas

It’s honest, simple food that speaks plainly of its origins, its parts, and aspirations. It’s the humblest of food that fit for a king, and it’s startlingly delicious.

Like Hank William’s “Lost Highway,” it’s direct and from the heart; it cannot tell a lie. Like the vernacular dogtrot house or Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water, it springs naturally from its place, its environment.

Dogtrot house

Dogtrot house

Fallingwater

Fallingwater

That’s what authentic country cooking is, and that’s what Holly’s Cow Peas are. Or, at least, they’re made in the spirit of authentic country cooking. The browned onion topping and garnish of chopped parsley probably never appeared on a bowl of cow peas back in the day, but this is now.

Country cooking’s unfussy ways are the secret to its success and the root of our modern day disappointment with it: More than any other type of cooking, it’s only as good as the ingredients used.

That’s why the food revival going on in the South right now is so

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Bean Cuit

October 01, 2015
By Holly Jennings

Bean CuitI wrote this post more than a month ago, when green beans were still plentiful. Then, before I had a chance to put the finishing touches on it, I got a story assignment, my first since moving to Richmond. (It’ll be published in the November/December issue of Edible Richmond Magazine). Of course I fell into that deep hole of writin’ and researchin’, like I always do when I get a chance to have a byline, so Bean Cuit had to wait. Hope there’s still lovely fresh green beans about somewhere. Considering how this method has you cook green beans to smithereens, I would think that a frozen stash of summer’s abundance will work just as well.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I may end up being one of those old people that you can’t let in a kitchen anymore because they’ll leave the stove on and burn the whole friggin house down. It’s going to suck to not be able to cook.

Several weeks ago I made a pot of slow simmered beans and peas: a couple of handfuls of pole beans from our 12-foot-tall Turkey Craw pole bean plant in our courtyard, the remaining bush beans from the plant in our community garden plot, and some shelled pink-eyed peas, also from our garden plot, added sequentially in descending order of size to a pot of water seasoned with a healthy teaspoonful of sea salt and even healthier spoonful of bacon grease. When the beans had become withered and dull in color and velvety soft, and when the water had transformed into nutritious pot liquor, I turned off the heat and went for a walk.

Upon returning, I thought I heard my husband in the shower, but at that moment I realized the sound I was hearing was the sound of the last amount of pot liquor evaporating into the air and sound of beans sizzling on the bottom of

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Succotash—More Than the Sum of Its Parts

August 23, 2015
By Holly Jennings

Succotash #1

Two versions of Succotash (#1 in the foreground)

Succotash is a perfect subject for this posting, my first on the foods of Virginia. You could argue that no dish is more Virginian than succotash, going way back, as many claim, to the Powhatan Indians, a tribe that lived along the eastern shore of what is now called Virginia. And it’s the dish that made me feel at home here during my first summer living in Richmond.

Last August, heading home from the Richmond airport on Route 5, past vestigial farm fields sprinkled among small businesses and light industry, I spied a tented farm stand on the left side of the road. After doing a quick maneuver, I pulled in next to the table of colorful produce.

“Do you add tomatoes to your succotash?” asked the farmer, as soon as I’d made my selection of tasseled ears of corn, shucked fresh lima beans, and bright red tomatoes.

Her question caught me off-guard. I hadn’t given the dish much thought, perhaps not since

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Magnified Procrastination

August 16, 2015
By Holly Jennings

I thought I was way past it: that thing of avoiding doing something a little bit, and then a little bit more, and then again and yet again, until the thing you’ve left untended and the space of silent absence that surrounds it becomes magnified and more awkward to return to by the day. I’m like that wayward parent who skips out on a child’s rearing, not stepping back in until years later. That’s me, stepping back into this blog one year and seven months from my latest posting.

I just vanished. The truth is I succumbed to full-time job and then to magnified procrastination.

It’s not a coincidence that the date of my last posting coincides with the same week that I started a full-time+ work-from-home editing job. I don’t know how some people find the energy to blog regularly (when those blog postings include recipe testing and development, writing, and photography) and keep a full-time job, let alone have children or any kind of social life. It’s impressive! I don’t have children or a hugely active social life. No, it was working full-time at a job at home alone that requires sitting in front of a computer and making heavy use of my brain that made even the idea of sitting longer still in front of the computer to write and post those writings, rather than getting out and about and speaking other humans, entirely unappealing.

That was then and now, happily, I’ve been able to cut back a bit on my day-job hours, so I’m ready to end the vanishing game.

For the time being I will not be resurrecting the cookbook club exactly as it was when I lived in Vermont; instead I will write periodic postings about the food of my surroundings, the Piedmont region of Virginia and sometimes beyond (most likely with the compass pointed a little bit east or west or further south). Books will continue to play a big role; they are how I make my living, one of the things I love dearly in the material world, and one of the things I love to share with you.

I will leave the information about starting and running a cookbook club in place on the blog for others to use who

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Best-Ever Wings

January 19, 2014
By Holly Jennings

Korean hot wings_72 dpi

photo by Heath Robbins

I wasn’t going to share this recipe with you. I’d already blown my wad on three permission requests for Jap Chae, Pork Ribs with Fresh Ginger, and Tofu and Clam Hot Pot, all equally good but in very different ways, and all from The Korean Table. But then I tried these wings, and I got greedy. Oh Tuttle Publishing, would you please grant me permission to use yet another recipe on the blog? Because of their generosity, I present you with the best-ever chicken wings. They are hot and

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