Pinto Beans with Cornbread and Chow-Chow

December 31, 2018
By Holly Jennings

One Friday morning, in early December, Mike and I drove out of Richmond, Virginia, heading west and south toward Knoxville, Tennessee.

As we rode, we listened to Cormac McCarthy’s Suttree, a novel set in Knoxville in the early 1950s. Its epic length requires more than a drive to Knoxville and back to hear the whole thing, even when taking a slightly longer return route, through North Carolina, to eat a barbecue lunch.

All of the writing in Suttree is vivid, overflowing its pages. Crossing over from Virginia into Tennessee, we heard a particularly visceral passage about


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Lynn’s Ice Cream and Belgian Waffles

November 12, 2018
By Holly Jennings

 

Yesterday, I arrived in Inverness, Florida. I’m here to visit my mother and Gary. One of the first things we’ll do, as soon as I’ve published this posting, is to head over to a nondescript strip mall on Highway 44 West where one of the most unique ice cream establishments in America is found: Lynn’s Ice Cream & Belgian Waffles.

 

During a previous trip to Inverness, I spent several hours with the owners, Lynn and Rudi Weber, they answering my many questions so that I could write something about them for this blog. It’s amazing what

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The Best-Ever Mid-Term Election Breakfast During Divisive Times: Sausage & Fried Apple Biscuits and the Wisdom of Mary Cross

October 30, 2018
By Holly Jennings

 

From Turner Ham House in Fulk’s Run, Virginia, slowly cured ham, sliced luminescent-ly thin, salt and sugar preserved, deeply flavorful.

 

A gift for my family, by love and the color of blood, not skin.

 

Other gifts: a half-gallon of must-shake raw apple cider from Smith’s Fruit Market in Augusta, West Virginia, comfortingly tart; fresh-made biscuits from Bonnie Blue Bakery in Winchester, Virginia. Winchester, proclaimed apple capital of the world, is located in the Northern Shenandoah Valley at 39.1670° N, -78.1670° W, making it practically the most north-western spot in Jim Crow South.

 

To Bond Street, home of 95-year-old Mary Virginia Cook Cross, and

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Fresh River Herring Roe

December 07, 2017
By Holly Jennings

Fresh river herring roe

Fresh river herring roe. Now that is a Christmas gift to satisfy even the most jaded food lover. It’s available in a small can, the perfect size for a Christmas stocking, and there’s no need to wrap it—it’s quaint vintage-looking label is part of its charm. As an added bonus, it comes with plenty of built-in Christian symbiology, being a fish product, for

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Rosemary and Toasted Hazelnut Ice Cream with Apricot Swirl

October 27, 2017
By Holly Jennings

 

It is with guilty pleasure that I write this: pleasure because it’s an ice cream fable; guilt because it has diverted my attention from Odette, a dear French lady with decades of cooking skills whom I’ve written about three times so far.* There are so many more Odette stories to tell and Odette recipes to share.

 

For the last couple of months, in a spare hour here and there, I have been slowly transcribing and translating what Odette said about her life in an audio interview I did with her this summer. I’m particularly keen to decipher what she says about living and eating in Nazi-occupied Paris when she was a young girl. She recounted a war-time food story

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Harvest Time Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

October 02, 2017
By Holly Jennings

 

Compare and despair. That is what my friend John Camilleri said to me after I sized myself up this way: So and so is more successful than me, more confident than me, more charming, more fashionable. That exchange was had years ago, on a subway platform in New York, where we both lived at the time. Those three magic words still resonate.

 

In cooking, however, most everything that’s learn-able—techniques, flavor pairings—is done by direct comparison. In the kitchen, comparing isn’t despairing, it’s illuminating. Take mint and dark chocolate. When do you ever get a chance to fully appreciate why those two ingredients are a classic pairing? When you buy a peppermint patty, thin mints, or mint chocolate chip ice cream, the flavor components are

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More Ways with Bread

August 31, 2017
By Holly Jennings

Not an ounce of good taste is wasted in this house. Sesame seeds collected at the bottom of the paper bag that once held a loaf of sesame rye bread are saved and sprinkled on buttered and honeyed toast the next morning. The residue of mushroom liquor and butter clinging to the insides of a container that held sautéed mushrooms is freed with a splash of hot water and put into the service of a mushroom omelet.

 

I have to admit, I sometimes slip up and forget to be mindful; I forget to give that over-looked throw-away item a second life in my kitchen. When I do, I berate myself. But one type of missed taste opportunity that is never lost on me or my husband, Mike, are the remnants of dressing, sauce, or appetizing drippings in plates or bowls or pots or pans. A swipe of bread through these flavorful dregs becomes dessert (and if we’re out of bread, a spatula or index finger works).

 

At these savor-the-flavor moments, Mike often does the honors. He’ll rip off a piece of bread and run it through the serving bowl. Then, like a rooster

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Tomatoes Stuffed with Rice and Sausage Meat

August 20, 2017
By Holly Jennings

Mid-August is not a great time to turn on the oven in Richmond, Virginia. But it is a great time to enjoy the masses of locally grown height-of-the-season tomatoes tumbling out of farmer’s markets and gardens. Thanks to Odette Podevin, my French Patroness of Cooking, I knew just what to do with my own bottomless supply, churned out by our plot in a community garden. I would make Tomates Farcies au Riz à la Chair à Saucisse, or Tomatoes Stuffed with Rice and Sausage Meat.

 

Last Sunday, along with

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My Patroness of Cooking

August 07, 2017
By Holly Jennings

I was searching my book shelves for a copy of The Sun Also Rises or For Whom the Bell Tolls. Instead, I found Lives of the Saints, a relic from when I was an art history student, before I’d struck a path to editing cookbooks and writing about food. Its pagan orange edging and ecclesiastical purple binding with faux leather texture and faux gold stamping beckoned. I picked it up and discovered it is the perfect size, fitting easily in my hands.

 

I don’t believe I ever spent much time with Lives of the Saints when I was an art history student. But now, looking through it, I found a code I’d overlooked, a signpost for the turn off from art to food.

 

When you open Lives of the Saints, you come to a full title page featuring a group portrait of several saints. After that each saint is given his or her own short write-up, some with their likeness included. The book is organized chronologically: It starts on January 1 and proceeds to the end of the year, with a saint for each day.

 

 

Some of the saints are patrons or patronesses of specific professions or health conditions or categories of people, like orphans. Take St. Apollonia. She is the Patroness of Dentists. In the year 248 or 249, this Virgin and Martyr “fell prey to a howling mob venting its fury on any Christians it could find.” The mob knocked out all of her

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How to Meditate with a Ouija Board

April 24, 2017
By Holly Jennings

 

A few weeks ago, I sat quietly in a candlelit room, my fingers resting lightly on the planchette that came with my Ouija board, poised to interview my grandmother for my story on boiled custard.

 

Following the instructions on the back of the box to “concentrate very hard on the matter at hand,” I repeated my questions, slowly, like a mantra:

 

“Grandma, why didn’t you make boiled custard? Is it because you actually didn’t like it? Or because you hated having to help your mother make it when you were young, and swore off making it ever again”?

 

As minds tend to do when pressed to focus, mine started to wander from the questions to random thoughts of my grandmother. Snippets of conversation, snapshots of her preparing foods, and other memories percolated up.

 

When I discovered I was no longer repeating my string of questions, I returned to them. The process repeated until I could focus more and more on the questions without departing quite as quickly from them. My mind soon felt cleansed of the day’s debris.

 

Though I never did hear from Grandma, I spent time with her all the same. And I learned something unexpected, something I would guess Hasbro didn’t intend—that the Ouija board is an excellent device for meditating and remembering ancestors. Is Hasbro missing a marketing opportunity here?


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