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and here is some of what I thought of it from an online piece for Richmond Magazine: Lincoln Premieres in RVA I’ll tell you more if you come on our Lincoln Legs: Brunch & Brushes with History tour tomorrow, Nov. 11th at 12:30 and we’ll brunch at LuLu’s in between following in Lincoln’s footsteps. I’ll also bring Dixie Donuts. I think Abe would approve. It is my dream to refight the Civil War using donuts, Dixie Donuts vs. Philly’s Federal Donuts. It is the only time I’d want the south to prevail. We’ll run Lincoln Legs again Nov. 25th, brunching at Arcadia then.

Lincoln is loved in VA

It certainly is a mistake for a food tour person to schedule a routine colonoscopy during Restaurant Week. What a waste, so to speak.

I will be focused on food prior to and immediately after the event, but not necessarily in ways that lend themselves to blogging. I do recall that when I drove my husband home from his procedure a year or so ago, he was understandably damned hungry and thirsty as he hadn’t eaten anything much for 24 hours. He seemed much more with-it than I had expected, but still knowing he was drowsy and just a tad loopy, the idea of a drive-in food find seemed just right until I got him home. Krispy Kreme was within sight and though we had sworn off such stuff for a year by that point, I happily drove up and ordered a half-dozen (god I hope it was only a half dozen) glazed and chocolate iced donuts and some chocolate milk for him. Not at all in his usual repertoire, but what the hey. He ate one or two on the way home and I likely accompanied him in that endeavor. Once home he went promptly to bed until morning. I lounged in the vicinity of the half-full donut box for the rest of the evening, indulging now and again–just a sliver–as my famously obese grandmother used to say and not mean. (We grandchildren were mean when we would bring her a sliver of pie or cake, knowing full well she wanted much more–and would get it one way or the other.)

Hypothetically eating, of course….

The next morning, my dear husband had no recollection of the donut trip and taste, so unable to do the math, he never knew just how many donuts I ate that night. Not sure where my amnesia came from, but it was as strong a case as his. Figuring that colonoscopies ought to be rare occasions for us, we figured we’d use the every ten year event to do a food blow-out (remember the SNL ad for Colon Blow?!), pardon the phrase and eat whatever the hell we want right after. Certainly not inclined to do that just before. It’s just a tad weird that I’m planning my post-procedure food fest already and since I don’t make anything easy for my husband, I’m already thinking about more glamorous donuts than Krispy Kremes…. I suppose he can do whatever he wants since it’s unlikely I’m going to remember a damned thing. And of course, it’s just the branding any food company would hope for: just the thing for post-invasive medical procedure!

Maybe it was the Luna Bar breakfast or the realization that for the next 8 hours all I would eat was trail mix, gummy bears and Famous Amos cookies and a banana, but I had food on the brain while my butt was on a bike as I was riding the 102 mile inaugural Tour of Richmond on Saturday. The event started at RIR, where for years the State Fair of VA used to be, so I was reminded of the first and last fried pickle I ever consumed just as we were getting underway at 7 a.m. Then we rode down into Shockoe Valley, alongside the Cannon Creek Greenway bicycle path for a bit and into old timer industrial part of Richmond and there was an old building denoting T. H. Wood seed purveyor from way back which I recognized from the prints in my kitchen from the Library of Virginia gift shop.

I got mine at the Library of Virginia gift shop.

Then it was onto and through the 17th St. Farmers’ Market–where I first tasted the Holy Grail of goat cheese…back when it was a decent farmers’ market and where now some spots like Tio Pablo, LuLu’s, Arcadia, C’est Le Vin, Halligan BBQ and more are doing their part to add spice to this area. And of course, just around the corner, Julep’s is still bringing  the southern-inspired fine dining in the oldest commercial building in Richmond.

Then we crossed the river on the Manchester Bridge. I didn’t see any sturgeon, but I know they’re there. Richmond wouldn’t be Richmond without the river and the fish that frequented it when the Powhatan Indians were running the show here.

Along Riverside Drive I know there were some Paw Paws (GW’s favorite fruit), but truth be told they’ve dropped by now. Then out to Chesterfield County where I think it’s funny that the restaurants that are actually just over the line in Powhatan (Wild Ginger and Mediterraneo) say they’re in Chesterfield so people don’t think they’re too far out in the boonies. As soon as we crossed into Powhatan County, farms started to pop up: horses, cows, Fine Creek Vineyard, a sign for Manakintowne Specialty Growers–whose salad fixings and herbs wind up in some of the finest Richmond restaurants and in anyone’s kitchen if you pick them up at a farmers’ market or through Fall Line Farms, a co-op I belong to. Then we zoomed by some guys putting out signs before 9 a.m. to sell fresh eggs and pastured meat. You need to be careful about buying eggs, though–especially on the internet–some eggs are too fresh. I can’t seem to remember the name of their farm, but it started with an A. Too many things rush by on a bike to remember every durned letter of the alphabet in the correct order.  Noticed Bourbon Lane  and a tavern along the rode from 1755 and a sign noting the last place Robert E. Lee camped on his way back from Appomattox to Richmond post-surrender. (His starving men were given rations by Federal troops, so that’s how this snuck into a food heritage bit.)

At our third rest stop, the friendly Powhatan folk were promoting the Powhatan Festival of the Grape coming up Oct. 20th. Unfortunately the coolers they had still offered only water or Powerade, so that was the old bait-and-switch. Soon after we crossed the river again and were in lovely Goochland County, home to many a good farm. Further east in Goochland on Tuckahoe Plantation is where I saw my first pastured beef cattle running, yes, running in the woods. And yes, I say “my” with partly a good reason as we did purchase a 1/4 of one from Daniel and Emily of Tuckahoe Lamb & Cattle and continue to buy their beef, lamb and eggs at farmers’ markets around town.

Winding our way along the route, we wound up in a gorgeous stretch of Louisa County for a bit, which reminds me of my visits to Twin Oaks, when I wrote a piece about the tofu and hammock-producing commune in Louisa. Sadly, no hammock time on this route for us. We passed more fields and forests not yet turned into sub-divisions and not soon enough exactly, but eventually we were in Hanover County and coming back toward civilization, by which I mean Q Barbecue at the finish party at RIR.

I must hand it to dreams–sometimes they know what they are doing. The last couple of nights I’ve had the funniest anxiety dreams, so finely crafted, so detail-oriented, so nuanced that I couldn’t (and certainly won’t now) articulate a mixed-up miasma of complicated feelings any better.

Sadly I’ve forgotten the first dream, but the second one involved most of my siblings and our mother and a dollhouse version (that actually does exist-as do my siblings and mother) of my mother’s house. The task at hand while I slept was moving this dollhouse from one sibling’s house in Richmond where it has never set foot or foundation, to god knows where. (I’ve never been very goal-oriented.) Even though I knew exactly how it could be transported and knew that the correct vehicle to do the job was my old minivan, (which in fact did drive the dollhouse from my mother’s house in Maryland to her new place in Philly–seeing the miniature house roll across Locust Street was a surreal experience) which in the dream was sitting in the old Egan driveway in Maryland right next to all sorts of bizarrely proportioned vehicles that couldn’t possibly have fit the damned dollhouse in them, this information did in no way help the situation. Nor did communicating such information in the nicest and then perhaps the not nicest way to various and sundry relatives. The many obstacles that were never overcome and the multiple wrong-sized vehicles that one sibling (guess who?!) kept showing up with nearly made the dream version of me pop an aneurysm.

How much better for me that I woke up from the dream not in a cold sweat but rather laughing at myself–and perhaps at a sibling or two. Now that’s a good dream. Sometimes I do have such affection for my brain–especially when it’s sleeping.

It’s been a couple of weeks of taking care of what’s on top and what’s on the bottom and everything in between. Roof leaks, sewer gas smells, gas stove servicing, annual termite inspection, car issues, trips to the dentist and the GYN.  I even made a colonoscopy appointment–though I made it for exactly the wrong day, so that will not stand. Too bad for you that I won’t go in to the fascinating details of the termite inspection since I need to preserve it for an upcoming column. Who can say what I’ll share about the colonoscopy? Already have a food-related story regarding my husband’s colonoscopy. Think I’ll save it for later. It isn’t even gross, so that’s disappointing. Donuts were involved. I can see the Krispy Kreme marketing campaign now….

Perhaps it’s because I work at home so often and am alone for long stretches that I tend to like conversing with worker guys when they’re here. Today my gas stove guy gave me a new lunch combo to try: cottage cheese and fresh-picked tomatoes. I was about to put cherries and blueberries in some cottage cheese for breakfast and he suggested I try my fresh-picked tomatoes next time. Will do. He broke into a big smile about how good that combo tastes. I’m on it. One summer taste that I can almost grasp with my mind and mouth leaning in the direction of southern New Jersey– Raisin bread, Miracle Whip, Land-o-Lakes white American Cheese and a couple of slabs of a Jersey tomato. OH. GOOD. Too bad the only thing my mouth is near is a pad of paper. It needs to be eaten in New Jersey anyway, so I’ll have to wait. And then I’ll really see a cottage in its dotage….

I just finished reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, with assists from her husband Steven Hoppe and daughter Camille Kingsolver. It’s the sort of book that makes me feel smug and superior compared to people who eat at McDonald’s and slovenly and inferior contrasted to the farm folks–depending on the sentence. She’s a beautiful writer and I wish I could do half of what she is somehow able to do in a year. Or perhaps I wish she would just do it for me. It’s possible I just have the wrong friends–few of whom would be all that helpful processing turkeys. It pissed me off to read that for her 50th birthday everyone brought her plants that she put in their front yard. That is a damned good idea. For my 50th birthday everyone bought me a dozen cupcakes. That was a pretty good idea, too, since I wasn’t hosting legions of friends–just a few–so I didn’t have to share so much.

I shop at farmers’ markets and have joined a food co-op to get more local produce and pastured eggs and meat and chicken. I do this and I don’t do that. I buy local and almost never darken a chain restaurant’s door. I like pulling basil out of my small kitchen garden to make pesto a few times a summer. I’m a big believer in weeding by hand, rather than by chemical and I have shrunk our lawn considerably over the years. I’ve made mozzarella twice and liked the results once. I’ve even eaten twice in one weekend at the farm-to-table restaurant Kingsolver and her husband started in Meadowview, VA, The Harvest Table. All good. I’m sure you’re tired now so I won’t tell you all the bad I’ve done–the plants I’ve killed with neglect, the plastic containers of organic spinach I’ve bought–that sort of thing.

Back to the nature

This tomato plant came from the Meadowview Farmers’ Guild General Store, adjacent to the Harvest Table. I am a neglectful gardener and as I sow so shall I reap. And perhaps weep. I want the plants to be independent. I think they should tie themselves to posts as they grow. Figure it out. Water themselves. That sort of thing. Forgive me, Mother Nature, for I have sinned. But I also bought a Twin Oaks hammock at the General Store, so somehow that works out so that I can feel smug and superior and supportive of the local little guys while I nap in the shade. I haven’t made my hammock, but I can still lie in it. Living la vida loca…

Richmond.com just published this interview with me today. 5 Questions with a Foodie. I would never say I’m a foodie or a native Richmonder, so let anyone come at me with their knives sharpened. As Stephen Robertson pointed out (ha!), sharp ones are better than dull ones.

To further prove (or undermine) my food credentials, here’s a sampler of older, food-related posts. I do keep coming back to food, one way or another. And I did shop at Ellwood Thompson’s today, so nuf said–or spent.

Where Health Food Goes to Die,  September 2010

The floor refinishers needed a 220 outlet to plug in the floor sander, so the hunt began. The very hung-over guy tasked with plugging in the machine dismissed the plug behind my dryer–too hard to get to–and instead wanted to know where my stove was.  I cringed because though I know it isn’t all that hard to move the stove out from the wall, it gets done approximately once a decade, so I knew the floor beneath my stove would bring me down–kind of the opposite effect of the wind beneath my wings though actually that song brings me down, too. But I digress.  The guy with the phlegmy, hacking cough taught me something that morning–there’s no need to move the stove. Turns out the oven drawer can be removed quite easily, exposing both the 220 outlet and the detritus of my life.  Who knew it was that easy?

With trepidation I got down on the floor to inspect the scene–more chocolate than you would think I would’ve let get away. The theme was surprisingly outdoorsy–a combination of  trail mix and dust bunnies too laden with grease to hop far. It was interesting to note (and almost thrilling to clean up) that health food doesn’t live under the stove–it died there. It belongs in the great outdoors or in my mouth. I am happy (ok–bursting with pride is more accurate) to report that no insects or animals were spotted, and two cake pans long assumed lost in the wild reappeared. I know I’m a bit of a braggart.

Older Butt Wider, November 2010

One of my favorite bits, coined decades ago by one of my high school friends. It’s so much easier to get wider than wiser, she said as she remembered with delight the exquisite dark chocolate (fair trade) with mint bar that she bought today.

Herewith the shorthand recipe for the delish Cookie Cake my daughter invented:

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Halve the Nestle’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate Toll House Cookie recipe on the back of the package, spread batter into a greased, 8 inch round cake pan and bake for 14 minutes….maybe more, depends how gooey you like the middle. Deirdre often ices it with vanilla buttercream icing as she did yesterday and then saved me a piece, thank goodness, but I am quite content to eat it sans icing. So good warm.

I will now wax poetic about cookies:

“Got a cookie in my hand, warm, on my lips, mmmm, in my mouth, oooh, on my tongue, yum, in my teeth, munch, down my throat, aahhh, in my gut–gone! Hey, that’s not enough. (It’s a hand-to-mouth existence, but that’s ok with me.)  …One bite, one taste, one swallow, one nice big cup of milk, one lick of my lips and I knew what to do–try, taste, chomp! From a package or a pan, I don’t need to waste a plate; crumbs in teeth, on shirt, in hair. Where’s my cookie?”

A multi-media approach to eating too much chocolate. I’m going to run now.

Driven to Eat May 2011, 

After driving 600 miles from Nashville to Richmond last night and and today, I was reminded that highways are very long and skinny food deserts. And there’s no dessert worth eating along them either.  Sure there are “restaurants” at many exits, but they are almost all some sort of fast food or fake-y, family-friendly chain and I’m fairly sure  their definition of food and mine don’t jibe. Not something I want to eat.

We were interested in making time, so hardly stopped at all, and didn’t time things such that wandering a little off the beaten track to find something interesting and not gross was possible, and it was disconcerting to see so little local flavor near the interstates. I’m sure most smaller spots have been blown off the road by the chains. I’m tempted to say that honest-to-goodness local barbecue is still one temptation still out there in some hills and hollows, in the south at least, that weary travellers might come upon, but even that is threatened by Famous Dave’s and Red, Hot & Blue.  Don’t let that happen! It’s up to us to eat local barbecue early and often. Keep sauce alive! Imagine the drive along I-64 without Pierce’s. Perish the thought. Or Richmond without Buz & Ned’s. Don’t let that happen. Richmond restaurants have spoiled me and I like it like that.

Putting Food First,  February 2012

So I agreed to moderate a Writing Show panel for James River Writers this evening. It’s about food, drink, and romance in writing. You had me at chocolate chip cookie. I am thinking hard about what food I should bring with me to stuff into my mouth in order to prevent me from saying something really dumb. Dark chocolate could do the trick, but it’s so unseasonably warm today, it might melt all over my hands and then I’ll get chocolate all over my notes and then I will have to rely on my brain to come up with something to say of its own accord and there we are back at the saying something dumb issue.

A chocolate for my thoughts?

A vicious circle. That reminds me of cupcakes.

The mocha/chocolate one is my go-to cupcake.

There is no photo of an actual cupcake because as soon as the box gets opened, it’s not a pretty picture anymore. Actually, I have learned to show enormous amounts of restraint leading Real Richmond food tours around town. I don’t partake of everything at every stop. For me to spend time in a cupcake joint, inhaling the aromas of chocolate, coconut, and other good/evil things and not eating a bit is proof of something–I’m just not sure what. It is weird beyond belief, but some of it is vanity. Knowing that putting cupcake to mouth would leave too much evidence on my clothes, in my teeth and around my lips–not to mention elsewhere–helps in the self-restraint department. And then when the tour is over and I walk past said cupcake shop, I pop in and buy a 4-pack to take home. The Virginia General Assembly would do better to focus on issues such as banning driving while eating cupcakes than some of the other things they’ve been messing with. Three panelists, Michele Young-Stone, Andrew Fox, and Kit Wilkinson will be on tonight’s panel. All are novelists, but different genres: Michele writes adult fiction; Andrew sci-fi/fantasy, and Kit Christian Romance and suspense.  There is a joke to be made about Christian Romance and what the Republicans in the General Assembly have been up to of late. I will try to show restraint tonight and not blurt one out. Cupcake, anyone?

I have been to the mountains and I didn’t want to leave. No cell phone coverage. No internet. Sky–lots of it. Also more maple syrup than I technically needed, but that’s Highland County’s thing, so can’t really argue with it. It won’t make me popular at Monterey’s doughnut-selling shack, but I just think maple-glazed doughnuts are a bad idea. Maple-glazed chicken I could get behind–and my mouth in front of, and maple syrup on buckwheat pancakes tasted as maple trees intended in their infinite wisdom. The folks who still make the syrup the old way are a different sort than most Americans. Spend time outside. Touch trees. Wonder if bears might wake up too soon and cause some trouble at the sugar shack. That sort of thing. The early summery weather made it tough on syrup production this year, FYI.

Ahhhh

During my two night visit last month during the Maple Festival, I was able to come up with t-shirt slogans that will make someone other than me not the least bit rich, tour several sugar camps, stare at countless gorgeous views with sun and shadow and mountains and meadows playing so well together-almost as well as maple syrup and Jack Daniels purportedly get along over ice. Perhaps the highlight was having wine and cheese alongside a rushing creek with some friends. For the rest of the story, you’ll have to read whatever else it is that I wrote in a travel piece for the May issue of Richmond Magazine.

I have no confidence in my scrambled eggs. It is a sad truth. Also I am lazy and scrambling eggs seems like much too much work for breakfast. Other people in my house take the time to jazz up the eggs with veggies and cheese and bacon and sausage which makes the eggs worth eating. Other people will eat fried eggs. Not I. Scrambled or not all. Think it goes with my tendencies though that makes no sense since my brain is fried of late.

I have every confidence in my ability to beat eggs well for brownies or cookies or cakes. Except there was that one time I dropped my cell phone into the hot melted butter and chocolate as I was making brownies–think I realized I didn’t have enough eggs for the recipe at that moment and it was 9 at night and I picked up my phone to call a neighbor and there really is no way to explain how the phone wound up in the incomplete but damn hot brownie batter other than to say I am a clod. I fished out the phone, but it was burning hot and clearly not happy. But I had work to do. I called my neighbor from our landline and got on a bike to retrieve a few eggs. That the same person who had just dropped a phone into brownie batter rode a bike that didn’t fit her well one-handed in the dark with eggs in the other hand says a lot about me I don’t really need to say…or write at least. Of course, the eggs were beaten quite well that evening. And the cell phone was never heard from again. The brownies turned out just fine. Confidence is the wrong title for this post.

I have no doubt it says something about the state of my dishwasher, plumbing, and mind that when I started my day Wednesday morning by opening the dishwasher to unload it, I saw bright yellow something or other clogging the dishwasher drain in the bottom. Retrieving what turned out to be paper, I saw immediately that it was the remnants of a recent to-do list that had been sitting on the counter for a few days. Always good to start a day with a laugh.

I read tips for organizing one’s brain, business, and home often enough, but have never come upon the one I’m about to give you: When “cleaning up” after dinner, do not place dirty dishes on top of the piles of paper on your countertop–unless you want to wind up all washed up. Or hung out to dry….  And I think I deserve extra points for a partially rhymed to-do list.

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