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So it’s been a while. And the alliteration keeps coming. Even when actual thoughts do not.

But I have been thinking about you, blog, just haven’t had any thoughts that aren’t Fire, Flour & Fork-related, coming up Oct. 30th-Nov. 2nd, so I spared you until now. 

Four years ago my partner in dine, SJW, and I started our Real Richmond Food Tours biz and now we’re putting on a 4-day gathering for the food curious with acclaimed Richmond chefs and purveyors like Dale Reitzer, Lee Gregory, Tanya Cauthen and Travis Milton sharing the stage with lauded chefs and authors from all over the country, such as Sean Brock, Christina Tosi, Dave DeWitt, Ronni LundyAlice Medrich and Jehangir Mehta. And that’s just the icing on the cake. 13 dinners, 7 lunches, including a Sunday one that starts with tours of Monumental Church and its crypt, 1 Festival of the Hungry Ghosts, 1 Tasting Tent, 1 Urban State Fair, 18 book signings and 2 receptions in rarely visited cool spots–C. F. Sauers and Electric Eclectic Appliance Museum.

The crypt at Monumental Church. Tour it during Queen Molly's Monumental Moveable Feast, Sunday, Nov. 2nd.

The crypt at Monumental Church. Tour it during Queen Molly’s Monumental Moveable Feast, Sunday, Nov. 2nd.

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Toasters are tame compared to what appliances are in the bathroom!

I think somehow we are putting on year 3 of this first time event, so my head is spinning. Or maybe it’s just that when David Guas of Bayou Bakery and Travel Channel’s American Grilled looks at me that way, I think I might overdose on sugar and gluten.

He’s cooking with Jason Alley of Pasture and Comfort Saturday, Nov. 1st and sorry, it’s full, but both Jason and David are doing talks during our Culinary Tracks Speaker Series October 31st and Nov. 1st at the Library of Virginia and FFF’s host hotel, Hilton Garden Inn Downtown. David will be demo-ing Not Your Mama’s B & G and signing his cookbook, DamGoodSweet.

Yes, David Guas is looking at you, too!

Yes, David Guas is looking at you, too!

Damn. Good. Sweet.

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I don’t pretend to be a food writer though I have tweeted more than 12,000 times and most have involved either putting food or my foot in my mouth or putting words together halfway wittily which is different from half-witted. Then there’s my children’s writing that I haven’t done in a while–all those damned tweets and the business of Real Richmond Food Tours has something to do with that. One of two filing cabinets in my desk is jammed with children’s picture book manuscripts and poetry and food comes into play more than I’d realized. I’m a bit of a food poet, so for April here’s a snippet from Want a Cookie?:

I started gnawing zwiebacks/back when these were almost new./Gluey, tasteless sawdust;/what’s the point of teeth?/ Then I spied my mother/with something on her face./A smile, a smudge,/a glimmer, a gulp./Want a cookie.

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?

And on it goes…. So autobiographical, I know.

Now that I’ve established my gravitas, it makes perfect sense to say that I’m one of the gang of three that’s putting on the Mid-Atlantic Food Writers Symposium in Richmond this June. We’ve assembled a remarkable collection of talented writers, editors, chefs, agents and food stylists that includes Kat Kinsman of Eatocracy, Todd Kliman of The Washingtonian, Lisa Fain of The Homesick Texan, Josh Ozersky of Esquire, Monica Bhide, Matt Gross of Bon Appetit, Ramin Ganeshram, Bonnie Benwick of the Washington Post, Kendra Bailey Morris, John Shields, Denise Vivaldo, Judy Pray of Artisan and Michael Psaltis of CEA. How many James Beard Foundation winners/finalists do you count?

Fresh-picked this June!

Fresh-picked this June!

That’s a line-up that ought to get lips smacking, hearts racing and fingers flying on the keyboards for food bloggers, recipe-collectors, cookbook-lovers and those who dream of cooking up a book or a blog. Hope to see you in Richmond June 20th-22nd!

 

I found the fountain of youth last month, but I’m not interested in partaking of it again. It was at a Catholic church here in town during Advent. Almost as soon as I walked in the door with my 81-year-old mother,  I felt transported back to adolescence–all snark and muttering to myself and rolling my eyes and looking around at people wondering how they can put up with this. Feeling young again might have felt liberating if it hadn’t felt so stifling.

The only clue that I wasn’t an adolescent was that I used my time in the pew to do my Kegel exercises. Before things got started, I read a notice about proper behavior in church that an usher had handed out and hoped for some decent Christmas music. Imagine my surprise when the priest began the festivities by saying that one young lady in one of the front two rows who answered his question wins a prize. Don’t remember that from the old days. Don’t remember the question either, but the prize, which he pulled from his robes (memo to priests everywhere: Don’t ever pull anything from your robe!) was a tin of Virginia Peanuts. Of course. Famous church marketing 101. Jack up sales of peanuts by talking about them at the outset of Mass. Crass was more like it.

I appreciated his antics even more (or less) when he began his homily by commenting on the sacredness of what goes on in church, lamenting his parishioners bad behavior and instructing us to read the notice in the pews about the solemnness of church and how we are to conduct ourselves in it. I do not like being told what to do–especially when I’d already done it and didn’t need to do it to know how to behave. The instructions were all about not eating or texting or talking while in church. How handy for him that they hadn’t included playing Jeopardy and hawking peanuts in front of the congregation as what not to do. From all my church-going and Catholic school-going years, I seem to remember something about Jesus throwing the money-changers out of the Temple. On my next visit to church, I think I’ll institute clandestine pew yoga to help me find some peace. Otherwise I might have to stand up and say something. Want to come watch?! I’m guessing I’m the one who’d get thrown out of there.

Damned good list! To continue the consolidation of my Real Richmond Food Tours Twitter Holiday Guide for Richmond ( part 1  )that is only just barely self-serving:

#14  Gift certificates for Discover the James Bald Eagle tours on the James River!

#15  Cards, mugs and kitchen fun w/ a Richmond touch at Rostov’s Coffee & Tear in the Fan.

Poe Poe Poe

Poe Poe Poe

#16: Tix to  Lewis Ginter Gardenfest of Lights + something whimsical from their gift shop.

#17: Case of the month at J. Emerson will make people toast your good health all year long!

#18 Fall Line Farms membership makes buying local pastured meats, eggs+more goodies so easy!

#19: Gift certificates from Flames 231, Bottoms Up and Pizza Tonight +tix to our  Jan. 25th  all pizza tour .

#20: Peanut Butter Pups from Gearharts RVA Made w/ Reginald’s Homemade  PB + a portion helps Veterans. 

#21: Get their butts on bikes at  Boho Cycle Studio    to work off calories of #RVAdine gift certs!

#22: Tickets to Hollywood Costume at VMFA, lunch at Amuse, see one of 60films/60 days + a show The Byrd Here’s the Info

#23 Stuff stockings with Olli Salumeria from EllwoodsBelmontButchery, J Emerson Wine and Little House Green Grocery.

#24 When time is running out, there’s still time to snag a gift certificate to one of our food tours around town!

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I write a lot of  140 character bursts for my small biz, Real Richmond Food Tours, and though it makes sense that food comes up often, as it does on part 1 of my Holiday Gift Guide for Richmond, art and nature are other themes that show up. Makes sense, since those are some of Richmond’s strengths and what is such a pleasure to tout on our tours and on Twitter. Here’s #1-13 for 2013.

#1 Art abides: a membership to Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is one of the best gifts (and best deals) in #RVA.

#2 Gift baskets from Little House Green Grocery full of Hispania Bakery , Blanchard’s Coffee & more treats!

#3: Tix to Virginia Rep’s Fiddler on the Roof! For Hannukah or Christmas +pairs w/ #rvadine meal. (Ok, so it’s late for Hannukah now!)

#4- Fun food-related utensils and books at Quirk Gallery.

#5  Create burger heaven w/ gift certificates to Station 2, Burger Bach & Belmont Butchery. #diditlastyear

#6  Blue Bee Cider will put a shine on somebody’s apple! I’m a fan of Aragon + the Reserve!

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#7 Help Cucina achieve world soup domination by buying Mulligatawny or Chorizo Black Bean soups at St. Stephen’s Farmers’ Market Saturday, 9-12.

#8 From the warmth of your home, get someone James River Park System license plates! Support an #RVA park.

#9: Beard Foundation Dinner tickets  Jan. 18th at Lemaire with chefs Bundy, Reitzer, Gregory, Alley and Sparatta!

#10: Animal masks from Big Secret  atBizarre Market upstairs in Chop Suey Books!

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#11: Bacon Bender– Housemade from Belmont Butchery ties  at Fountain Bookstore, mug from Rostov’s Coffee & Tea.

#12: Pick up some local art and food at Art & Food at Huguenot Springs Sat. 10-4 w/ @Manakintowne 

#13  Something your heart/art desires at Handmade Holiday at Dogtown Dance Saturday, 11-5 + Bainbridge Art Center Sat. & Sun.

Somewhere in the run-up to my 30th college reunion–which I did not attend–I received a survey to fill out from the alumni office. They’ve never lost me in all these 30 years, but they must keep hoping they have the wrong Maureen Egan (there were two of us in our class at Holy Cross) and figure eventually they’ll find the one who is a billionaire and wants to give it all back to the college. Keep trying.

Of course, they want to know what field people are working in. Under the self-employed spot–after the ones they’re really interested in–investment bankers, stockbrokers, doctors, lawyers–a couple of telling options popped up. There was freelance writer, where it belonged, which is one part of what I do. Right under it was an option I’d never considered and certainly didn’t expect it to have its own line: funeral director. A trick of that pesky alphabet or something more? The two fields have plenty of things in common. Magazines and newspapers keep dying and so do people. Synergy. God knows I’ve been to enough funerals that provide a microphone to people who could use a good writer to make what’s said not make the audience go nutty. See, Yes, I’m referencing my own damned story! It’s sad that I remember the awful funerals as funny stories and don’t remember the good funerals much at all. Perhaps I should write about that….

It is unnerving to see how much paper has accumulated in the filing cabinets in this house. Note that I didn’t say I had accumulated the paper but the paper has accumulated. Paper makes me passive. Or feel passive. Or passive-aggressive. Sure don’t want to take ownership of much of it. Ok, so it’s not as bad as the photo, but it is utterly not empowering to go through one’s files. It makes me think I’ve been both busy and lazy simultaneously. That I have wasted my life and continue to every minute I spend purging the outdated and extraneous stuff from the damned files or reading things I find interesting in them. It’s that just putting off the inevitable ashes to ashes. It’s more like ash to trash and brain down the drain. Will my children thank me for the load I’m taking off them? That depends on whether the binders of my father’s multi-papered life outlast me. My husband just put a load of them in a container up in the attic. As heavy as it must have been, I feel lighter already. Out of sight–out of mind works so well sometimes. I much prefer it to going out of my mind

 

 

For about 10 years I’ve kept a list of what books I read each year. It would be handier if I actually remembered to write down every book I did in fact read, but it’s a better source than me answering the question, “What have you been reading lately?”

I’ve bolded my favorites. 2012 looked like this:

Blue Nights  (I know it’s wrong to say, but ugh.)

Behind Enemy Lines  ( a children’s book we’ve had + insomnia)

Church Hill Train Tunnel

Richmond’s Unhealed History (highly recommend)

Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors (this and the next 2 for a JRW panel I moderated–enjoyed the first two)

Good Humor Man

Mom in the Making

Devil’s Highway ( quite a shift from the Christian romance I had to read for the panel)

Richmond Receipts      (this and the next one were crucial for Dinner & Dames info)

The Virginia Housewife  

Street Gang (about Sesame Street)

Lewis Ginter

Home    (Witold Rybczynski)

Power of Habit           (Didn’t change my life, alas)

Come August, Come Freedom ( Written by a friend. Immensely powerful and beautiful.)

The Girl Who Silenced the Wind (Written by another friend. Searing and sage.)

Home (Toni Morrison)

Some snooze of a marketing book from Constant Contact

Making Babies           (enjoyed it more than I’d expected)

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (wrote about it here.)

Wild

Blink     (Yes, I’m slow!)

Black Potatoes  (post-Ireland trip. Hard to complain about bowel prep reading this.)

McCarthy’s Bar (re-read it post-Ireland. Didn’t think as much of it this time.)

Thread Across the Ocean (Bought in Ireland–a family connection to the story.)

Have Mother, Will Travel (hated–didn’t finish)

Team of Rivals (slow start, but never wanted it to end)

At Home (Bill Bryson)

The Heart and the Fist (From a friend whose son is a SEAL )

A Jane Austen Education (better to read her books again)

Official Book Club Selection (couldn’t resist  when I saw it in a sister’s closet)

Stuart Little (soothing to re-read ahead of surgery)

Holidays on Ice (David Sedaris– a tad too mean for the holidays if you ask me)

Three Dog Life (need to read more of Abigail Thomas)

No Ordinary Time (more DKG to love. Think we never got to WW II in school.)

The Reader (can’t imagine anyone going to  the movie unless to see naked Kate W.)

Forgot these 2:

Thee, Hannah (an oldie that my mother loved as a child)

Treat Your Own Back (I’ll recommend it in a few months if my back gets better.)

So that was what I remember to write down, and as I was typing this I remembered another. Here’s hoping 2013 is full of good books to sit down with. God knows there are plenty of good ones sitting around this house.

Just Ducky

Would that I had my ducks in a row on this first day of 2013. Came upon something I wrote in early Jan. 2002 bemoaning the lack of organization in these parts and our manic undertakings to improve this that and the other. Ducks have two advantages that we don’t–no email or paper to drown in. I think it might take some walking on water to stay afloat!

 

So here’s the second installment of my Real Richmond gift guide from my Twitter feed. It’s a damned good list, if I do say so myself. I think it’s a good thing my children don’t follow me on any social media platforms.

Holiday Gift Guide #8 Gift certificate to a lovely #RVA B & B! Museum District B & B is near @VMFA. Maury Place &@gracemanorinn have pools!

Holiday Gift Guide #9 A membership in @falllinefarms for local-loving folks on your list. Year-round access to excess! http://ow.ly/fKTHB

Holiday Gift Guide #10 James River Park license plates for park-lovers on your list! #noDMVlinehttp://ow.ly/i/1bEls  http://ow.ly/fIa1y

Holiday Gift Guide #11 Burger bunch! Get gift certificates to@BelmontButchery @station2rva & @burgerbach for meat-lovers!

Holiday Gift Guide #12 Introduce someone to @relayfoods and give them the gift of local food & more time to themselves! http://ow.ly/fN2Tq

Holiday Gift Guide #13 French wine from @jemersonwine @Ellwoods@barrelthief + pass to French Film Festival @thebyrdrva http://ow.ly/fOAa8

Holiday Gift Guide #14 Nick’s on Broad sells the olive oil@StellasRichmond uses! Get chorizo and feta and other delicacies!

Holiday Gift Guide #15 Jewelry from Lynalise or Julia Dent at@bizarremarket at Chop Suey Books 

Holiday Gift Guide #16 #RVA =international! Gift certificates from  La Grotta Europa Stellas, Bistro Bobette, La Parisienne, etc. 

Holiday Gift Guide #17 @station2rva Get a Growler w/ purchase of $30 gift certificate. You don’t HAVE to give it away!

Holiday Gift Guide #18 Membership to @LewisGinter +tix to Gardenfest of Lights will put a shine to the whole year! #RVAhttp://ow.ly/gaHri

Holiday Gift Guide #19: beautiful baubles, pottery and other local#RVA delights at 43rd St. Gallery in Forest Hill.pic.twitter.com/3IXwWYMq

RealRichmond Tweets!

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