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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!


Perhaps it wasn’t the brightest idea for me to leave the restaurant chapter of the Insiders’ Guide to Richmond till the bitter end, but in my defense I did add to it all along during the four months I was working on the book. I was uninclined to wax poetically about a place only to find it closed the next week as happened to quite a few fine restaurants around here this past winter. Not barbecue places, though. Those have staying power.

No doubt the restaurant critics and food bloggers around town will have a field day, crucifying me for what I put in and what I left out, and I suppose I will never get a reservation in my own name at several of the fine establishments that I couldn’t fit in due to space restrictions, but I hardly ever eat out anyway… and as my daughter likes to remind me, “No one will read it anyway.” Kind of comforting in a fearful, self-loathing, depressing sort of way….

A couple of things I learned while writing the restaurant chapter–barbecue restaurant owners are the friendliest folk. They also have the most pride per pound of pork served–just bursting with it. It seemed so real I could almost top it with slaw.  It was fun to talk with and in some cases meet the owners of cool, little places and really see how the right restaurant in the right spot with energetic and far-sighted ownership can be an amazing tool of community revitalization. Alamo BBQ on Church Hill   (get some ) comes to mind.  I suspect Pescados on Oregon Hill, when it opens this summer  (Pescados in midlothian now) will do the trick as well.  

By the time I had written the more than 120 restaurant, coffee shop, and bakery entries, I had no words left and no appetite for eating anything in my own paltry cabinets. I am most proud of my Asian section of the restaurant chapter because I was able to sneak in a line about faux pho–hardy har har. I stayed just this side of sanity by not employing the best word I’ve ever made up–noodleific.  It says it all. It’s going somewhere; I just couldn’t bear to give it away in  a work-for-hire project, so it’s mine, all mine.

I’m back!