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Recipes and Stories

29 January 2022: Buttermilk Pie

Lemon Buttermilk Chess Pie


Buttermilk pie is an old-fashioned standard of Southern baking whose history rivals that of the most put-upon heroines of any soap opera or romance novel. A humble, homespun pastry, it was as taken for granted as it was popular in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.


It suffered gross neglect during the "gourmet" 1970s, and in the so-called "nouvelle southern" movement 1980s, survived a tarted-up comeback (with "reinvention" that sometimes bordered on abuse), then once again faded in the early part of this century. Happily, it's lately enjoyed yet another revival, Read More 

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23 January 2022: Sunday Pot Roast

Sunday Pot Roast


It's been a typical frosty January here in Petersburg, with just enough snow to be pretty and fun without getting tedious, and just enough frost in the air to make a fire on the hearth welcome but not absolutely necessary.


In other words, it's perfect pot roast weather.


After years of watching my mother and maternal grandparents assemble dozens of this Sunday dinner staple, and almost half a century of making it on my own, I never even glance at a recipe. Yet, except when I'm really homesick, it but rarely comes out exactly like the pot roasts of my childhood—by design.


The lovely thing about dishes like this is that once we've mastered the basic technique and keep in mind which flavors work well together, we're free to be in the moment and just cook. Read More 

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10 January 2022: Healing Soup

My Chicken Noodle Soup


I don't know how you all greeted the new year, but I hope it wasn't the way we did: in bed with head colds. Whenever I'm under the weather, if I can stand upright for more than two minutes, I drag myself to the store for a chicken and make a big pot of broth for chicken soup. (The one good thing about being in the middle of a pandemic is that the discipline of wearing a mask and constant hand-washing meant that there was little danger of passing that cold around.)


Yes, I could've just opened a can, and have been known to do that while waiting for heat to work its magic on the chicken, water, and a handful of vegetables. But the mass-produced contents of a can aren't at all the same and simply don't have the healing power of homemade soup. Read More 

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7 January 2022: Comfort Revisited—Ilda's Ham and Potato Gratin

Ilda's Casseruola al Forno (Ham and Potato Gratin) has been a comfort food staple in my kitchen for four decades


As our first full Christmastide in our Virginia home comes to an end, we're finally beginning to settle in and feel as if we're really at home here. It would be nice to report that settling in included an exuberant outburst of creativity in my sweet, sunny kitchen.


Well, no.


The upheaval of moving, the loss of my car thanks to being broadsided by a careless driver, unexpected changes at the church, the worrying decline of my elderly parents, and the new spikes in the pandemic have led instead to a full retreat into all our comfort food favorites.


We celebrated the season with the usual treats and have had more than our quota of eggnog, cheese straws, country ham biscuits and rolls, roast turkey, potato gratin, homemade fruitcake, and cookies. And, despite being laid out with terrible head colds, being good Southern boys we saw in the new year with plenty of collards and black-eyed peas.


But our day to day staples have been homey comfort favorites that I can make blindfolded. Read More 

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