The other evening at Ocra’s dining room in Manassas I had the pleasure of offering my perspective on the culinary work of Edna Lewis in the context of African American cuisine, cookbooks and the complex history of the 20th century. My audience was a dining room of folks who had come together to support the Journey Through Hollowed Ground*
As I gave my talk to the eager diners, our chef for the evening, Top Chef winner Carla Hall was bustling in the open kitchen area behind me finishing and plating more of the wonderful menu. Local cheeses, delicious salami, a pate, crackers and wine opened our evening. Our hostess, Ester Turner of JTHG, welcomed us including Ruth Lewis Smith who when a younger woman cooked alongside her sister in New York in the late 1940’s.
Mrs. Smith still lives near the original Lewis home place in Orange County, Virginia. After the greetings the delightful food was rolled out. In celebration of Virginia’s fine farming and culinary traditions, local farms, bakeries, and food vendors donated all the food for our meal.
Our menu was selected from A Winter Dinner in Edna Lewis’s Taste of Country Cooking, 1977 edition. We began with a Salad of Watercress with an oil and vinegar dressing. Chef Hall made the exciting decision to ‘dress up’ the sharp greenness of the watercress by adding layers of flavor with sliced fresh pears, a smidgen of Moody Blue Cheese and savory roasted walnuts.
The main dish of mature stewing hens from Walnut Hill Farm prepared in rich gravy combined with small dumplings and glazed small carrots was accompanied with Edna’s Crusty Yeast Bread. Then dessert! Oh, glorious dessert! Deep Dish Apple Pie with Nutmeg Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream.
*Journey Through Hallowed Ground: National Heritage Area & National Scenic Byway www.HallowedGround.org
Chef Carla Hall www.alchemybycarlahall.com
Walnut Hill Farm at Elm Springs on Facebook
Ayrshire Farm www.AyrshireFarm.com
Bonjour La Parisienne www.bonjourlaparisienne.com