When I first heard about Fire, Flour and Fork, I thought it sounded like a great way to celebrate Richmond’s diverse food scene from a food history perspective. Planned by Real Richmond Food Tours, the weekend-long event spans tastings, dinners and educational sessions. Now that the schedule of events has been released, I can’t wait to get my tickets!
For the Saturday sessions, my dream schedule would be:
10 AM – At the Counters | Nicole A. Taylor, Dr. Raymond Hylton and Elizabeth Thalhimer Smartt | 10 a.m.
History books tell the story of segregation. Better still, “If We So Choose” is a documentary short film, produced by Athens, Georgia native Nicole Taylor, which introduces audiences to the people in Athens who not only lived through Jim Crow separatism but fought against it and won. Through the lens of a little-known protest demonstration at the lingo laden fast-food restaurant, The Varsity, new light is shed on unsung, young African American heroes. Turning the lens on Richmond, Dr. Raymond Hylton, chair of the department of History at Virginia Union University and author Elizabeth Thalhimer Smartt will share the story of the Richmond 34 and their sit-in at the Thalhimer’s lunch counter on Feb. 22, 1960. We’ll see the new trailer of The Richmond 34 by Bundy Films as well.
In light of the events in Ferguson, MO, it’s more important than ever for Americans to come together to discuss our shared history and the importance of the civil disobedience of the 1960’s to the Civil Rights movement. When I visited Memphis last summer to study the history of barbecue, I learned much about how race has played into food history. My mother, a lifelong Richmonder, has told me of the Thalhimer’s sit-in and other actions in the 60’s, and I’d love to check out the film and get a new perspective on Richmond’s role in the larger movement.
11:15 AM – “Queen Molly” and the Enslaved Women with whom she Worked | Leni Sorensen | Culinary Historian
Known as “Queen Molly” the woman who set the finest table in early 19th-century Richmond, Mary Randolph and the unnamed enslaved cooks in her kitchens produced food that set the standard for excellence in Southern cookery. Historian Leni Sorensen is cooking her way through the recipes in Randolph’s book, The Virginia House-Wife, first published in 1824. The book is considered to be the nation’s first truly regional American cookbook and the most influential of its time. “If I’m talking about food, I’m also talking about history,” Sorensen says.
I’ll admit, I’ve kinda got a thing for Mary Randolph. I was born and raised in Virginia and have traced my Virginia ancestors back to the 1600’s, so I’m partial to learning about colonial cooking methods and recipes. In my study of “The Virginia House-Wife,” I’ve come across Leni Sorensen’s work, and I’m excited to learn more about Mary and the enslaved women of her kitchen. I’ve tried a few of her recipes (including her Tavern Biscuits, which are pretty much my favorite cookie ever), and want to try more!
2 PM – Apple Stack Cake | Travis Milton | Comfort
Travis Milton, chef de cuisine at Comfort, left his beloved Appalachia to cook and write, emerging as an authority on Appalachian food ways. Heirloom apples are just one of the treasures of Appalachia and Travis knows which varieties work best for making his trademark vinegars, applesauce, apple butter and of course, his version of his great-grandmother’s Apple Stack Cake. Only a few of the 1,600 known varieties of apples that once grew in the Appalachians and Southeastern U.S. have been conserved. Once you learn the secrets of Apple Stack Cake, you’ll want to plant your own heirloom apple tree. Demo
Come on, what Richmond foodie worth their salt (see what I did there?) wouldn’t want to attend a session with Comfort’s chef de cuisine? Besides, Virginia has a long history of apple growing and processing, dating back to Jefferson’s Monticello, if not further. That Apple Stack Cake sounds delicious!
3:30 PM – On a Roll | Drew Thomasson | The Rogue Gentlemen
There’s a reason Drew Thomasson, baker at The Rogue Gentlemen in Jackson Ward, and formerly pastry chef at D’lish, has a whisk, spatula and rolling pin tattoo on his arm–those tools are extensions of himself as he whips up the Parkerhouse Rolls, breads and croissants that have given him a following around town. This demo will whip you into baking shape just in time for the holidays. Demo
It’s not just the baking-themed tattoo that draws me to this session. My first “real” job was at a local gourmet bakery, and baking is one of my passions. I always love to pick up new tips and tricks, but have had trouble with breads and yeast-based baked goods (cookies, cakes and brownies are my specialty). I’ve got a crowd to bake for at Thanksgiving, so hopefully I can pick up some good recipes and techniques.
You can purchase your tickets here – https://www.eventbrite.com/e/fire-flour-and-fork-registration-12176238457?ref=ebtn
The event runs from Thursday, Oct. 30 with a reception at the “rarely-open” Eclectic Electric Appliance Museum to benefit Lewis Ginter Community Kitchen Garden, and concludes Sunday, Nov. 2 with “Queen” Molly Randolph’s Monumental Moveable Feast and tours of Monumental Church, and a tour of food-related art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.