Food: A Life’s Work, with Dorothy Burton – Charlottesville

This film was directed and produced by Shayna Stern as part of the Virginia Food Heritage Planning course at the University of Virginia, Department of Urban and Environmental Planning in Spring 2012.

Food: A Life’s Work, with Dorothy Burton – Charlottesville

by Shayna Stern

We all know the story of the founding of the United States. Passionate American patriots fought off the tyrannical British monarchy and created a new republic founded on liberty and democracy. This story is part of national heritage, and we will never forget it or doubt its importance.

In school, we learn about the Civil War battles that took place in Virginia. We tour the battlefields during field trips and read excerpts from soldiers’ diaries. The Civil War is part of our state heritage.

Throughout the Central Virginia region, we see Thomas Jefferson’s influence. The University of Virginia is a living memorial of the founding father and Monticello is a popular tourist destination. Thomas Jefferson is part of our regional heritage.

Dorothy Burton has a story, too. Her grandmother raised her and never let Dorothy help with the cooking. So Dorothy learned by watching. By the time she was eleven, she could cook on her own, and by the time she was twenty, Dorothy was working as a cook. Food was Dorothy’s life work. She cooked for City of Charlottesville Schools. She cooked for private families. She cooked for students at the University of Virginia. She cooked for her family. She cooked for herself. Dorothy cooked her special Lemon Jello Cake, and when you asked her for the recipe she would smile shyly and tell you no one could see that recipe. She made piecrusts from scratch, and filled them with sweet potatoes, cream, and lots and lots of sugar. She cooked meats, and vegetables, and bread.

And Dorothy worked hard. She worked so hard. She worked hard so that she could take care of her sons. She worked hard so that her family could have a place to live. She worked hard so that she could teach her sons to cook and clean and take care of themselves. Dorothy worked hard in her life and now it is time for her to go home and sit down and rest.

This story is part of Dorothy’s individual heritage. This is her food heritage. We might not learn this story in school or see it around us every day. But this story is important. This story is important because it is Dorothy’s story, and it is important because it is a part of her own heritage.

For more about the Virginia Food Heritage Planning course, visit http://ien.arch.virginia.edu/courses/food-systems-resources.

Food: A Life’s Work, with Dorothy Burton – Charlottesville

by Shayna Stern

We all know the story of the founding of the United States. Passionate American patriots fought off the tyrannical British monarchy and created a new republic founded on liberty and democracy. This story is part of national heritage, and we will never forget it or doubt its importance.

In school, we learn about the Civil War battles that took place in Virginia. We tour the battlefields during field trips and read excerpts from soldiers’ diaries. The Civil War is part of our state heritage.

Throughout the Central Virginia region, we see Thomas Jefferson’s influence. The University of Virginia is a living memorial of the founding father and Monticello is a popular tourist destination. Thomas Jefferson is part of our regional heritage.

Dorothy Burton has a story, too. Her grandmother raised her and never let Dorothy help with the cooking. So Dorothy learned by watching. By the time she was eleven, she could cook on her own, and by the time she was twenty, Dorothy was working as a cook. Food was Dorothy’s life work. She cooked for City of Charlottesville Schools. She cooked for private families. She cooked for students at the University of Virginia. She cooked for her family. She cooked for herself. Dorothy cooked her special Lemon Jello Cake, and when you asked her for the recipe she would smile shyly and tell you no one could see that recipe. She made piecrusts from scratch, and filled them with sweet potatoes, cream, and lots and lots of sugar. She cooked meats, and vegetables, and bread.

And Dorothy worked hard. She worked so hard. She worked hard so that she could take care of her sons. She worked hard so that her family could have a place to live. She worked hard so that she could teach her sons to cook and clean and take care of themselves. Dorothy worked hard in her life and now it is time for her to go home and sit down and rest.

This story is part of Dorothy’s individual heritage. This is her food heritage. We might not learn this story in school or see it around us every day. But this story is important. This story is important because it is Dorothy’s story, and it is important because it is a part of her own heritage.

 

 

Childhood Memory of the Great Depression, with Maggie S. Smith – Charlottesville

This film was directed and produced by Ran Zheng as part of the Virginia Food Heritage Planning course at the University of Virginia, Department of Urban and Environmental Planning in Spring 2012.

Childhood Memory of the Great Depression, with Maggie S. Smith – Charlottesville – Interview Story

by Ran Zheng

On March 15, 2012, I interviewed Mrs. Maggie S. Smith at JABA Mary Williams Community Center. Mrs. Smith was a good talker and told me quite a lot about her early childhood memory of food.

Mrs. Smith was born and grew up in Charlottesville, and she has lived here her whole life. She experienced the great depression in late 1920s and early 1930s when she was a child. And for this reason, there were not many options for food she could eat during that time. She did not even recall any favorite food, since she could only eat what was available at home and what was affordable by the family. Most of the time they had potatoes, such as potato soup, fried potato, mashed potatoes, etc.; beans, e.g., pinto beans, black eyes beans, red beans; and also greens. Only occasionally did the family have meat and eggs, because those were very expensive and they could not afford them. I think she must have experienced a very hard time. However, when we were talking about it, I could feel that she had a very peaceful mind.

The most memorable childhood food for Mrs. Smith was homemade biscuit her mother cooked for her. She sometimes helped with the preparation, and could still remember how to make it even after so many years. Her mother used flours, baking powder, soda, and salt to make the dough. No cut-out were used for cutting the biscuits, and her mother used hands to press each dough into a round shape, which brought Mrs. Smith a lot of fun. After the biscuits were baked and ready for eat, they would put some old fashioned butter on them. She said it tastes really good, and she was still missing the taste.

If she were to cook something by herself (her daughter is cooking for her now), it would be mostly like a long time ago. A lot of seasonings are added to most of products sold in supermarkets today, which cover most of the food’s original flavors. And she did not like this way.

She likes planting tree tomatoes by herself, and she said she could tell “good” tomatoes from bad ones by just smelling. The smell of the tree tomatoes she planted is good and is very different from tomatoes sold in retail stores. I really appreciate Mrs. Smith who has shared with me such a beautiful story. I have learned a lot about local food culture in America and began to understand the meaning and importance of protecting local heritage food.

For more about the Virginia Food Heritage Planning course, visit http://ien.arch.virginia.edu/courses/food-systems-resources.

Childhood Memory of the Great Depression, with Maggie S. Smith – Charlottesville – Interview Story

by Ran Zheng

On March 15, 2012, I interviewed Mrs. Maggie S. Smith at JABA Mary Williams Community Center. Mrs. Smith was a good talker and told me quite a lot about her early childhood memory of food.

Mrs. Smith was born and grew up in Charlottesville, and she has lived here her whole life. She experienced the great depression in late 1920s and early 1930s when she was a child. And for this reason, there were not many options for food she could eat during that time. She did not even recall any favorite food, since she could only eat what was available at home and what was affordable by the family. Most of the time they had potatoes, such as potato soup, fried potato, mashed potatoes, etc.; beans, e.g., pinto beans, black eyes beans, red beans; and also greens. Only occasionally did the family have meat and eggs, because those were very expensive and they could not afford them. I think she must have experienced a very hard time. However, when we were talking about it, I could feel that she had a very peaceful mind.

The most memorable childhood food for Mrs. Smith was homemade biscuit her mother cooked for her. She sometimes helped with the preparation, and could still remember how to make it even after so many years. Her mother used flours, baking powder, soda, and salt to make the dough. No cut-out were used for cutting the biscuits, and her mother used hands to press each dough into a round shape, which brought Mrs. Smith a lot of fun. After the biscuits were baked and ready for eat, they would put some old fashioned butter on them. She said it tastes really good, and she was still missing the taste.

If she were to cook something by herself (her daughter is cooking for her now), it would be mostly like a long time ago. A lot of seasonings are added to most of products sold in supermarkets today, which cover most of the food’s original flavors. And she did not like this way.

She likes planting tree tomatoes by herself, and she said she could tell “good” tomatoes from bad ones by just smelling. The smell of the tree tomatoes she planted is good and is very different from tomatoes sold in retail stores.
I really appreciate Mrs. Smith who has shared with me such a beautiful story. I have learned a lot about local food culture in America and began to understand the meaning and importance of protecting local heritage food.

Fish Roe: Finding a Way Back to Our Plates, with Alexander Gilliam – Charlottesville

This film was directed and produced by Liz Russell as part of the Virginia Food Heritage Planning course at the University of Virginia, Department of Urban and Environmental Planning in Spring 2012.

Fish Roe: Finding a Way Back to Our Plates, with Alexander Gilliam – Charlottesville Virginia – Interview Story

By Liz Russell

Read this story as a PDF, with images

From top to bottom: Alewife, Blueback, Herring, Hickory Shad, American Shad

Some say that this country was founded on shad. Legend has it that spawning shad saved Washington’s starving troops at Valley Forge. One of Thomas Jefferson’s favorite dishes was a roe soufflé, made with fresh shad or river herring. And in fact, for thousands of years before white man stepped foot on this land, Native American tribes up and down the Mid-Atlantic harvested these fish as food and as fertilizer for their crops. However, a combination of factors, mostly man-made, resulted in shad and river herring populations dropping drastically through the 19th century. Conservation and management efforts as dramatic as fishing moratoriums and sustainable hatcheries show positive signs for the future of the species; however, as an item on our dinner plates, shad and herring seem to be fading out of memory and tradition.

Planners and historians frequently talk of the importance of “sense of place”, in regards to buildings and structures. I argue that “sense of identity” may be just as important to a community. Honoring history and tradition serves to strengthen ties to the land and to each other. The legacy of shad and herring is of particular importance, not only in reasons of economics and livelihood, but also in honoring the seasons of nature, something from which we have become removed. What would it be like, after long winter months of salted and preserved foods, to celebrate the arrival of spring with the return of these fish and their delicious roe? How much enjoyable would these foods be if we tasted them at their best, not by picking them out of the frozen foods section of the grocery store This food heritage story is one that sheds light on a fish, on a place, and on a memory.

American, or white shad (Alosa sapidissima), the smaller hickory shad (Alosa mediocris) and two species of closely-related river herring – alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus) and blueback herring (Alosa aestivalis) are anadromous fish, meaning that most of their life is spent at sea, migrating up rivers in the springtime to spawn. Virginia was once famous for its “spring runs” of anadromous fish like shad and river herring. They also supported Virginia’s large commercial fishing industry. However, by building dams that block their route upstream, overfishing, and pollution of water, shad and river herring populations were so depleted by the 21st century, that Virginia passed a moratorium on river herring and shad. *

Due to the dwindling population and subsequent fishing moratorium, as well as changes in culinary trends and tastes, shad and river herring have become a forgotten food of American culture. In earlier times, entire shad and herring were consumed whole, both fresh or preserved in salt. Now they are generally considered too bony for modern tastes., The roe, however, is still considered a great delicacy, even if people today are less familiar with this traditional food.

Shad roe sauteed in butter

Shad and herring roe, unlike preserved caviar (the roe from a sturgeon) is best when served fresh. The female fish is harvested for her roe, found in egg sacs, or lobes, which can be prepared in a variety of ways. One popular way of eating roe is sautéed alongside scrambled eggs. In a 2012 interview, Alexander Gilliam, University of Virginia class of ’55, long-time Charlottesville resident, and current Protocol and History Officer at UVA recalled one particular 24/7 establishment located under the old Belmont Bridge, at the western end of downtown Charlottesville. Mr. Gilliam and his UVA classmates would frequent the C&O Diner after parties and on Sunday mornings, but “it was a place that catered to the people that worked in the railroad yard.”

Location of the C&O Diner, circa 1950

The fate of the diner was sealed with the construction of the “new” Belmont Bridge in 1963; it is likely that the building was demolished to make way for the wider bridge. To read more about the C&O diner, please refer to the Appendix.

“The other way to eat [fish roe] was to make cakes,” explains Gilliam. “Considered good, cheap food,” canned herring roe was mixed with filler such as eggs, onions and breadcrumbs, and fried in bacon drippings. “Those two things were dishes that were universal in Virginia. They just disappeared.”

1940s “Pride of Virginia” canned herring roe, with a recipe for roe cakes

However, for a very short period of time every spring, Virginians can still find fresh shad roe, provided they know where to look and are willing to pay a premium for it. “It has begun to come back,” says Mr. Gilliam. “The first serious sign of spring is on the chalkboard at Andersons Seafood place on Barracks Road, when they announce that ‘Shad Roe’s in.”

Although today there are challenges that keep shad and herring roe from regaining their prominent place in our economy and our diets, I have two hopes for the future: (1) that through conservation and sustainable fishery efforts, we can begin to see these fish returning to our rivers; and (2) through keeping memories, recipes, and traditions alive, we can begin to see them coming back to our plates as well. This is the true meaning of food heritage.

Sign at Anderson’s Carriage Food House. Anderson’s has been serving Charlottesville since 1929.

Works Cited:

Springston, Rex. American shad aren’t coming back in Va. Richmond Times Dispatch. http://www2.times dispatch.com/news/2009/may/25/jame25_20090524-220625-ar-42428/ 25 May 2009 (Accessed May 2012). Ibid. Asman, Judy. Foods of Thomas Jefferson http://www.astuterecorder.com/presidents_foods/2009/february/ favorite-foods-of-thomas-jefferson-with-judys-deviled-eggs-with-anchovies-recipe.html (Accessed May 2012) Read All About It: American Shad. http://www.festival.si.edu/past_festivals/water_ways/kids_coast/pdf/ shadReadAboutIt.pdf (Accessed April, 2012) Ibid. Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission http://www.asmfc.org/shadRiverHerring.htm (Accessed April 2012). Read All About It: American Shad. http://www.festival.si.edu/past_festivals/water_ways/kids_coast/pdf/ shadReadAboutIt.pdf (Accessed April, 2012) Virginia Saltwater Fishing. 6 February 2011. http://www.virginia-saltwater-fishing.com/2011/02/06/virginia-shad-and-herring/ (Accessed May, 2012) Ibid. Fish Passage Program. Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/ fishing/fish-passage/ (Accessed April 2012). Springston, Rex. American shad aren’t coming back in Va. Richmond Times Dispatch. http://www2.times dispatch.com/news/2009/may/25/jame25_20090524-220625-ar-42428/ 25 May 2009 (Accessed May 2012). Chapter: Pertaining to River Herring. Virginia Marine Resources Commission. March, 2012. http://www.mrc. state.va.us/regulations/fr1260.shtm (Accessed April 2012). Regulation: Pertaining To American Shad. Virginia Marine Resources Commission. February 2012. http://www.mrc.state.va.us/regulations/fr530.shtm (Accessed April 2012). Fish. The Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia. http://www.monticello.org/site/research-and-collections/fish http://thegarumfactory.net/2012/03/30/george-washington-ate-here-shad-roe-with-brown-butter-capers-and-ginger/ Alden, Lori. Caviar and Roe. The Food Thesaurus. http://www.foodsubs.com/Caviar.html (Accessed April 2012) Hastings, Michael. Roe will float your boat if you like it ‘fishy.’ Windston Salem Journal. 1 April 2009 http://www2.journalnow.com/news/2009/apr/01/roe-will-float-your-boat-if-you-like-it-fishy-ar-146735/ (Accessed April 2012) Gilliam, Alexander (16 March 2012). Personal interview. Ibid.

For more about the Virginia Food Heritage Planning course, visit http://ien.arch.virginia.edu/courses/food-systems-resources.

Fish Roe: Finding a Way Back to Our Plates, with Alexander Gilliam – Charlottesville Virginia – Interview Story

By Liz Russell

Read this story as a PDF, with images

From top to bottom: Alewife, Blueback, Herring, Hickory Shad, American Shad

Some say that this country was founded on shad. Legend has it that spawning shad saved Washington’s starving troops at Valley Forge. One of Thomas Jefferson’s favorite dishes was a roe soufflé, made with fresh shad or river herring. And in fact, for thousands of years before white man stepped foot on this land, Native American tribes up and down the Mid-Atlantic harvested these fish as food and as fertilizer for their crops. However, a combination of factors, mostly man-made, resulted in shad and river herring populations dropping drastically through the 19th century. Conservation and management efforts as dramatic as fishing moratoriums and sustainable hatcheries show positive signs for the future of the species; however, as an item on our dinner plates, shad and herring seem to be fading out of memory and tradition.

Planners and historians frequently talk of the importance of “sense of place”, in regards to buildings and structures. I argue that “sense of identity” may be just as important to a community. Honoring history and tradition serves to strengthen ties to the land and to each other. The legacy of shad and herring is of particular importance, not only in reasons of economics and livelihood, but also in honoring the seasons of nature, something from which we have become removed. What would it be like, after long winter months of salted and preserved foods, to celebrate the arrival of spring with the return of these fish and their delicious roe? How much enjoyable would these foods be if we tasted them at their best, not by picking them out of the frozen foods section of the grocery store This food heritage story is one that sheds light on a fish, on a place, and on a memory.

American, or white shad (Alosa sapidissima), the smaller hickory shad (Alosa mediocris) and two species of closely-related river herring – alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus) and blueback herring (Alosa aestivalis) are anadromous fish, meaning that most of their life is spent at sea, migrating up rivers in the springtime to spawn. Virginia was once famous for its “spring runs” of anadromous fish like shad and river herring. They also supported Virginia’s large commercial fishing industry. However, by building dams that block their route upstream, overfishing, and pollution of water, shad and river herring populations were so depleted by the 21st century, that Virginia passed a moratorium on river herring and shad. *

Due to the dwindling population and subsequent fishing moratorium, as well as changes in culinary trends and tastes, shad and river herring have become a forgotten food of American culture. In earlier times, entire shad and herring were consumed whole, both fresh or preserved in salt. Now they are generally considered too bony for modern tastes., The roe, however, is still considered a great delicacy, even if people today are less familiar with this traditional food.

Shad roe sauteed in butter

Shad and herring roe, unlike preserved caviar (the roe from a sturgeon) is best when served fresh. The female fish is harvested for her roe, found in egg sacs, or lobes, which can be prepared in a variety of ways. One popular way of eating roe is sautéed alongside scrambled eggs. In a 2012 interview, Alexander Gilliam, University of Virginia class of ’55, long-time Charlottesville resident, and current Protocol and History Officer at UVA recalled one particular 24/7 establishment located under the old Belmont Bridge, at the western end of downtown Charlottesville. Mr. Gilliam and his UVA classmates would frequent the C&O Diner after parties and on Sunday mornings, but “it was a place that catered to the people that worked in the railroad yard.”

Location of the C&O Diner, circa 1950

The fate of the diner was sealed with the construction of the “new” Belmont Bridge in 1963; it is likely that the building was demolished to make way for the wider bridge. To read more about the C&O diner, please refer to the Appendix.

“The other way to eat [fish roe] was to make cakes,” explains Gilliam. “Considered good, cheap food,” canned herring roe was mixed with filler such as eggs, onions and breadcrumbs, and fried in bacon drippings. “Those two things were dishes that were universal in Virginia. They just disappeared.”

1940s “Pride of Virginia” canned herring roe, with a recipe for roe cakes

However, for a very short period of time every spring, Virginians can still find fresh shad roe, provided they know where to look and are willing to pay a premium for it. “It has begun to come back,” says Mr. Gilliam. “The first serious sign of spring is on the chalkboard at Andersons Seafood place on Barracks Road, when they announce that ‘Shad Roe’s in.”

Although today there are challenges that keep shad and herring roe from regaining their prominent place in our economy and our diets, I have two hopes for the future: (1) that through conservation and sustainable fishery efforts, we can begin to see these fish returning to our rivers; and (2) through keeping memories, recipes, and traditions alive, we can begin to see them coming back to our plates as well. This is the true meaning of food heritage.

Sign at Anderson’s Carriage Food House. Anderson’s has been serving Charlottesville since 1929.

Works Cited:

Springston, Rex. American shad aren’t coming back in Va. Richmond Times Dispatch. http://www2.times dispatch.com/news/2009/may/25/jame25_20090524-220625-ar-42428/ 25 May 2009 (Accessed May 2012).
Ibid.
Asman, Judy. Foods of Thomas Jefferson http://www.astuterecorder.com/presidents_foods/2009/february/ favorite-foods-of-thomas-jefferson-with-judys-deviled-eggs-with-anchovies-recipe.html (Accessed May 2012)
Read All About It: American Shad. http://www.festival.si.edu/past_festivals/water_ways/kids_coast/pdf/ shadReadAboutIt.pdf (Accessed April, 2012)
Ibid.
Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission http://www.asmfc.org/shadRiverHerring.htm (Accessed April 2012).
Read All About It: American Shad. http://www.festival.si.edu/past_festivals/water_ways/kids_coast/pdf/ shadReadAboutIt.pdf (Accessed April, 2012)
Virginia Saltwater Fishing. 6 February 2011. http://www.virginia-saltwater-fishing.com/2011/02/06/virginia-shad-and-herring/ (Accessed May, 2012)
Ibid.
Fish Passage Program. Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/ fishing/fish-passage/ (Accessed April 2012).
Springston, Rex. American shad aren’t coming back in Va. Richmond Times Dispatch. http://www2.times dispatch.com/news/2009/may/25/jame25_20090524-220625-ar-42428/ 25 May 2009 (Accessed May 2012).
Chapter: Pertaining to River Herring. Virginia Marine Resources Commission. March, 2012. http://www.mrc. state.va.us/regulations/fr1260.shtm (Accessed April 2012).
Regulation: Pertaining To American Shad. Virginia Marine Resources Commission. February 2012. http://www.mrc.state.va.us/regulations/fr530.shtm (Accessed April 2012).
Fish. The Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia. http://www.monticello.org/site/research-and-collections/fish

http://thegarumfactory.net/2012/03/30/george-washington-ate-here-shad-roe-with-brown-butter-capers-and-ginger/

Alden, Lori. Caviar and Roe. The Food Thesaurus. http://www.foodsubs.com/Caviar.html (Accessed April 2012)
Hastings, Michael. Roe will float your boat if you like it ‘fishy.’ Windston Salem Journal. 1 April 2009 http://www2.journalnow.com/news/2009/apr/01/roe-will-float-your-boat-if-you-like-it-fishy-ar-146735/ (Accessed April 2012)
Gilliam, Alexander (16 March 2012). Personal interview.
Ibid.

Growing Up Cason: local farming family highlighted in the Virginia Film Festival

Director Doug Bari has documented a key part of Central Virginia’s Food Heritage in his film “Growing Up Cason,” a documentary about the Cason family of Charlottesville. The hardworking Casons and their 8 children farmed in the area through the Depression and the War, and four of the Cason sons helped found Charlottesville’s City Market.

The film will screen Saturday, November 5 at 1:00pm at Vinegar Hill Theater. You can purchase tickets online or at the door, and read more about the film in this review from the Daily Progress. Don’t miss it!