Shelling Butter Beans with Mary Beth May – Fluvanna County

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

Hot Rolls and History, with Mary Beth May – Fluvanna County

by Gina DiCicco

Mary Beth May grew up in her mother’s kitchen. She can’t remember the first thing her mom taught her to cook, because she’d been gradually learning to cook since she could hardly see over the counter. After their work on the farm was done, Mary Beth, her two brothers and two sisters spent their days in the kitchen, watching their mom work, listening to her sing and helping with chores. She was always singing – while she cooked, while she swept. It was the soundtrack to Mary Beth’s youth.

Often times her mother would make chores into games to keep the children excited about their tasks. For example, when shelling mounds of fresh, speckled butter beans, their mother challenged them to find a solid colored bean. Mary Beth and her siblings blew through piles of beans, eagerly hoping to “win.” Needless to say, variations of this game were made for string beans, black-eyed peas, and just about every other food item that needed prepping. “We didn’t think of it as work,” Mary Beth says. The kitchen was the heart of the home and she was happy to be there.

Even during the hot, humid Virginia summers, the kitchen was alive. As Mary Beth notes, “we had to can what we had.” And can they did! They canned fruits, vegetables and meats from their farm, including blackberries, apples, tomatoes, sausage and tenderloin. In fact, canned meats are one of the things she misses most. Grocery stores have replaced family farms raising pork and beef. People can now easily buy fresh meat from the store, but when Mary Beth was young, that was rare. Instead they raised their own animals, and preserved their meat by canning or drying them. She misses these salty, home-processed meats that they made during summer and savored during winter as a little reminder of seasons passed.

Mary Beth’s favorite food when she was growing up was her mother’s hot rolls. She loved them when they were fluffy, fresh and hot. By the time she was nine she could bake them herself and she did so regularly. Every week Mary Beth would bake a batch of her mother’s hot rolls and walk them to the elderly couple next door. Her community was close knit and neighbors looked out for one another.

Mary Beth still bakes those hot rolls. When she does, she can again hear the eager chatter of her siblings, can feel the heat of the old wood stove, and can hear her mother softly singing as she worked. With each bite, she reaffirms her connection to that old farmhouse kitchen in Fluvanna County.

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

Hot Rolls and History, with Mary Beth May – Fluvanna County

by Gina DiCicco

Mary Beth May grew up in her mother’s kitchen. She can’t remember the first thing her mom taught her to cook, because she’d been gradually learning to cook since she could hardly see over the counter. After their work on the farm was done, Mary Beth, her two brothers and two sisters spent their days in the kitchen, watching their mom work, listening to her sing and helping with chores. She was always singing – while she cooked, while she swept. It was the soundtrack to Mary Beth’s youth.

Often times her mother would make chores into games to keep the children excited about their tasks. For example, when shelling mounds of fresh, speckled butter beans, their mother challenged them to find a solid colored bean. Mary Beth and her siblings blew through piles of beans, eagerly hoping to “win.” Needless to say, variations of this game were made for string beans, black-eyed peas, and just about every other food item that needed prepping. “We didn’t think of it as work,” Mary Beth says. The kitchen was the heart of the home and she was happy to be there.

Even during the hot, humid Virginia summers, the kitchen was alive. As Mary Beth notes, “we had to can what we had.” And can they did! They canned fruits, vegetables and meats from their farm, including blackberries, apples, tomatoes, sausage and tenderloin. In fact, canned meats are one of the things she misses most. Grocery stores have replaced family farms raising pork and beef. People can now easily buy fresh meat from the store, but when Mary Beth was young, that was rare. Instead they raised their own animals, and preserved their meat by canning or drying them. She misses these salty, home-processed meats that they made during summer and savored during winter as a little reminder of seasons passed.

Mary Beth’s favorite food when she was growing up was her mother’s hot rolls. She loved them when they were fluffy, fresh and hot. By the time she was nine she could bake them herself and she did so regularly. Every week Mary Beth would bake a batch of her mother’s hot rolls and walk them to the elderly couple next door. Her community was close knit and neighbors looked out for one another.

Mary Beth still bakes those hot rolls. When she does, she can again hear the eager chatter of her siblings, can feel the heat of the old wood stove, and can hear her mother softly singing as she worked. With each bite, she reaffirms her connection to that old farmhouse kitchen in Fluvanna County.

 

From Farm to Table, with Janet Williams – Fluvanna County

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

How Does Your Garden Grow? Living, Growing, and Eating in Columbia Virginia, with Janet Williams

By Elise Brenner

You’ve probably heard about the farm to table experience. From hip food trucks to trendy restaurants, people participating in local food movements all across the country are bringing real food grown by real farmers to hungry people everywhere.

But what was it like when eating from farm to table was a lifestyle rather than an experience?

A Plate of Many Colors

On February 22, 2012 I interviewed Janet Williams at the Fluvanna Historical Society. Mrs. Williams grew up in Columbia, Virginia in Fluvanna County. While Mrs. Williams was growing up, Columbia was a town of about 100 people where “everybody knew everybody.”

It’s also safe to say that everybody fed everybody.

Homegrown food was central to everyday life in Columbia. As Mrs. Williams remembers, each family had a garden. Although her family’s garden was not too large, Mrs. Williams and her siblings were allowed to pick and eat anything they wanted from a neighbor’s garden.

A variety of foods were grown in Columbia’s home gardens. Families would plant butter beans, corn, tomatoes, string beans, beets, carrots, and lots of “funny squash.” The grocery store carried canned produce items but frozen foods were not yet on the market.

Mrs. Williams noted, “Lunch was really the big meal of the day. We called it dinner because it was usually vegetables. The middle of the day was when most people had a big meal. Then, at night, it was usually a smaller meal [which included] a meat, a salad and homemade bread of course!” Mrs. Williams’ mother made delicious hot rolls and would often send a plate out to a neighbor. On other nights, a plate full of rolls or vegetables would come in return.

Even though Mrs. Williams was a very small child during the Great Depression, she remembers, “We always had plenty of food. People grew their food. I know

Mom canned a lot and that’s what she used during the winter. It [the Depression] didn’t seem to change a whole lot.“

From Cow to Cup

Milk was delivered almost every morning to Mrs. Williams’ front door. A neighbor from the next county brought milk, made butter, and delivered chickens. The milk came in glass jars. Cream was skimmed off the top, collected, and made in to whipped cream for special treats.

Mrs. Williams reminisced about an unpleasant surprise she associated with the springtime. When the cows grazed in the meadows during the spring months they would eat onions. “It would get in the milk and it would get in the butter. Every spring, the first time I would taste it I would just have a fit because it was awful.”

The next time the milk came [my mother would say] I don’t think there are any onions in it this time. And I would take a great big gulp of the milk and there were still onions in it!”

A Bonded Community

As Mrs. Williams makes clear, being connected to the food you ate was just a way of life in Columbia. Food was treated as a communal good: it was to be grown, picked, shared, and eaten with family and friends.

When asked what is so different about how we eat today, Mrs. Williams explained that families are just too busy.  As she sees it, “The culture has changed.” Attributing her fondness for eating with friends back to childhood memories, sharing meals with those she loves is the best thing she can think of.

Special thanks to Janet Williams, Judy Mickelson, and the Fluvanna Historical Society.

Written By: Elise Brenner, May 2012

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

How Does Your Garden Grow? Living, Growing, and Eating in Columbia Virginia, with Janet Williams

By Elise Brenner

You’ve probably heard about the farm to table experience. From hip food trucks to trendy restaurants, people participating in local food movements all across the country are bringing real food grown by real farmers to hungry people everywhere.

But what was it like when eating from farm to table was a lifestyle rather than an experience?

A Plate of Many Colors

On February 22, 2012 I interviewed Janet Williams at the Fluvanna Historical Society. Mrs. Williams grew up in Columbia, Virginia in Fluvanna County. While Mrs. Williams was growing up, Columbia was a town of about 100 people where “everybody knew everybody.”

It’s also safe to say that everybody fed everybody.

Homegrown food was central to everyday life in Columbia. As Mrs. Williams remembers, each family had a garden. Although her family’s garden was not too large, Mrs. Williams and her siblings were allowed to pick and eat anything they wanted from a neighbor’s garden.

A variety of foods were grown in Columbia’s home gardens. Families would plant butter beans, corn, tomatoes, string beans, beets, carrots, and lots of “funny squash.” The grocery store carried canned produce items but frozen foods were not yet on the market.

Mrs. Williams noted, “Lunch was really the big meal of the day. We called it dinner because it was usually vegetables. The middle of the day was when most people had a big meal. Then, at night, it was usually a smaller meal [which included] a meat, a salad and homemade bread of course!” Mrs. Williams’ mother made delicious hot rolls and would often send a plate out to a neighbor. On other nights, a plate full of rolls or vegetables would come in return.

Even though Mrs. Williams was a very small child during the Great Depression, she remembers, “We always had plenty of food. People grew their food. I know

Mom canned a lot and that’s what she used during the winter. It [the Depression] didn’t seem to change a whole lot.“

From Cow to Cup

Milk was delivered almost every morning to Mrs. Williams’ front door. A neighbor from the next county brought milk, made butter, and delivered chickens. The milk came in glass jars. Cream was skimmed off the top, collected, and made in to whipped cream for special treats.

Mrs. Williams reminisced about an unpleasant surprise she associated with the springtime. When the cows grazed in the meadows during the spring months they would eat onions. “It would get in the milk and it would get in the butter. Every spring, the first time I would taste it I would just have a fit because it was awful.”

The next time the milk came [my mother would say] I don’t think there are any onions in it this time. And I would take a great big gulp of the milk and there were still onions in it!”

A Bonded Community

As Mrs. Williams makes clear, being connected to the food you ate was just a way of life in Columbia. Food was treated as a communal good: it was to be grown, picked, shared, and eaten with family and friends.

When asked what is so different about how we eat today, Mrs. Williams explained that families are just too busy.  As she sees it, “The culture has changed.” Attributing her fondness for eating with friends back to childhood memories, sharing meals with those she loves is the best thing she can think of.

 Special thanks to Janet Williams, Judy Mickelson, and the Fluvanna Historical Society.

 Written By: Elise Brenner, May 2012

We Fed Each Other, with Mozell Booker – Fluvanna County, Virginia

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

We Fed Each Other, with Mozell Booker – Fluvanna County, Virginia – Interview Story

by Atlee Webber

Growing Food

Mozell Booker grew up in Fork Union, a small town in Fluvanna County, Virginia. She worked in education for thirty-three years, including being a teacher, principal, and assistant superintendent. Currently, she is on the Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors.

Mozell was raised in an African American family during the 1940s, when schools were segregated, and the civil rights movement had not yet come into full force. World War II was raging overseas, and the country was still pulling itself of the Great Depression. Yet Mozell primarily described her childhood as a time of abundance.

Mozell’s father worked as a bus driver for Fluvanna County Schools (and as a pastor), but after he got home each day, he would work in the vegetable garden. At the time, Mozell was the youngest of five children and couldn’t help out much with the heavy plowing or hoeing. She really enjoyed white potato season, though, because she was delegated the task of gathering the potatoes her father hoed. “We always had fresh vegetables,” she recalls, which included kale, collards, corn, and tomatoes. In the summertime, Mozell remembers wandering barefoot through the tomato garden, saltshaker in hand. She would pluck a ripe tomato and eat it right off of the vine, with just a sprinkle of salt. Nearby, berry patches grew wild, where she and her siblings would fill up buckets of strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries. Any produce her family didn’t eat, her mother took to the cannery.

Community Ties

Going to the cannery was a “social time.” Mozell recalls that there were two canneries in Fluvanna. “All the local women would go,” Mozell said, and they would swap stories while they helped each other preserve food for the winter. In general, there was a very strong sense of community in Fork Union. For Christmas and Thanksgiving, Mozell’s mother would cook for days, because “you had to have plenty of food for anyone who walked in the door— that was the tradition.” People travelled from house to house, enjoying the holiday and breaking bread with their neighbors. In the summer, Mozell’s her mother would send extra greens from the garden to her neighbors, with a little piece of ham for seasoning. “We fed each other,” Mozell said with a smile. Her family itself was also close, and they had a big meal every Sunday together. During the week, they always had set times for meals. When her children were young, Mozell kept up the tradition. Now, her busy weeks of meetings and talks make it hard to keep up a routine, but she tries to make it a priority.

Food Traditions

Much of the food Mozell and her family enjoyed was African American southern cooking—soul food. She remembers that her mother made the “best greens.” She also enjoyed her family’s fried chicken, homemade biscuits, fried apples, and country ham. Mozell still makes her mother’s traditional Christmas breakfast, which included oysters, salmon cakes, bacon, eggs, fried apples, and grits.

In contrast, Mozell was also concerned about the health consequences of eating lots of fried foods and adding animal fat to every dish. “We ate healthy foods, but cooked them in an unhealthy way,” she said. Mozell bemoaned the detrimental impacts on health in the African American community, particularly the disproportionate levels of diabetes and high blood pressure. Her community has taken steps to be more health conscious, though. At revivals, where about 200 people gather in the church, they have started serving healthier options. They put broiled chicken next to the fried chicken, in addition plates of raw vegetables. “But,” Mozell said with a twinkle in her eye, “if you just put the broiled chicken out, people will ask, where’s the fried chicken?”

Although Gordonsville (Orange County, Virginia) claims itself to be the home of the best fried chicken, Mozell would beg to differ. The Fluvanna County fried chicken is her favorite. It brings back memories of when her mother or her neighbors used to make it, and the smells would waft down the street. “If anyone was frying chicken, you knew it!” she exclaimed. She noted that chickens then were fed natural feed and weren’t injected with any hormones. All you needed was a little salt and pepper to season the breading, and “the meat just tasted better” in those days.

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

We Fed Each Other, with Mozell Booker – Fluvanna County, Virginia – Interview Story

by Atlee Webber

Growing Food

Mozell Booker grew up in Fork Union, a small town in Fluvanna County, Virginia. She worked in education for thirty-three years, including being a teacher, principal, and assistant superintendent. Currently, she is on the Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors.

Mozell was raised in an African American family during the 1940s, when schools were segregated, and the civil rights movement had not yet come into full force. World War II was raging overseas, and the country was still pulling itself of the Great Depression. Yet Mozell primarily described her childhood as a time of abundance.

Mozell’s father worked as a bus driver for Fluvanna County Schools (and as a pastor), but after he got home each day, he would work in the vegetable garden. At the time, Mozell was the youngest of five children and couldn’t help out much with the heavy plowing or hoeing. She really enjoyed white potato season, though, because she was delegated the task of gathering the potatoes her father hoed. “We always had fresh vegetables,” she recalls, which included kale, collards, corn, and tomatoes. In the summertime, Mozell remembers wandering barefoot through the tomato garden, saltshaker in hand. She would pluck a ripe tomato and eat it right off of the vine, with just a sprinkle of salt. Nearby, berry patches grew wild, where she and her siblings would fill up buckets of strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries. Any produce her family didn’t eat, her mother took to the cannery.

Community Ties

Going to the cannery was a “social time.” Mozell recalls that there were two canneries in Fluvanna. “All the local women would go,” Mozell said, and they would swap stories while they helped each other preserve food for the winter. In general, there was a very strong sense of community in Fork Union. For Christmas and Thanksgiving, Mozell’s mother would cook for days, because “you had to have plenty of food for anyone who walked in the door— that was the tradition.” People travelled from house to house, enjoying the holiday and breaking bread with their neighbors. In the summer, Mozell’s her mother would send extra greens from the garden to her neighbors, with a little piece of ham for seasoning. “We fed each other,” Mozell said with a smile. Her family itself was also close, and they had a big meal every Sunday together. During the week, they always had set times for meals. When her children were young, Mozell kept up the tradition. Now, her busy weeks of meetings and talks make it hard to keep up a routine, but she tries to make it a priority.

Food Traditions

Much of the food Mozell and her family enjoyed was African American southern cooking—soul food. She remembers that her mother made the “best greens.” She also enjoyed her family’s fried chicken, homemade biscuits, fried apples, and country ham. Mozell still makes her mother’s traditional Christmas breakfast, which included oysters, salmon cakes, bacon, eggs, fried apples, and grits.

In contrast, Mozell was also concerned about the health consequences of eating lots of fried foods and adding animal fat to every dish. “We ate healthy foods, but cooked them in an unhealthy way,” she said. Mozell bemoaned the detrimental impacts on health in the African American community, particularly the disproportionate levels of diabetes and high blood pressure. Her community has taken steps to be more health conscious, though. At revivals, where about 200 people gather in the church, they have started serving healthier options. They put broiled chicken next to the fried chicken, in addition plates of raw vegetables. “But,” Mozell said with a twinkle in her eye, “if you just put the broiled chicken out, people will ask, where’s the fried chicken?”

Although Gordonsville (Orange County, Virginia) claims itself to be the home of the best fried chicken, Mozell would beg to differ. The Fluvanna County fried chicken is her favorite. It brings back memories of when her mother or her neighbors used to make it, and the smells would waft down the street. “If anyone was frying chicken, you knew it!” she exclaimed. She noted that chickens then were fed natural feed and weren’t injected with any hormones. All you needed was a little salt and pepper to season the breading, and “the meat just tasted better” in those days.