Having shed the Hill like snakeskin, I am THRILLED to report I have accepted a job as the editor of Flavor, a glossy, gorgeous regional food magazine that covers the farms, vineyards, food artisans and restaurants that support them between the Blue Ridge mountains and the Chesapeake Bay.
It's a dream job for me. As loyal readers will know, I have a long devotion to the magazine as an art form (I hoard them, it seems). I'm a writer, a periodically professional and a devoted amateur cook, and a passionate supporter of local food and small farms. They are better for humans and animals alike, better for the environment, better for local economies and, best of all, better for producing tasty food. There's nothing like asparagus cut that morning from a 10-year old patch, or a strawberry picked that afternoon, or blueberries or blackberries or morels found in the dried leaves on shady hillsides where oak trees and wild grape vines meet... you get the picture.
I grew up within that food culture, more or less. My mom had a healthy garden patch and a frequently delivered lecture about vine-ripened Jersey tomatoes versus hothouse ones ("not worth eating") and every summer we spent many a Saturday picking blackberries from a thicket behind our swim club, then making jam and ice cream and eating them basically by the buckets.
Before refrigeration, highways, trucking, jets, before we all became accustomed to commanding whatever we want, whenever we want it at pitifully cheap prices -- before globalization, I guess -- people had a different relationship with their food.
Blackberries meant it was July, the middle of summer, and there were festivals and jams and shortcakes -- a race to devour and preserve enough before the season ended. Blackberries were a celebration. Now we expect them whenever we want them, and what we get is often blackberry-like, but not the same thing. Sometimes, in July, you'll pick up the real article at a roadside stand -- the smaller the berry the better -- and you remember -- oh, THIS is what a blackberry is. But then it's winter and you want some on your french toast, so you get a clear plastic quart and they are big and purple but...you don't remember what you are missing until the following July.
I don't mean to bag on globalization and economic development, and I myself adore jet travel and can appreciate that it's summer in South America right now... but still. I can't help but think we've lost something-- the anticipatory joy of an impending crop -- by being able to get whatever we want, whenever we want it.
(Side note -- the first gift my boyfriend ever gave me was a gallon-sized freezer bag of blackberries his father had picked that summer. I nearly passed out from joy, and knew I had met my match. For more about what blackberries mean to him, check this out: http://www.newsweek.com/2009/10/15/tracing-buddy-s-footsteps.html)
I met Flavor's publisher -- the dynamic Melissa Harris -- at an Outstanding in the Field dinner in Middleburg in September 2009. She was wearing a bright yellow vintage dress. I, being from Palm Beach, am one person who understands that particular aesthetic choice. I complimented her on it, and we got to talking, and she told me about Flavor, and I became consumed by profound jealousy: How come that's not my job?
And now, through a few tortuous twists of fate, it is.
Subscribe (please!) here: http://flavormagazinevirginia.com/magazine/subscribe/
And Friend us on Facebook
and look for the Jan/Feb issue on newstands shortly. You'll know it by the cover picture of the Inn at Little Washington's chocolate souffle and chocolate creme brulee. There's a great article on Jefferson Vineyards -- I brought their Cabernet Franc to New Year's Eve dinner and it is wonderful.
I can't believe this gets to be my job.
Happy, Happy New Year!