Upcoming dining to benefit food goddess Ronni Lundy
By Karen Workman
The dishes and stories were variations on one overriding theme. All of us shared a passion for the harvest of the region and for the flavors we remembered from childhood. And all of us were determined that tradition would, indeed, rise again.
-Ronni Lundy, Butterbeans to Blackberries
Southern food writers are infamously charming.
They bring reflection and importance to a heritage that can easily be forgotten and weave ingredients through stories of our cultural past. These tales are written about working the ground and the vibrant edible result of such toils, the varied recipes of one specific food, the venerated apéritif to begin a meal, and relating to family and friends with every step of the process.
One Southern writer in particular, Ronni Lundy, is on our minds a lot these days. Foremost, she’s a highly acclaimed author with a national reputation; has a best-selling cookbook on bookstore shelves now; lives in Louisville; attended UK (where her reputation is still legendary); and has many friends here (our publisher among them) – but also, she was recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
The statistics for getting ovarian cancer are alarming and the immediate medical costs are staggering.
Fortunately, Lundy has a great supply of friends in every arm of the food industry and they have banded together to assemble an evening – a benefit – which will be an excellent opportunity to not only raise money but to meet award-winning, celebrity chefs and authors in some of our region’s finest restaurants.
We recite all the names of friends and relatives dead or living (but not here) who would have savored this dish or that as it makes its way around the table. We eat until our bellies are full and then eat on until our souls are satisfied as wellThrough it all, through the years, the people around the table tell stories that are brought to mind (like Proust’s remembrances) by the taste or smell of foods first savored and sniffed ages and ages ago. And in the dark, as the crickets sing and the fireflies come out to tempt the children away from the table, we remember who we are.
On Friday, February 8, thirteen food writers will be visiting and signing their books at various Louisville restaurants.
These restaurants (see sidebar) will be serving meals made from recipes that originate from the authors’ or Lundy’s books (along with their regular menus), and donating a portion of the night’s meal to the benefit.
The restaurants participating are eclectic in styles and at least one should pique your interest – either by the reputation of the restaurant, or that of the author to which they are paired.
It may be a little daunting to step into an unfamiliar restaurant in another city but many patrons will be there for the same reason you are, so I would think that conversation would be easily started. (Call for reservations; these restaurants will likely fill quickly.)
Although all of the restaurants are putting their best foot forward on February 8th, Lynn’s Paradise Café will probably be among the liveliest of the evening’s offerings. John T. Edge, author of Southern Belly, The Ultimate Food Lover’s Companion to the South, will be signing his book – a great collection of remarks on travels to lost, practically hidden, or even frequently visited archetypes of typical Southern foods and their varied proprietors, mostly wonderful and eccentric.
At 9:30 the menu will be switched over to Matthew and Ted Lee, contributing editors to Travel & Leisure and owners of Lee Brothers Boiled Peanut Company, wherein they will be spinning tall tales of journeys past while roasting oysters for the salivating patrons. The Lee Brothers Boiled Peanut Company, I believe, is a whole column all its own so I will not delve too deeply except to say that they have a sewn catalog which can be sent to your home, for one dollar, that plies boiled peanuts, citrus condiments, biscuit bowls and other Deep South must-haves.
Music that evening at Lynn’s will be provided by the bluegrass band, Hog Operation. Everyone is invited, and tickets are available at the door that evening for a mere ten dollars which includes, my friends, all of the roasted oysters that you care to eat.
John Egerton, author of Southern Food, will be at The English Grill in the historic Brown Hotel. His book, in its current double-digit reprinting, is considered one of the foremost necessities when speaking on the edible cultural delights of the South. He and his wife, Ann, traveled eleven states gathering information then recreated the specialties that they had found for this publication. They are mentioned frequently in Lundy’s newest book with an implied close friendship and admiration.
Crescent Dragonwagon, author, artist, former innkeeper, and co-founder of Writer’s Colony at Dairy Hollow, will be visiting Shariat’s Restaurant. Her book, Dairy Hollow Soup and Bread, is a beautiful collection of recipes from her Eureka Springs, Arkansas bed and breakfast that has evolved into a writer’s colony in the past few years. This beautiful setting hosts writers to give them guidance and space in which to work.
Space prohibits a lengthy biography and list of awards of all of the participating friends of Lundy, but there will be chefs with television programs such as Nathalie Dupree and Charleston, South Carolina’s Louis Osteen as well as Durham, North Carolina’s Ben and Karen Barker. There are reference-type book authors like Karen McNeil, The Wine Bible (900 pages of information), and Pam Anderson’s guide to learning to cook without a cookbook. For uni-ingredient publications, Roy Finamore has an unbelievably informative hardback on potatoes and their best uses, and Damon Lee Fowler introduces us to the international flavors of fried chicken and (as everyone has their own) recipes for the best fried chicken. For more of a historical read, Jessica Harris has written on African-American cooking with a collection of recipes gathered from social gatherings and Jane Lee Rankin’s comparison of her formal chef training to that of her family’s friend and cook while growing up lends itself as an interesting read.
Also note that there are several restaurants, not paired with authors, participating in the benefit for Ronni. Outside of Jefferson County, Holly Hill Inn, in Midway, will be serving from their monthly-changing menu for this event.
On Saturday afternoon from 2:00 until 4:00, all of the participating authors will be signing their respective books at Hawley-Cooke Booksellers, at 27 Shelbyville Road, in the Shelbyville Road Plaza, Louisville. This would be a great chance to meet an author that you may have missed and, maybe, have their most recent books autographed for your next birthday recipients.
But, although this is a great opportunity to try a new restaurant and meet interesting authors, let us not forget that this is a way to raise money for unexpected medical costs. Too many of us have been touched in some way by the hand of cancer – either friends, loved ones, or ourselves – and the added stress of medical expenses doesn’t help anyone’s recuperation.
I have only had possession of Lundy’s latest book, From Butterbeans to Blackberries, for less than a week and the pages are already dog-eared from recipes marked, information on different types of Southern fruit and vegetable varieties that I have never heard of, and the “things to order” section which is a list of unique, high quality items, that I cannot wait to try.
In the book, Lundy encourages the reader to tag along while she reminisces, makes iced tea, visits Lafayette, Louisiana for boudin, and tries to find a way to cook with Blenheim’s ginger ale (turns out, it is good with a personal-sized amount of bourbon).
As Roy Blount, Jr. is quoted on the back cover, “I declare, Ms. Lundy, this is all so good.”
To read this woman’s exuberance and love for food, family, and friends is so enjoyable and yet in the back of my mind, I could not help remembering that she is going through a difficult time. It’s time to give back to her. Take a drive to Louisville or Midway on February 8th, enjoy a great meal and a night on the town with good friends, meet an author to which you may connect, and donate to a great woman, writer, and cause.
If you would like to send a donation, in lieu of or in addition to attending this event, please make checks payable to Ronni Lundy and send to FSA Group, 304 West Liberty Street, Suite 201, Louisville, KY 40202.
Ronni Lundy is a southern woman with roots in Kentucky and has contributed much to advancing the reputation of our state. She is the former restaurant reviewer and music critic for The Courier-Journal, former editor of Louisville Magazine, an award winning southern cookbook writer, and has contributed to such magazines as Esquire.
Her book, Shuck Beans, Stack Cakes and Honest Fried Chicken was recognized by Gourmet Magazine as one of six essential books on southern cooking.
When her most recent book, Butter Beans to Blackberries, Recipes from the Southern Garden, was published, Rhonda Reeves spoke with her, in an informative interview (www.acemagazinelex.com; link to archives, June 9, 1999 “True Grits”).
Reeves described the book as, “equal parts anthropology, sociology, fine literature, family history, and travelogue,” which is exact. -kw
Confession of Bias
By Rhonda Reeves
In my childhood we ate, my father remarked, ‘as if there were no God.’ —Katherine Anne Porter
What a pleasure it was to have Ronni Lundy grace our cover back in the summer of 1999, to celebrate the release of her latest book, and a “Southern Supper Picnic” evening at a bookstore, where the chefs used her recipes.
We shared a long, leisurely summer breakfast together on my front porch as I put together that story.
I remember going to three different places to find a butter that would be worthy of putting on a biscuit for the legendary Ronni Lundy. (I’d known her for some time by then, but never had the nerve to offer her anything to eat.)
I eventually paid 7 bucks for a brick at some overpriced gourmet place; then decided that was pretentious; then promptly confessed the whole mass of culinary/dairy insecurities to her as soon as she arrived.
And of course she graciously put me at ease while we feasted on country ham biscuits and sweet tea (which is made the same way in my family as it is in hers).
Ronni and I share a birthplace, a name, and a chosen vocation.
From the moment I roomed with her nephew one summer in college, “Aunt Ronni” grew to mythic status in my mind.
We eventually met and became friends, and she was later my editor at Louisville Magazine for a few years.
The gratitude I owe — for what I learned from her as both a writer and a friend — could never be repaid.
I’m obviously not the only writer with such a tremendous debt — as is evidenced by the tremendous array of food heavyweights who will participate in an evening honoring and benefiting her on February 8.
To try to contribute to the success of that evening in some small way — along with offering our thoughts and prayers for her recovery from ovarian cancer — is the very least we can do.
Locations & Addresses
Pam Anderson, USA Weekend food editor and author, How to Cook Without a Book Club Grotto American Bistro 2116 Bardstown Road, 502-459-5275
Ben and Karen Barker, chef-owners of Magnolia Grill and authors, Not Afraid of Flavors , The Oakroom at The Seelbach Hilton, 500 S. Fourth Stree
Crescent Dragonwagon, innkeeper and author, Dairy Hollow House Soup and Bread, Shariat’s Restaurant, 2901 Brownsboro Road, 502-899-7878
Nathalie Dupree, television personality and author, Dupree’s Comfortable Entertaining , Equus Restaurant, 122 Sears Avenue, 502-897-9721
John T. Edge, author, Southern Belly, Matt and Ted Lee, owners of Lee Brothers Boiled Peanut Company, Hog Operation, bluegrass band, Lynn’s Paradise Café, 984 Barret Avenue, 502-583-3447
John Egerton, author, Southern Food , The English Grill at The Brown Hotel, Fourth & Broadway, 502-583-1234
Roy Finamore, editor for Martha Stewart and author, One Potato, Two Potato , Harper’s Restaurant, 871 S. Hurstbourne Parkway, 502-425-2900
Damon Lee Fowler, author, Fried Chicken: The World’s Best Recipes, The Patron, 3400 Frankfort Avenue, 502-896-1661
Sarah Fritschner, food editor at The Courier-Journal and author, Vegetarian Express Lane Cooking, Napa River Grill , 3938 Dupont Circle, 502-893-0141
Jessica Harris, author, The Welcome Table: African-American Heritage Cooking
Jicama, 1528 Bardstown Road, 502-454-4383
Karen McNeil, author, The Wine Bible, Lilly’s, 1147 Bardstown Road, 502-451-0447
Louis Osteen, chef and author, Louis Osteen’s Charleston Cuisine , Jack Fry’s
1007 Bardstown Road, 502-452-9244
Jane Lee Rankin, author, Cookin’ Up a Storm: The Life and Recipes of Annie Johnson, Baxter Station Bar & Grill, 1201 Payne Street, 502-584-1635
Other Participating Restaurants
Asiatique Restaurant, 106 Sears Avenue, 502-899-3578
The Rudyard Kipling, 422 W. Oak Street, 502-636-1311
Winston’s Restaurant at Sullivan University, 3101 Bardstown Road, 502-456-0980
Vince Staten’s Old Time Barbecue, 9219 US Highway 42, Prospect, KY, 502-228-7427
Holly Hill Inn in Midway, KY, 426 N. Winter Street, 859-846-4732