Monday, December 31, 2007

Grit Magazine - America's Rural Lifestyle Magazine for 125 Years

I am so pleased about my soup article in Grit. First of all, ya gotta LOVE this magazine. It's been publishing for 125 years and has refashioned itself several times over the years. When he was a boy, my father sold subscriptions to it and that was the only was to get your hands on it. When I started writing for them about five years ago, it was in a newspaper tabloid format. Now, it's a glossy, well-designed magazine and you can get it on the new stands. My article is in the current issue. You can check it out online at It's in the Comfort Foods section. Enjoy!

Friday, December 28, 2007


Okay so my pizzelles are not perfect looking--but they REALLY taste good.

Pizzelle Recipe

Christmas would not be the same in my house without the pizzelles my Gram made every year. I make them now, with a non-stick pizzelle iron--so easy. I wonder how my Gram did it with her old clunky iron.

Here's the recipe:

This is the basic pizzelle recipe. You can substitute virtually any flavoring instead of the anise extract. But for those who prefer the authentic, the anise is necessary. To soften the anise flavor, add a tablespoon of vanilla.
6 eggs
3 ½ cups flour
1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup cool melted butter
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons anise extract
Preheat pizzelle iron. Beat eggs, add sugar gradually and beat well. Add butter and anise. Sift flour and baking powder and add to creamed mixture. Dough will be very sticky. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto pizzelle iron sprayed with Pam, if it’s not a non-stick iron. Cook until steam stops and cookies are a rich golden color. Lift the top of the iron carefully. Remove cookies with a large fork or spoon. Cool on wire racks and store in airtight container. Makes five dozen.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

First-Grade Food Writer?

I volunteer once a week to work with the children in Tess's class. I am at one of the "rotation" stations. The children are divided into groups and rotate between activities. It's very different than when I did the same thing for Kindergarten, where I was just doing a craft or reading a story, while the "real" instructing was going on in the other groups. This year I am really helping the kids work on important skills. Last week, I was working with them on a writing project. One little boy and I had a meeting of the minds. He grinned ear-to-ear because I showed interest in his story and asked him questions. This week, the activity was writing a Thanksgiving menu. When his group came to me, he pulled on my sleeve and said, "Remember me? I am the good writer." (My heart burst!) This week, I paid special attention to him and praised his menu. "Of course it is good. You are such a good writer," I said. He looked up at me and said,"Yes, I know, but does it make you hungry?"
Great. Just what the world needs. Another food writer.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Mrs. Rowe's Restaurant Cookbook Signing at Sam's Club—Success!!!

What is a Narrative Cookbook?

I am often asked what a narrative cookbook is. And I smile.
A narrative cookbook is a cookbook that tells a story. If you think about all the different kinds of cookbooks there are, you'll note that some of them just give recipes and hints about food. Narrative cookbooks have recipes, along with stories about the food, history, the people making the food, and so on. The Mrs. Rowe's Restaurant Cookbook: A Lifetime of Recipes from the Shenandoah Valley tell the story of Mrs. Rowe's life, restaurant, food, and give some local history. It tells the story through overlapping techniques—the main one in the narrative that flows throughout the book, which is accented by photo captions, sidebars, recipe head notes.
A narrative cookbook is what it says it is. ;-) A cookbook that tells a story. Any other thoughts about that?

Monday, October 15, 2007

dreams, art, business

Dreams are funny things. Last night I dreamed about my friend Jennifer Ledford’s best friend Robin Goering, who is an artist. We stopped by her studio yesterday. Let’s just say that between the incredible art and the magic of her space, she filled my dreams most of the night. (Check out her new blog! On top of that, Jennifer has created a nifty space all her own in downtown Waynesboro, as well—forged with her own blood, sweat, passion, and you guessed it DREAMS!
Kids and Sew On, Jennifer’s custom embroidery company, used to be a home-based company. It has grown so fast and so incredibly that she decided to take the leap and rent a store front. She embroiders bags, shirts, hats, well, just about anything you can imagine. Now her store is located on Wayne Avenue. You can still order her products online at
We visited both places yesterday during Waynesboro’s Fall Foliage Festival where artists set up their wares for sale. Okay, so I can never afford to buy what I like, but still, it’s always inspiring to see the art, but more importantly, to see the dreams become reality in front of my face.
For me this year, it was so satisfying to see these two women, Jennifer and Robin, fulfilling their passions. Interestingly, they both spoke of how nice it was to have their own space, how it made them feel whole again. (Jennifer has four children; Robin five. And both have been stay-at-home moms, while pursuing their businesses and art.)
Things do and can fall into place. Often, it’s not the way we imagine it will be when we are young women pursuing our careers—or when we are struck utterly, profoundly, with the need and the desire to have children. How will it work? Will we have to stop painting? Will we have to stop dancing? Acting? Writing? Often the answer is “No, but…” That is to say, “No, but it will just take rethinking, reshaping, reforming. I know that my writing career is nothing like I had imagined it would be. Still, it ain't chopped liver. I am still finding my way. Who knows where I will be 10 years from now? Even though they are not writers, women like Robin and Jennifer are lighting a way for me. I am grateful for them.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Ya don't have to be nice, honey

My daughter Emma is a sweetie. Really. A very sensitive little girl who is trying to find her way in the harsh world of public school. Last year, on the playground a boy tried to take her ball from her, she grabbed it back off of him—and he pushed her down hard. The school kind pissed me off because they talked to her about how SHE could have handled the situation better. She was sticking up for herself—the boy took her ball. I told the assistant principal that we are teaching her to stand up for herself—whether they like it or not. Mostly, her feelings were because she thought the boy was her friend. I am still getting my feelings hurt over people who call themselves my friend and then prove that they are not. So I find I am at a loss to explain the complexities of friendship to my child.
Then last week, in the midst of my younger daughter being sick with the stomach flu, Emma came home sick from school she never even made it to her class. They called at 8:10. At first, I didn't think much of it because Tess was sick. But as the day wore on, I could tell Emma had gotten "better" very quickly. Turns out, there was an incident on the bus that upset her.
This is the kind of girl Emma is: she decided to make little drawings/posters for everybody on the bus. And one night she poured her heart out into these posters, working very hard on them. She just decided she wanted to do something nice for the kids she rides the bus with. Unfortunately, a group of them laughed at her and tore up the pictures.
It would have made me sick, too. Now, Emma is riding in the front of the bus and has been told that she doesn't have to be nice to those boys. She seemed confused, "But I have to be nice to everybody." But you don't have to be, do you? Especially if somebody treats you with disrespect, they don't deserve your attention, let alone your friendship or heart. It's a lesson I am still learning—it has been a difficult and painful one throughout my life—but to see my daughter dealing with this at the age of eight, it feels like a kick in the gut.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Frog Friend

We opened up one of our lawn chairs and look what we found tucked in between. It's the first frog I've seen in years. Isn't she cute?

Friday, August 31, 2007

Produce Auction

Today I visited the Shenandoah Valley Produce Auction. I thought I'd share some pictures with you.

Monday, July 23, 2007


I want to tell you about a FABULOUS restaurant in Waynesboro. "Chickpeas" serves Middle Eastern/Greek food, along with some other more traditional American fare. Every time we go—and that's turning out to be any chance we get—I order the hummus and the stuffed grape leaves. They are the best stuffed grape leaves I've ever had. They are done to a perfect consistency. Sometimes, those leaves get hard and chewy. But Chickpeas grape leaves are tender, filled with yummy rice and spices. I simply can't get enough of them.
Okay. I can see and hear some of you in my imagination already. What's the big deal? Hummus? Grape leaves? The big deal is I am in Waynesboro, Va., in the middle of the Shenandoah Valley, which is steakhouse, country cafe, diner territory. Good ethnic food is 30 miles away in Charlottesville and Harrisonburg. My husband and I have watched in horror as number of Indian restaurants have opened and promptly closed—not lasting more than a year. Even though they offered interesting dishes and great service.
We are holding our breath: Will Chickpeas make it?
We think it might. Every time we go in, there's a pleasant crowd. We take it as a sign of their success. We think it's almost been a year—that's the first official hump to overcome, it seems.
Any other Chickpeas fans out there?

Thursday, May 17, 2007


Tess has been sick for two days. We had very little groceries in the house, Eric was in DC, and finally I hear from an editor and a potential contract employer—both wanting stuff from me. Is this my karma? I am available most of the time. I am here, ready and willing to work, but when my kids are sick it puts a different spin on my life. And I have to tell you that they are sick A LOT. I brought this up to their doctor once and she said that no they are not sick a lot, not in comparison with many other children. I don't remember being sick a lot as a kid and my Mom verifies this memory. Kids are sick more today, and I don't know why.
So now, everything is a mess and I am playing catch-up with all of my gigs. It's hard not to be resentful when this happens.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Fresh Strawberries in the Morning

As I poured cereal into my bowl this morning, I wondered out loud if the strawberries were ripe. Eric said he thought he saw some red berries the other day. I went out in my bare feet and picked four bright red strawberries. I actually wiped the dew from them before washing them off. I love this part of my life—that now I can walk into my back yard and eat something that we planted. I always dreamed of this when I lived in Reston. You never know where dreams will take you. For now, I am in Waynesboro, Va., in the southern part of the Shenandoah Valley. I can see mountains in the not too far distance and my just-budding gardens in front me. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Yes, this Valley is Beautiful, BUT....

What a gorgeous Spring day. The sky is finally blue again and the wind has stopped, with only a gentle breeze blowing around the tree limbs now. Yesterday, I had to pick up my trash from the yard 3 times. I won't be posting for awhile because I am getting ready to go to New York City to the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) annual conference. Which brings up one of my complaints about living here—getting anywhere else is a bitch. Okay I can get get in my car and drive anywhere—not New York City, though. And to take public transportation is a major deal. The train from Staunton takes 9 hours, arriving in NY at 10:30 p.m. There are local airports, but the cost of flying out of them is extremely high. So, after much investigating, I figured the best way (cheapest) for me to go is by airplane from Richmond, which is about 2 hours from here. A friend of my husband is driving me there and picking me up. Why not my husband? Well, someone needs to be here for the girls when they get home from school.
If you think this is a convoluted mess, let me tell you about my Mom (who doesn't drive) trying to come for a visit. The buses offer an outrageously long and grueling trip. After her last experience, where they would not let her get out and get a drink of water, she said never again. So, she checked into a train from Pittsburgh to Staunton. First, the train would go to Chicago. WHAT? Isn't that the opposite direction?
People say we should take advantage of public transportation, with emissions and gas prices rising. But how crazy is this?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Stuarts Draft Farm Market, Local Color and Flavor

This morning I noticed that, despite the cold, our strawberries now have bloomed. Today it might get to 60 degrees. It's been so cold here that it's hard to believe just last week I was traipsing around Stuart's Draft in short sleeves and flip flops. The Stuarts Draft Farm Market, which is located on Route 340, is one of my favorite places for produce. Not all of it's labeled "organic" but the owners say that much of their local produce hasn't been sprayed with chemicals. Growers are reluctant to jump through government hoops just to get the label "organic."
This place has a definite character. Its front lawn is covered with lawn ornaments for sale and you can buy candles, cookbooks, and a variety of craft-like items along with your produce. I purchased some local hydroponic lettuce that had such a fresh smell that I had to stop my self from plunging my face into its bin. We ate it all up that night at supper. The locally grown apples I bought are also gone. They were just brought out of cold storage from the long winter. I also purchased some onion sets from them in hope that we'll have fresh onions out of the garden for most of the summer. Onion and mustard sandwiches are one of my favorite summertime treats.
What are your favorite places to shop for food? Is there a special summer food that you long for?

Monday, April 2, 2007


It's one of those beautiful spring days that you dream about during the depths of winter. My daughters are home, enjoying the first day of spring break. We ran some errands this morning and now they are playing in our backyard. I can hear their giggles and the creaks of their swings. The dog barks every once in awhile--just to hear herself bark.
I poked around in our gardens this morning. Our strawberry plants have fared well over the winter, as did the yarrow, which is looking soft, feathery, and very green. One of my favorite early spring plants has spread and looks like it's taking over a corner of the plot. It's sweet woodruff. A few years ago, I wrote a piece about it in Augusta Country, which is no longer publishing, much to my dismay.
Even though it's not yet May, I am thinking of May Day because of my delicate little sweet woodruff spreading along the ground. It's going to be awhile before I get this blog up and where I want it to be. In the the mean time, I thought I'd share this with you—part of my folksy kitchen garden column.

May Day and Sweet Woodruff
Sweet woodruff , with its delicate white flowers blossoming in spring and whorls of green leaves, offers much to the gardener, crafter, and herbalist. With its rich history of being an ingredient in May wine, sweet woodruff is the herb to use in welcoming spring and the “merry month” of May.
May wine is traditionally drunk on May Day to welcome the season and as a spring tonic. (See recipe.) According to the Herb Quarterly (Spring 1993) the wine is part of the ancient custom of “bringing in the May” which began in Rome, where a five-day festival in honor of Flora the Goddess of flowers was held. In ancient Britain, the festival of Beltane was celebrated on the first of May, Some of those traditions have found their way into todays festivals of spring—dancing around the Maypole, choosing a May Queen, and for some, drinking May wine, strewn with sweet woodruff.
Today, the ritual of drinking May wine has most taken hold in Germany, where the practice originated in the 13th century, and the Germans stills serve the “Mai Bowle” each day of the month. In Germany, sweet woodruff is called “waldmeister” or “master of the forests.” The name undoubtedly comes from the fact that it grows in shady woods or under hedges, making it a wonderful border or ground cover. Preferring the shade, sweet woodruff, can be grown on paths where it will release it’s fresh, soothing scent when stepped on.
”It is well know for its scent,” says Mary Lou DiGrassie, owner of Quail Hill Herb Shop, Fishersville, Va. “In fact, it is often used for fixative in perfumes.”
According the Herb Quarterly, sweet woodruff is called “muge-de-boys” or “woods musk” in old French, in reference to the herbs distinctive scent, which is only noticeable when it is dried or crushed. The scent is caused by coumarin, a constituent of sweet woodruff and the first natural scent to be synthesized from coal tars.
The fragrant use of the herb dates back to the Middle Ages. According to the Herb Companion (April/May 1996), the herb was used as a fragrant strewing herb and as a mattress filling. It was also hung in churches as a symbol of humility and placed among linens to repel moths and insects.
“It has an interesting history” says DiGrassie. “Medicinally, it was used as a liver tonic.”
Sweet woodruff definitely has an effect on the liver, she cautions. “It will actually stress the liver.” (And the Herb Companion warns that the the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers sweet woodruff safe only in alcoholic beverages.)
Still, it is used today by modern herbalists, mostly as a laxative and for some kinds of arthritis, DiGrassie says. “You just don’t want to overdo it.”
The herb is also used in poultices to treat cuts and bruises, she points out. The Herb Companion states that research has shown that sweet woodruff kills bacteria and that one of its constituents, asperulide, reduces inflammation.
Rich with history, medicinal and scentual purposes, sweet woodruff is also easy to grow. Consider growing it as as a low-maintenance carpet in a shady spot in the yard.

Recipe for May Wine from Herb Companion
Steep sprigs of sweet woodruff and crushed strawberries in white wine in the refrigerator overnight, then strain the wine, and serve it in a punch bowl garnished with whole strawberries and fresh woodruff sprigs.
The best white wine for this is from Germany, actually called May wine, and is available in most wine stores during spring.

Thursday, March 29, 2007


When I first started to promote my book "Mrs. Rowe's Restaurant Cookbook: A Lifetime of Recipes from the Shenandoah Valley, " I was often asked to characterize the Valley. There's a great deal of curiosity about the place I call home. And there should be. It is a unique place, filled with both gorgeous mountain vistas and rolling farm fields. Let's not forget the quaint little towns, like Staunton, and Waynesboro.
Perhaps it's because of living in a valley, or maybe it's because we're fairly rural, but changes come slowly, trickling down through years of staid tradition. Whether it's religion, education, or food, new attitudes are considered suspicious. Eight years ago when we moved here from the DC area, I drove 30 miles to Charlottesville just to get organic milk. Now, I can find it everywhere. Changes are coming—however slowly.
I hope this blog will give a glimpse into the Shenandoah Valley. I hope to cover the farmer's markets, farmsteads, food festivals, and restaurants in the area. I'll also update you about my life as a mom and a writer. For me, food, family, and writing can't be separated. At least not right now. So, check back frequently. Write often.