Over the past decade, but more so in the past five years, we have watched my mother-in-law slowly progress through the devastating stages of Alzheimer’s.
While there were plenty of benchmarks that gradually revealed her decline, cooking was one of the top indicators—long-time family recipes that usually didn’t need to be referenced became overwhelming and confusing.
In an effort to preserve her cooking legacy, and other family recipes as well, my sister-in-law compiled some well-known favorites into a cookbook by scanning in original, handwritten recipes. How special it is to flip through and see these weathered, yellowed, sometimes barely legible pieces of paper sharing Southern dishes, including my favorite: the Mayonnaise Cake, a to-die-for chocolate cake that tastes nothing like mayo, by the way.
Not long after receiving this cookbook as a gift, Taste contributor Mikael Blido pitched the idea of “Heritage Recipes” in Central Virginia. My nostalgic soul said absolutely, yes—what a creative concept for our annual Food Issue.
Of course, he proposed to go much further back than my “Family Recipes” cookbook, to the roots of Central Virginia’s ancestors. The amount of time Mikael spent reading history books, interviewing local experts and even experimenting in the kitchen was absolutely incredible. Starting on page 96, learn more about how three groups of people from our region’s history ate back in the day, culminating with Mikael’s modern spin on a 300-year-old meal.
Fast forward to the 20th century, and “going out to eat” became a part of mainstream culture. Tying in with our nod to the past, we wanted to spotlight homegrown restaurants that have been a part of the city’s dining culture the longest. In “Legendary Eats,” we’ll tell you about four spots that have been serving hungry guests for about 335 years combined.
All restaurants, old and new, need our support as we continue to recover from the ongoing pandemic and its restrictions. This year marks the 10th anniversary of our Lynchburg Restaurant Week, a time for local restaurants to showcase their best dishes. We have 13 restaurants on board this time; several just opened their doors this year. Check out their menus starting on page 86 and make it a point to support these small businesses June 12-19.
Whether you are making Great-Great-Grandma’s famed chicken and dumplings or heading to that quaint diner where you remember eating as a kid, I think we can all agree that food—both the preparation and enjoyment of it—is not only a big part of who we are today, but it also connects us to our past.
For my mother-in-law, that past is slipping away, but we find some comfort in knowing that even when her mind is gone, we can still celebrate who she once was with a savory slice of Mayonnaise Cake.
All My Best,
Shelley Basinger, Managing Editor