KIDDOCJJ: What did you last EAT that was memorable?
VIRGINIA: Actually, when I was in LA I at at Gjelina and really appreciated the attention to the vegetables. In fact, I had some of the best okra I had ever had in my life. There’s a fallacy that all Southern food is pork or fried chicken, and in Secrets of the Southern Table I put forth that Southern cuisine is an agricultural based cuisine. We have something coming out of the ground or off the tree 12 months out of the year. So, enjoying those vegetables at Gjelina was very satisfying. This particular dish had olives, pine nuts, mint, and tomatoes. It was fresh and light with a contrast of textures. I like trying new things and I very much like looking at a very Southern vegetable, like okra in someone else’s skillet.
KIDDOCJJ: What have you LEARNed that stays with you daily?
VIRGINIA: Gratitude. At each and every meal, we say, “Thank you for this meal.” I am grateful to have the food, grateful to the hands that made the food, and grateful for the hands that grew the food. Embracing gratitude can offer real perspective. I am a hard worker and am always striving, but it is very important to be grateful of each and every opportunity.
KIDDOCJJ: What or where would you like to EXPLORE and why?
VIRGINIA: I love to travel and frankly, anywhere I have never been is somewhere I want to go! Where ever I go, I always try to learn more about the local food culture and customs. I prefer to stay in an Airbnb so that I can shop the local markets and cook the local food. That’s one of the things that was so fascinating about traveling across the South when shooting the photography for Secrets of the Southern Table - we traveled to 11 states over 4 seasons. It was stupendous getting to see and meet so many different people, eat their food, and learn more about their local food ways. I believe that everything we believe - education, religion, health, art — you name it, is reflected on what is on the end of our fork. Eating is one of the most intimate human acts. So, when I travel, I explore through food.
KIDDOCJJ: Who or what INSPIREs you, and why?
VIRGINIA: People in the good food movement, like my friend Will Harris or Glenn Roberts, both subjects of stories in my cookbook inspire me. I am inspired by the work of food banks and organizations like No Kid Hungry to bring food to people who are food insecure. Leaders like Jimmy Carter and advocates for social justice such as John Lewis are tremendously inspirational. I believe in longer tables, less walls, and more sharing. (KIDDOCJJ's favorite quote to date!)
KIDDOCJJ: Lastly, any thoughts/aspirations you’d like to share?
VIRGINIA: I’m often asked about my job - I occupy such an unusual niche in the culinary profession. I write cookbooks and am a content creator. However, I am approached to be on reality shows, asked to endorse ingredients I don’t believe in, or sell my culinary soul for a pittance. I’ve become comfortable in my skin and I believe that for me, I want to work with people I respect and I have their respect. I say, “Be real, be genuine, don’t chase easy money, and do good work.” At the end of the day, we have to live with ourselves and I’d rather make the world a better place.