“And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been.” Rainer Maria Rilke
Choosing Home: Olives and Figs Chronicles Moves to RVA!
We are born in a place of our parents’ choosing, and some of us spend our lives in our hometowns, content with familiar surroundings and our roots there. Often, we are wrested away to another place of our parents’ choosing for a time, or by a life’s compromises, as was my experience. My father moved us to Florida from Connecticut when I was 10 years old in order to open a branch of the business that employed him. We left behind a large extended Italian-American family and big family gatherings around tables laden with great food. We all mourned that loss for years.
Florida was like a foreign land and culture, one that I adjusted to but never loved. Then, I gew up and fell in love with a man whose goal was to move to Florida, land of his beloved Aunt Rose and memories of idyllic vacations spent on Clearwater Beach. So, a compromise was struck, and we spent nearly 34 years making a home in a charming 1925 bungalow in the midst of a beautiful National Register Historic District in St. Petersburg, Florida. We built a very good life there.
Eventually, we seek a home of our choosing, places that draw us in and help to define who we are and how we live. Although I have never lived in Boston, or in Paris, or in the south of France, nor in the lake district of Italy, surely those places that I have travelled are inextricably woven into the fabric of who I am. There are places that I have never lived that feel like home as soon as I arrive there. The places that touch our hearts, whether we live there or not, stay with us. We visited Richmond, Virginia for the first time in April 2015, and the city stayed with us.
What does this essay about choosing home have to do with good food and adventurous cooking, which is the subject of this website? We have chosen Richmond, Virginia, or RVA, as it is affectionately known locally, as our home for this phase of our lives. When the time was right for us to sell our beloved bungalow, we began to question whether we wanted to spend our remaining years in Florida. For me, the answer was a resounding “no!” My husband humorously tells everyone that we relocated to Richmond because I wanted an adventure, and that if I am still interested in sharing adventures with him, then he is “game.” There is certainly truth in that statement, and in terms of Olives and Figs Chronicles, Richmond and the surrounding region will provide plenty of culinary adventures to share.
Richmond has a vibrant and hotly rising food scene. In 2014, Saveur Magazine called Richmond “The Next Great American Food City,” and The James Beard Foundation named three Richmond chefs as semi-finalists for Best Chefs, Mid-Atlantic Region in 2014. Interested in great, fresh seafood? Richmond benefits from access to the oysters and crabs of Chesapeake Bay. It is winter, and so we see succulent mussels and sweet clams of several varieties in the markets and in restaurants. Committed to the farm-to-table, seasonal and locavore food philosophy? Richmond is surrounded by local farms with outstanding meat, poultry, dairy, vegetables and fruit products that you can source at peak flavor. There are numerous farmer’s markets in and around Richmond, as well as a variety of small neighborhood specialty markets and supermarkets to fit everyone’s preferences and budgets.
Craft brews, ciders, whiskeys and wines peak your interest? Richmond is considered by many to be a great craft beer town, and the region is home to around 250 small, family owned wineries. From the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Shenandoah Valley, it’s wine country with sublime views and a tradition of viticulture that has existed since the 17th century with a transcendant rebirth over the past 20 years. I am intrigued by local interest in Italian wine traditions and by an Italian vintner, and will eventually share a visit to his vineyard.
Join us in our explorations of our new home city by the James River, and enjoy our chronicles about our sources of great food, beverages, and inspirations that we take back to our kitchen to create recipes to share with you. Along the way, expect stories about the people that we meet; the food traditions of Richmond and the Mid-Atlantic Region; the farms, farmer’s markets, vineyards, bakeries, cheesemongers, fishmongers, craft breweries, and other food artisans. Expect stories of day trips to D.C., to the Atlantic Coast, and to other places in the region with culinary interest. Expect a bit of a southern flair to creep into my culinary lexicon and into my cooking!
Consider this a rebirth of Olives and Figs Chronicles, as we create our new lives here, taking in all of the aesthetics and influences, food and other, that surely will impact us and the stories and recipes shared here. You can continue to rely on my unwavering philosophy about food and cooking–selecting fresh, seasonal ingredients, an emphasis on simple techniques, cooking with fearlessness and joy, and gathering friends around the table to enjoy good food and friendship.