When chef William Dissen, chef and owner of The Market Place restaurant, read Ronni Lundy‘s latest book, Victuals, he was transported in time. “It was like taking a time machine back to my youth on my grandparents farm, talking about skillet cornbread and fat back — these things that are near and dear to Appalachian food and culture,” he says.
On Thursday, Feb. 2, Dissen will team up with Lundy, who is an Asheville resident, as well as chef Travis Milton of the forthcoming Shovel & Pick restaurant in Bristol, Va., for an evening of book signings, food, discussion and live bluegrass music performed by Molly Rose Reed of Underhill Rose. The four-course, family-style meal, inspired by Lundy’s work, will include local cheeses served with an assortment of pickled and fermented vegetables, smoked Sunburst trout, sprouted grain salad, pork shank and buttermilk pie, among other items. Tickets are $50 plus tax and gratuity.
Many of the book’s recipes are Lundy’s own creations; some are interpretations of Southern classics — cornbread, mashed potatoes and fried chicken all get their due. The author, who considers herself a cook rather than a chef, distinguishes the two based on experience. The former is self-taught, she points out, while the latter is trained. Lundy notes her lack of formal culinary education requires a more deliberate eye when is comes to writing cookbooks. “I had to really think about each recipe,” she says.
Victuals also includes a series of essays that explore the region’s history through its cuisine. From the prehistoric animals that were drawn to the area by its salt lick, to the arrival of the first Europeans in the 1500s, Lundy examines the past as well as current trends in Appalachian cuisine.
“I wanted to talk about where I came from and what my experience was like in a way that people from the area would recognize,” she says. “But also I wanted it to resonate with people not from the area, so they could understand it and perhaps change their preconceptions and narrow views of Appalachia and Appalachian life.”
In Dissen’s opinion, Lundy does just that. “She’s a great storyteller, which is another innate characteristic of Appalachia,” he says. “I think if you were from New York City or San Francisco and you read her book, you would instantly gain a sense of place by the stories she tells and the recipes she shares and the emotion she evokes through them.”
Lundy sees the evening as a fun and appetizing way to celebrate Appalachia. “I can tell you that it’s going to be insanely delicious,” she says. “William and Travis are brilliant. They’re a great combination together. It’s like great harmony singing.”
WHAT: Victuals Cookbook Dinner with author Ronni Lundy and Chef Travis Milton
WHERE: The Market Place, 20 Wall St.
WHEN: Thursday, Feb. 2, at 6 p.m.
HOW MUCH: Tickets are $50 per person plus tax and gratuity. Books will be for sale at the event.