Food and Community is an exploration of the meanings food has for us as members of communities and cultures. Food is central to our understandings of ourselves, our identities. It’s at the center of all the major events of our lives–from birth through death, food brings us home and reminds us of who we are.
This project explores foods and food practices throughout Virginia that are both traditional and innovative: foods that were tied to the land in times past and are still found on our tables, as well as foods integral to those who have arrived in Virginia more recently.
We invite you to discover a few of the people and places VFH has encountered in doing our work. Food and Community is made possible with a grant from Smithfield Foods Inc.
Arlington County is the smallest county in Virginia geographically, but it may be the most diverse. Its Columbia Pike region has been called “the world in a zip code.” Close to 30 percent of its residents are foreign-born.
The Darden family has been curing and selling country hams the old-fashioned way since the 1950s, at their country store in Smithfield, Virginia, following traditions Tommy Darden learned from his father.
Known as “Fried Apple Pies,” “Dried Apple Pies,” or even “Fried Dried Apple Pies,” these locally made pies seem to have a ubiquitous presence throughout Southwest Virginia, appearing on the counters and shelves of country stores, gas stations, and community festivals.
What began, according to area legend, as a communal meal prepared for a hunting expedition on the banks of the Nottoway River in 1828, the cooking of Brunswick stew has evolved into a time-honored tradition.
The Mattaponi and Pamunkey tribes, located on rivers named for them, have maintained hatcheries for American shad for the past hundred years, but their ties to the rivers and fishing have existed for thousands.
Beekeeping is the care of honeybee colonies, commonly in hives, to stimulate crop pollination and to ensure the production of honey and other hive products, including beeswax, propolis, and royal jelly. The first honeybees in America were likely shipped to Virginia from England in the early seventeenth century.
Because of the Chesapeake Bay’s ideal brackish waters, its oyster population was once one of the most plentiful in the nation, and oyster harvesting was long a booming industry throughout the Bay’s communities.
Stunningly beautiful Highland County, Virginia, is the southernmost site in the United States for the production of maple syrup, where “Sugar Camps” have traditionally been small-scale, family-run operations.