I’ve been away from my computer for awhile—and that’s a good thing. My son, Russ, and I attended the 300th anniversary of the Germanna Colony in Virginia, a gathering of descendants of the first permanent German settlement in America. Some of my earliest recollections are of attending chicken dinners at Hebron Lutheran—the church built by these pioneers and the oldest Lutheran church in continuous use in America.
The 300-Anniversary Reunion
During our visit, we met hundreds of “shirttail relatives,” sang along with the historic pipe organ, and took communion from the 1737-German-inscribed chalice. We marveled at the beauty and grandeur of the Blue Ridge mountains and later walked through a few weedy cemeteries in Fredericksburg with the Chief of the Patawomeck Indian tribe. From there, we headed for Williamsburg and Jamestown, home of the first English settlers.
Jamestown: Where Survival Wasn’t a Game
“Toto, We’re Not in Kansas Anymore”
I knew we were far from St. Louis, when I saw Crepe Myrtle in various shades, dotting the streets of Williamsburg and my orders of iced tea in local restaurants kept arriving pre-sweetened. Being in Tidewater country, I ordered crab cakes every chance I got, even if it was no more than an appetizer. The stately Williamsburg Inn did them just right, serving up ample amounts of both seafood and warm hospitality.
Hazel River Inn: A Cozy B&B
While the many sites give you a great sense of history, it’s the quaint B&Bs, that capture your heart—that whisk you away to another era with their colonial charm and relaxed setting. As it turned out the owners of the Hazel River Inn, Austrian chef Peter Stogbuchner and his wife, Karen, had lived in DC, when he was an assistant chef in the Reagan White House. Peter hadn’t lost his touch. His skillful use of local fruits, fish, and produce make for a splendid menu and a stunningly delicious breakfast.
I Could Taste the Memories
At the reunion, we ran onto several Missourians, or former ones. I also saw the Herrmans from Rolla on the plane and another couple at the archeological site in Jamestown recognized us. It was also fun visiting with total strangers as we did in Brightwood (pop. 1,107), sitting in a porch rocker, talking about the small community, its former residents and my distant relatives—all long gone.
Sadly, the lovely, old homes once well-kept and buzzing with activity were overgrown, unpainted and near ruin. I had a hard time explaining to Russ, that I ate some of the most bountiful, Southern meals of my life in one of those run-down homes. During our family visits, the kitchen table was ladened with “organically-grown, locally-sourced” foods long before such terms ever became popular.
It was not visions of sugar plums that danced in my head, but memories of mounded fried chicken, fresh from the hen house. . . bowls of home-grown, well-seasoned green beans cooked to death as only Southerners do. . . heaps of fluffy, mashed potatoes under puddles of milk gravy. . . flaky biscuits and pans of puffy, golden spoonbread . . . corn picked earlier in the day and dripping with butter churned from cream that came from cows grazing nearby. . . and berry and peach pies and jellies all made from fruit grown within view of the house.
Most of us will never eat that way again, but there was such a time.
I knew I was home, when I stepped off the plane and the first thing I saw in the terminal was a Ted Drewes’ frozen custard dispenser. Thomas Jefferson, who popularized ice cream in the colonies, would have thought that a fitting welcome after a long, hot day of travel.
With too many good meals under my belt and lots of photographs to sort, I’m back at my computer. . . but I have another trip in the works.