Director’s Cut: Writing in Knoxville & Oysters and Conversation in Suffolk

Oak Island Entrance

I’m just home from six days on the road.

First, Knoxville for the third Southern Food Writing Conference, where I gave a talk about the possibilities of food writing, moderated a “food fight” between Hunter Lewis of Southern Living and Jessica Mischner of Garden & Gun, and biked each afternoon to Public House, which I claimed as a sort of second office.

Then, Suffolk, Virginia, for a Potlikker dinner that benefited the SFA, staged by Dag Zapatero and hosted by Harper Bradshaw, chef and proprietor of Harper’s Table. That pic to the left does little justice to the setting, on Oak Island. Or to the food and drink, which beautifully showcased the merroir and terroir of Virginia.

More important perhaps, I enjoyed amazing conversations. About the local tradition of corning, which is to say salting, to preserve mullet and spot. About how the broader area is home to a large Filipino community, drawn by the legacy of General Douglas MacArthur, whom they revere as a liberator. About the revival of oystering hereabouts. And what a well-roasted peanut should taste like.

After a dozen Pleasure House Oysters and a third link of goat kielbasa from River and Rail, after scarfing and sipping a surfeit of other compelling local eats and drinks, I returned home to find that an earlier mail order of Virginia wine — from Andika Ridge and Chatham Vineyards — had arrived. Virginia, I can’t quit you.