Betty Marsh’s Virginia Heritage Dinner

Last weekend, I was invited to a culinary event at the Williamsburg Winery hosted by Celebrity Chef Chadwick Boyd

Though a longtime Manhattan resident, Chadwick came to Virginia to put together a dinner that both honors his southern roots and his Grandma Zella, whose intense passion for cooking solidified his own desire to make a career in the culinary arts.

This particular dinner – the Virginia Heritage Dinner – served as an homage to Grandma Zella, and each comfort-food-fueled course had both a story and a strong tie to her. 

And throughout the evening, it got me thinking – maybe it was the wholesome comfort food, maybe it was the amiable company bonded by southern hospitality, maybe it was the wine glass that had somehow been refilled every time I looked at it – if I were to put together a dinner of all of my grandmother’s specialty dishes like Chadwick Boyd did with his own grandmother … what would that look like?


HORS D’OEUVRES

Grandma Zella Boyd

Peanut Biscuits with Candied Grapes, Garnished with a Sprig of Rosemary

Chadwick used to spend many summertime days with his cousins playing on his grandparents’ farm in southern Georgia. For lunch, Grandma Zella would whip up a platter of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for all of the kids to eat while they took a break from running through the acres and acres of farmland.

This delicate finger food is an upscale yet nostalgic homage to the days of PB&J on warm homemade bread.

Grandma Betty Marsh

A Lunchable

I too used to summer at my grandparents’ house with my cousins and siblings. When we needed a break from the long stretches of watching TV, Grandma Betty Marsh would meet us in the kitchen and pull out a pile of Lunchables for us to choose from. While we heatedly debated over who got the pepperoni pizza Lunchable and who was stuck with the watered-down-ham-and-poor-excuse-for-cheese Cracker Stacker, Grandma Betty Marsh would excuse herself from having to get involved and get back to her napping.


PRE-DINNER COCKTAIL

Grandma Zella Boyd

Sparkling Moscato with a Splash of Gin and a Layer of Orange Juice

Planted on that farm of Chadwick’s grandparents sat an old, robust orange tree that, according to Chadwick, produced the sweetest, plumpest oranges he’d ever tasted. On hot summer days, Grandma Zella would squeeze the liquid out of the fattest oranges to make a cool, refreshing orange juice for her grandchildren.

Like any good southern Baptist, Grandma Zella didn’t drink alcohol – but this cocktail is still reminiscent of that juicy, hand-squeezed refreshment the Boyd children enjoyed.

Grandma Betty Marsh

Caffeine-Free Diet Coke

My grandparents consistently kept a hearty supply of caffeine-free Diet Coke cans in their refrigerator for that sugar-free, calorie-free, jitter-free satiation available at a moment’s notice.

Like any good southern Baptist, Grandma Betty Marsh didn’t drink alcohol – but she could frequently be seen with one of these bad boys in her hand at any point during the day.


FIRST COURSE

Grandma Zella Boyd

Coconut Milk Drop Biscuits with Salted Molasses Butter

Biscuits were a staple in Grandma Zella’s kitchen – they were quick, easy, and comfortingly delicious. She always made them from-scratch using the flour, yeast, and milk that she consistently had on-hand “just in case”! She’d also complement every biscuit with freshly made butter that she churned herself on a daily basis, using the milk from her own farm’s cows.

Grandma Betty Marsh

Ukrop’s White House Rolls with I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Spray

Grandma Betty Marsh’s secret to enhancing the flavor of the already-pretty-good Ukrop’s White House rolls? Throw ’em in the microwave for 30 seconds apiece. Crack that roll open when the beep goes off, add a spritz or two of Fabio-endorsed vegetable oil spray, and you’re ready for any guest who walks through that door.


MAIN COURSE

Grandma Zella Boyd

Border Springs Farm Leg of Lamb

Chadwick’s grandparents made an honest and humble living on their small Georgia farm. But every Christmas, they’d save up their money and splurge on a hearty portion of locally raised lamb to serve their family at the holiday dinner table. Grandma Zella would work all day to prepare it using her special blend of herbs, cooking methods, and – well, love! Chadwick described this annual holiday treat as a tender, juicy drop of heaven.

Grandma Betty Marsh

Crockpot Roast Beef

I’m not sure where Grandma Betty Marsh got her brown, muted-floral-print Crockpot, but I feel confident in saying that that was the best investment or gift she ever had in her life. On every family occasion, we could count on that Crockpot to be filled up by a bland, slowly hardening lump of roast beef. And if we were really lucky, she would have remembered to put baby carrots in with it.

It just wasn’t Christmas dinner – or Easter dinner, or Thanksgiving dinner, or birthday dinner, or Mother’s Day dinner, or Memorial Day dinner, or Tuesday night dinner – without that Crockpot roast beef.


SIDE DISH

Grandma Zella Boyd

Fresh Green Beans with Edwards Pork Cracklins and Cornbread Crumble

In addition to cows and crops, Chadwick’s grandparents raised pigs on their small Georgian farm. On the rare occasion that his grandfather slaughtered one of the pigs, he would butcher it and bring the meat back to the main house with an overflowing basket of freshly picked green beans. Grandma Zella would then use her method of herbs, butter, and love to create a green bean dish that would impress even the snootiest southerner.

Though she kept her unique green bean recipe secret, Chadwick did his best with this dish to replicate her culinary magic.

Grandma Betty Marsh

“Blackened” Green Beans

This dish is in honor of the time on Thanksgiving that we were all sitting in the living room together before dinner and the room started to quickly fill up with smoke and we all ran into the kitchen to try to figure out what was going on and we discovered that Grandma Betty Marsh had forgotten about the green beans she put in the oven hours earlier.

Lucky for us, this was one of those times she put baby carrots in with the Crockpot roast beef.


DESSERT

Grandma Zella Boyd

Apple Pie, Coconut Custard Pie, and Chocolate Pudding Pie with Fresh Meringue and Toasted Virginia Peanuts

Grandma Zella had so many pie recipes she could “whip up with no recipe, lickety split, from scratch,” that Chadwick didn’t know how to choose between all of them. So he made them all for us.

Grandma Betty Marsh

Oh, You Want Dessert? Okay, There Are Popsicles in the Freezer

Does anyone remember “Sherbet Cyclones”?

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