Recipes from Fluvanna’s Black Community

The Importance of Culinary History

By Ruthann Carr

Nina Monroe is mining relationships with older friends and relatives for recipes.

And now she’d like to reach readers.

The owner of The Elephantz Trunk recently joined the Fluvanna Economic Development Tourism Advisory Council.

“It seemed as if the African American culture wasn’t included (in plans/suggestions), Monroe said. “I mean, we’re not going to go rafting down the James River.”

So Monroe suggested searching for, cataloguing and publishing a list of recipes from the people and the county she grew up in: Fluvanna’s black community.

“I feel this is a missing part of Fluvanna’s Black culture,” she said.

Monroe grew up in Bremo Bluff where her mother still lives.

Two of the recipes she has gleaned so far are for buttermilk cornbread with crackling and wild rabbit and gravy.

“So many of mothers and grandmothers didn’t cook from a written recipe,” Monroe said.

When she asked her mother for how much flour went into a dish, she said, “I don’t know, we just threw in what we needed.”

That’s one of the obstacles to sharing the recipes. Monroe often has to sit with a relative while they make the dish and write down the ingredients, amounts and steps.

Her mother told Monroe to bake the cornbread at 425 degrees.

“I knew she cooked on a wood stove and I asked how she knew what the temperature was. She said those stoves had a gauge on top. I had no idea,” Monroe said.

Tricia Johnson, director of the Fluvanna Historical Society, said culinary history is important.

“It’s not only a reflection of how families spent their time together but it shows what their resources were and what they did with them,” Johnson said. “Culinary history is fascinating because it teaches us about what people had and how they creatively used what they had.”

Monroe said the recipes will be available in a downloadable pdf version online at

“We’ll have blog posts highlighting the recipes,” she said.

Bryan Rothamel, Fluvanna’s economic development coordinator, is excited about the project.

“It gives us a socially distant event to participate in,” he said. “Families across the county will be able to experience the traditions of Black families from Fluvanna. This is a substitute to inviting people in for a meal and a story. I hope others will join in and try to recreate the meals. I know I will.”

EDTAC works on increasing awareness of Fluvanna and the things that make Fluvanna special, Rothamel said. The group completed the 101+ Things to Do in Fluvanna, a way for residents to have a personal experience in Fluvanna’s uniqueness.

“With this project, the families submitting recipes are inviting residents into their kitchen.  I look forward to recreating these tastes from Fluvanna,” he said.

Nina Monroe is looking for recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation, she said. “I’m looking for cultural/ comfort /soul food recipes that were and are a staple of the black household.” Send your recipes to Monroe at Monroe hopes to publish the project by mid-February.

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