‘Hoos in the Kitchen’ cookbook tells stories of Charlottesville community

What’s cooking in Cville?

Food can tell a story — the story of people, the story of a place or the story of a culture. At the University, for example, the Gus Burger from The White Spot invokes images of students enjoying late night eats, while the surrounding vineyards and breweries tell the stories of local businesses in the Virginia countryside.

Melissa Palombi, who works in the University Athletics Department in Marketing and Promotions and assists in University licensing, sought to capture the spirit of the University community through its connections to food. New to Charlottesville, Palombi created a cookbook, “Hoos in the Kitchen,” to better get to know the people here.

More than 60 recipes tell the stories of Charlottesville residents and University alumni and staff. Palombi pulled together the recipes and Sarah Cramer Shields took the photographs for the cookbook.

“I wanted the book to feel [like] a conversation with staff and alumni from U.Va. that are ‘foodies’ either professionally or just passionate home cooks,” Palombi said in an email to The Cavalier Daily. “I wanted it to be a glimpse of people you might not know went here or are here [and] connected to U.Va. and how food plays a role in their lives.” 

For example, Tanya Holland, a 1987 College alumna featured in the cookbook, is currently competing on season 15 of “Top Chef” on BravoTV. Holland shared a recipe for Summer Rice Salad in “Hoos in the Kitchen.”

Holland learned to cook and bake in grade school. Her cooking is influenced mainly by her African-American and southern heritage, although she said her travels and exposure to other cuisines have affected her cooking as well. 

The introduction to “Hoos in the Kitchen” features several interesting food-related tidbits about the University. A Jefferson-era recipe for fruitcake was discovered in the Pavilion X renovation, the Cavalier mascot loves lasagna and students can take cooking classes once a week for free at the International Center.

Palombi refers to herself as the “curator” of the cookbook rather than the author, but she also includes tips from her own cooking experience and memories of meals shared with family and friends. The recipes make up a hearty and comforting palate and ingredients for the recipes ranging from Virginia-based to international origins.

“Part of the book is me sharing my favorite recipes and how you can get the resources for them in Charlottesville — sausage or lamb from JM Stock Provisions, for example — for my Mint Pea Ravioli and Lamb Ragu, or Bold Rock cider that I use in my Bold Rock Steamed Clams,” Palombi said.

Pulling together recipes from so many different people culminated in a potluck dinner at King Family Vineyards. Local contributors to the book — including vineyard part-owners and University alumni James and Kelly King — shared a meal and posed for the photograph on the cover of the cookbook.

“Everyone got to meet each other [and] talk and share their recipes,” Palombi said. “It brought everyone together who might not have known each other at U.Va. It turns out Sarah Cramer — the photographer — is an alum, and the Mascot books project manager is also a former Hoo.”

“Hoos in the Kitchen” is available at Mincers, the University Bookstore and on the Cavalier Team Shop website for $24.95. As the cookbook is an officially licensed product, 15 percent of the proceeds benefit the University’s scholarship funds.

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