It was the spring of 2013 when Nancy Vienneau and I first met. We were among a community of chefs, food writers and activists gathered to promote “A Place at The Table” in Nashville. Jennifer Justus was food/culture writer at The Tennesseean at the time, so she organized the event. The team was to keep in mind the $4 food budget that people living on SNAP benefits face daily while preparing a feast for over 100 people.
Around the corner Nancy came, wielding a fresh stalks of asparagus and wearing the most radiant smile. She was putting the finishing touches on her spring salad.
Since that early April evening, Nancy and I have shared resources and have enjoyed events that our beloved food community offers. The picture I chose to lead this story is one of Nancy prepping Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee’s horderves (strawberries with goat cheese and balsamic glaze) at Tennessee Flavors 2014. Nancy can be found in their kitchen most Fridays cooking alongside Chef Mark Rubin. I am proud for my friend, as her first book has just been published. Third Thursday Community Potluck Cookbook is a labor of love. It highlights the food loving community she and co-hostess, Gigi Gaskins, has nurtured. Trust Nancy when she says, “This is not your grandma’s potluck.”
Historically, I have not been a fan of potlucks. You never know the conditions of the kitchen in which the covered dishes have been prepared, nor can you always trust the hands that have held the serving spoon before you. At Vienneau’s dinner party and book signing hosted by Nashville Farmers Market on the third Thursday of June, there was not one can of cream of mushroom soup, congealed salad or chow mien noodle to be found. Aunt Effie’s chin whiskers weren’t grazing the side of a bowl full of overcooked green beans while deciding if that was indeed “real” bacon in Big Jim’s casserole. Instead, there was a rainbow of perennial dishes full of flavor and intent. It was hot that day, so there were fresh salads galore. I could go on about the array of dishes that walked through the door that night, but what struck me is that these folks love good food and are passionate about the world in which they live. Nancy suggests, “The premise is simple; on the third Thursday of every month bring a seasonal fresh dish for sharing. The result is gloriously rich: new friends, fun and good eats.”
The Third Thursday Community Potluck Cookbook- Recipes and Stories to Celebrate The Bounty of the Moment written by Nancy Vienneau is a must-have for anyone’s cookbook collection. Teresa Blackburn (food stylist) and Mark Boughton (photographer) compliment Vienneau’s vision with a collection of artful images. If you believe in the power of community and relish in delicious food, Vienneau’s book will soon be a page turner of choice. Click here to learn more about The Third Thursday Community Potluck Cookbook and how to buy your copy.
Blackberries will be in season for Nancy’s next potluck….now, where is my oblong casserole dish?
Blackberry CobblerQuick and Easy “Everyday” Cobbler
1/2 cup butter
2 cups blackberries
2 cups sugar (divided)
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 to 1 cup milk (batter should be a little thicker than pancake batter)
Melt butter in large cobbler pan in the oven. Heat blackberries in a saucepan on the stove with 1 cup sugar. Bring to boil. When sugar has melted, turn off heat. In a separate bowl, make a batter with flour, 1 cup sugar, baking powder, salt and milk. Pour batter over melted butter. Pour warm fruit over batter. Bake 20 to 30 minutes in 350-degree oven.
Recipe by Florence Barham from “Yesterday and Today Cookbook” compiled by the Country Woman’s Club.