The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 81
DINING | PERSPECTIVE
'LL NEVER FORGET my initial reaction when Roanoker Editor Kurt Rheinheimer emailed to tell me his
dining writer for the magazine was moving on, and
would I consider "auditioning" for the gig?
"Oh," I said out loud to the computer screen, "bless
his heart. He thinks I'm a foodie."
I am not.
Because I don't consider myself a foodie, I almost
wrote back, Thanks, but no thanks. You'll want a
foodie for that job. Fortunately, I didn't do that
and instead agreed to meet with him. Together,
we discussed what dining is. We agreed that
while dining is about food, it isn't only about
food. In fact, dining is about much more.
Dining is an art form and a fellowship. It is
stewardship and community. In short, dining is a meal, a togetherness.
If you've read (almost) any of my articles, you know I'm a farm girl from
south-central Illinois. My dad raised hogs,
and grew corn, wheat and soybeans. We
kept a large fruit and vegetable garden
that provided the bulk of our produce
throughout the year. In the summertime,
my mother's kitchen was an amalgam
of garden smells, canning jars and stock
pots. I knew what was in season by the
sun's heat on my back as I raided the garden, and the smells of canning vegetables
wafting through our home.
Besides the garden, my mother baked
our breads and desserts. She partnered with
a local food co-op for our dried and bulk
food items. Of course, we had plenty of pork
with the rest of our meat coming from a local
butcher. Our meals truly were the visible fruits
of my parents' collective labors. They were also
actual meals: dining together as a family, even if
that meant picnicking in the back of the farm truck
parked on a field road for lunch, or at 9 p.m. 'round
the kitchen table during planting or harvest times.
Without understanding it, I was being raised with the
idea that food is more than ingredients in a dish. Food is
part of a larger communion. But as an adult I lost sight of
this. Through decades of fad diet crazes, I turned eating into a
methodology (paleo or zone dieting) and a mantra (food is fuel). I
treated food-in every situation-as means to an end, instead of the
soul-enriching experience it is meant to be.
I liken my "food is fuel" years to the story of the Prodigal Son. Intuitively, I knew food was more than fuel, but it took a job I didn't think
I was qualified for, and months of dining in and meeting with ownTHEROANOKER.COM
Shari Dragovich: "Together let us eat, drink, fellowship and become whole."
ers of our area's restaurants for my soul to be restored.
It happened as I listened to the story of two Greek
brothers who left successful law careers in New York
City so they could come to Roanoke (Roanoke!) and
share their passion for Greek home cooking. It happened when I heard the story of a restaurant burned
to the studs by fire, and the Bedford community that
rallied to build it back again. It happened when I sat
with my husband and two of my sons in a booth at the
Roanoker Restaurant, eating comfort food on a day
we would later say goodbye to our beloved German
shepherd. It was restored by the owner who calls his
dining space a 'living room' and the chef who turns
preparing bar food into an art form.
I don't have the space to name every restaurant and
its owner, but every single one has had a part in restoring my understanding of food as a fellowship and
offering-not just ingredients to be consumed.
This idea of dining as an opportunity at togetherness is one that desperately needs resurrecting in our
culture. Maybe this is why I approach dining writing
the way I do. By offering to you, the reader, the story
of the restaurant-the people and vision that make it
go-my hope is you will experience dining in Roanoke as I do: a gift and a fellowship, a meal prepared
out of love, presented in earnestness, meant to be enjoyed in conviviality. In the same way that my childhood dinner table helped form the spirit of my family, Roanoke's restaurants are growing our town's soul.
Being The Roanoker's dining writer is a continual
gift to me. It is a gift I hope I am passing on to you.
The table is set. The meal prepared. Together let us eat,
drink, fellowship and become whole. I
NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2017 | 81