Mollie grew up in the hills of Western Pennsylvania, outside of Pittsburgh, in Raccoon Township. Her first job was scooping ice cream at Mary’s Restaurant, a down-home country restaurant similar to Mrs. Rowe’s but now out of business. Like Mrs. Rowe, her summers were filled with picking green beans and tomatoes from the garden and long walks to favorite blackberry patches. She was a serious dance student for many years, but always loved to write. She is the first person in her family to attend and finish college.
She applied her editorial/journalistic training in getting the story about Mrs. Rowe. She spent many hours interviewing Mildred and her family, friends, and customers and researching the subjects of restaurants, food history, and women’s history. She’s spent hours in the restaurant, observing how it operates. In addition, she traveled with Mildred and her son, Mike, to visit her home place, Rich Patch, Va., and Covington, Va. She also traveled with just Mike, to Goshen, Va., to meet with neighbors and friends there. Mollie traveled to Goshen alone and spent some time in the restaurant Mildred used to own.
As far as culinary experience, she completed the Fresh Start Cooking (vegetarian) course. She is passionate about food and writing. This project gave her the opportunity to meld both of those passions .
In addition, Mollie is the chief cook in her house of picky eaters.
Background of Book
What led Mollie to write about Mrs. Rowe.
Mollie’s husband, Eric, works for a local museum, the Frontier Culture Museum and Mike DiGrassie is on the board. Eric came home with stories about Mrs. Rowe. And she began to hear more stories about her from the locals. She approached Mike about writing a self-published biography about his mother. He thought it was a great idea. They approached the project as if they were going to self-publish. But, when Mrs. Rowe died, and Mollie was quoted in local papers (as her biographer), she began to hear from people all over the country. She knew then that a biography would have a national appeal. Since then, it grew into more of a cookbook than a biography.
Stories about the writing process
Before Mollie began writing this book, she interviewed Mrs. Rowe, her family, and customers. Gaining Mrs. Rowe’s trust was not easy. Often, when she tried to interview Mrs. Rowe, she would just walk away. She would say something like “Just talk to my sister about that,” and walk away. Eventually, when Mollie convinced her that she was not a “tabloid” journalist, that Mike would review all the writing for accuracy, and she was not going away, she began to trust Mollie. In fact, Mrs. Rowe complimented her once or twice. She said Mollie is a hard worker —high praise, coming from her. Also she complimented Mollie’s shoes. One of her favorite life sayings was “You can tell if someone has given up on life by looking at their shoes.”
In the middle of writing the actual biography, Mollie felt sort of bored with the project. She asked herself why–it certainly was not Mrs. Rowe’s life that was boring. Mollie decided the linear format and structure she placed her life into was the culprit. She started all over again and played with the structure with a more creative narrative. Even though this book is not the original biography, that process infused the eventual cookbook with a story sense that’s not found in many cookbooks.
Description of book
This biographical cookbook is full of delicious recipes from Mrs. Rowe’s Restaurant and Bakery in Staunton, Va. Divided into nine food sections, the down-home cuisine is center stage, but the stories about the food and Mrs. Rowe’s life and family give it extra meaning, depth, and flavor. The book is a culinary celebration of Mrs. Rowe’s food, family, and life. It spans her whole lifetime. It takes the reader from her struggling childhood in the hills of Virginia, through her personal heart breaks and triumphs, to her hard-earned success in Staunton and throughout the nation.