She’s written 50 books, about one-third of them cookbooks. That’s just the start of the “wow” factor when talking with Crescent Dragonwagon.
We caught up with her while she was in the kitchens of Brightwater, A Center for the Study of Food and part of Northwest Arkansas Community College, preparing for a workshop during the Fayetteville Roots Festival.
Just A Little Afternoon Tea
She starts off with a story about how she recently did a series of teas as a way to catch up with friends—17 of them. She served a variety of dishes, like a smoked egg salad with the eggs simmered in lapsang souchong tea, cucumber cinnamon sandwiches, crab salad with artichoke hearts, and brewed tea with hot milk, just to name a few. Just the descriptions make you long to be her friend.
Food: The Tie That Binds
She’s a writer, a cook, and a poet. Through it all, she identifies food as the tie that binds. “Any time you take a bite of something,” she says, “you’re participating in the narrative of life.”
Crescent describes herself growing up as a “skinny kid,” with food tasting very intense. “If I ate cottage cheese, I could feel the individual curds.” As a result, it was a challenge to get her to eat. A family friend, Miss Kay, introduced her to baking and, she says, “I found the whole thing to be so fantastic—the way you mix things together and turn up with something else.”
A Willingness To Experience Life
She describes how her parents, both successful writers in their own rights, exposed her to a wide range of foods, many of which were considered exotic at the time. We’d go to Indian restaurants, Japanese restaurants, I grew up eating it all.”
Her words become poetic as she describes the “sensual, experiential alchemy” of food as part of what influenced her. “In my teens, I became aware of the environment and ecology—relationships—and how I push here, it affects over there. All those things inclined me toward food.”
Then she delivers her mission: “I never just want to eat. I want to serve others food, so when they get home, they’re still thinking about it, and saying to themselves, ‘I wonder what that was and if I could make it.'” It’s one reason she easily shares her recipes in books, blogs, social media and workshops. “In this world, there are so many ways of being mean to each other—sharing a meal together is just a way to add happiness.”
Dragonwagon is self-schooled in cooking and calls herself a “recovering restauranteur” who at one time, ran the famous Dairy Hollow House in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, a popular tourist destination.
Now, she’s still writing and publishing children’s books, novels, poetry, and yes, cookbooks. Her Passionate Vegetarian is a James Beard award winner. Her most recent cookbook is Bean by Bean: A Cookbook.
Where It All Began
You can find her recipe for Buttermilk Biscuits from The Dairy Hollow House Cookbook, in an earlier article here.
As for future plans? She says, “To be curious, not judgmental. To experiment, to try, and to be interested. To achieve not just food understanding, but life understanding.” She adds, “After all, you can’t separate food, life and creativity.”
She makes you want to be her friend—and not just for the tea parties.
This is part of The Food Channel‘s On Location series at The Fayetteville Roots Festival. For other stories in the series, click here. You’ll find links at the end of that article that go live as new articles and videos are posted.
Executive Producer: Bob Noble
Producer: John Scroggins
Videography: David Nehmer, Joy Robertson
Still Photography: Paul K. Logsdon
Associate Director/Editor: Dylan Corbett