This film was directed and produced by Shayna Stern as part of the Virginia Food Heritage Planning course at the University of Virginia, Department of Urban and Environmental Planning in Spring 2012.
Food: A Life’s Work, with Dorothy Burton – Charlottesville
by Shayna Stern
We all know the story of the founding of the United States. Passionate American patriots fought off the tyrannical British monarchy and created a new republic founded on liberty and democracy. This story is part of national heritage, and we will never forget it or doubt its importance.
In school, we learn about the Civil War battles that took place in Virginia. We tour the battlefields during field trips and read excerpts from soldiers’ diaries. The Civil War is part of our state heritage.
Throughout the Central Virginia region, we see Thomas Jefferson’s influence. The University of Virginia is a living memorial of the founding father and Monticello is a popular tourist destination. Thomas Jefferson is part of our regional heritage.
Dorothy Burton has a story, too. Her grandmother raised her and never let Dorothy help with the cooking. So Dorothy learned by watching. By the time she was eleven, she could cook on her own, and by the time she was twenty, Dorothy was working as a cook. Food was Dorothy’s life work. She cooked for City of Charlottesville Schools. She cooked for private families. She cooked for students at the University of Virginia. She cooked for her family. She cooked for herself. Dorothy cooked her special Lemon Jello Cake, and when you asked her for the recipe she would smile shyly and tell you no one could see that recipe. She made piecrusts from scratch, and filled them with sweet potatoes, cream, and lots and lots of sugar. She cooked meats, and vegetables, and bread.
And Dorothy worked hard. She worked so hard. She worked hard so that she could take care of her sons. She worked hard so that her family could have a place to live. She worked hard so that she could teach her sons to cook and clean and take care of themselves. Dorothy worked hard in her life and now it is time for her to go home and sit down and rest.
This story is part of Dorothy’s individual heritage. This is her food heritage. We might not learn this story in school or see it around us every day. But this story is important. This story is important because it is Dorothy’s story, and it is important because it is a part of her own heritage.
For more about the Virginia Food Heritage Planning course, visit http://ien.arch.virginia.edu/courses/food-systems-resources.