When you ask chef and proprietor Julia Kendrick Conway why she chose to leave a successful career in corporate America to run a small business in rural Northern California, the answer may surprise you. Instead of the usual tale of seeking simplicity, and down-sizing her life, Conway will tell you all about her passion for making good and wholesome food available to everyone. She will also speak of social equity, and the idea that we, as human beings existing in this 21st century world, have lost some of the very rituals and processes that have sustained us over the years. She weaves a fabric of ideas that seems far larger than the confines of her wine country kitchen.

“It’s more than learning how to cook,” she states, “it’s about connecting to the natural world that nourishes us all. It’s about farmers and ranchers, and the land and the water. It’s about the idea of sharing sustenance with those you care about in the context of a meal. It’s about connecting with the rich cultural history that has been passed on to us through the foods we eat.” She believes that eating is more than supplying our bodies with fuel, though not discounting the value of healthy foods. Instead, eating feeds our souls as well as our bodies. “Food provides a context for our history, our lives and our relationships.”

Julia traces her culinary roots back to memories of standing in her Italian grandmother’s kitchen, stirring the tomato sauce that seemed to take days to prepare. In this household, the kitchen was the center of the home, the focal point of everyone who came there. Married to an immigrant Greek-American, Julia’s grandmother prepared food from the “old country,” both that of her ancestors in Italy, and that of her husband’s in Crete. Vegetables were raised in the garden that encompassed the whole back yard of the small, suburban central valley home. The garden was dominated by two huge citrus trees, a navel orange and an old lemon, and was the source of a multitude of produce from beans to zucchini. Each season yielded new treats for the table. A small box of pint canning jars wrapped in a blanket inhabited the linen closet, each jar containing the fresh yoghurt that her grandfather cherished as a memory of his childhood. The pantry shelves were stacked with row upon row of preserved tomatoes, beans, fruits, jams, jellies and relishes. Never having learned to drive, her grandmother would walk to the neighborhood grocer, pulling a wire basket cart behind her, returning with only those items that could not be grown at home. Holidays were consumed with the preparation and consumption of the traditional foodstuffs of a variety of cultures. For Easter, a whole leg of lamb sat marinating in red wine, garlic and fresh rosemary, then roasted on a spit until the crust was crisp and savory. Huge artichokes and fresh asparagus spears were steamed and served with butter or homemade mayonnaise. Huge dishes of baked pastas brimming with tomatoes and cheese waited in the oven. The centerpiece of the meal was the traditional Easter bread, the golden loaf braided around bright red hard boiled eggs. The meal would begin around two in the afternoon, and often the adults would not leave the table until well after seven in the evening.

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 Vineyards of Anderson Valley



Mendocino Winegrape & Wine Commission Appoints Julia Kendrick Conway to Board.

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Newest Member of Stella Cadente: Julia Kendrick Conway

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