Food, Food Artisans

Fried Walleye & Cherry Pie Dinner Friday 12/5

Authors Peggy Wolff & Bonnie Jo Campbell come to Cornman Farms for dinner!

Menu inspired by food essays from the ‘Fried Walleye and Cherry Pie’ collection

There are few things in life that make us as happy as good book – but a delicious meal might be one of them. Cornman Farms will be holding its Inaugural Book Club Dinner this coming Friday, December 5, at 6:30pm in honor of author Peggy Wolff and her outstanding book, Fried Walleye and Cherry Pie: Midwestern Writers on FoodThe dinner will feature a conversation between Wolff and National Book Award finalist and Fried Walleye contributor, Bonnie Jo Campbell.

Ari recently caught up with Peggy to ask her a few questions about the collection.

Ari: The new book looks great—a real tribute to the foodways of our part of the world. How did it come together?
Peggy: Years ago I read an essay by (Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter) Rick Bragg about having a meal in his momma’s kitchen. His writing stunned me. It was about food, but it was also about the South, about his bone-naked love for his momma. And his ability to tell a story? It just transcended whatever food was on the table in his momma’s kitchen. I dog-eared that page and said to myself: I am going to do this—-but in the Midwest. I am going to invite authors and radio journalists, pastry chefs and food writers, and pull together a contemporary collection of Midwestern food writing. But it’s just never only about the food. I wasn’t looking for someone to deconstruct bratwurst. That’s someone else’s book.  I stuck to one idea–we call it narrative food writing. And I never let go. That was the genesis of the book.

What were some of your biggest learnings from working on it? 
Great question. I didn’t search out authors with farm roots but it turns out that six of my contributors had either grown up on a farm, or spent a lot of time on a grandparent’s farm, and chose to write about it! Publishing houses I pitched to–thought my collection would be a sentimental walk down “pie lane.”  Ha!
Let me say that so many contributors did want to write about pie (I could put together an entire anthology on pie) but my collection of memoirs and essays is anything but a sentimental stroll through pie-land. In Fried Walleye, there is humor. There is horror. There is some very serious writing about how hard it is to feed a farm family. And some serious writing alluding to  one farm boy’s mother who was having an affair. Another wrote about intermarriage with another culture and how that changes Thanksgiving around the farm table, and another writer tackled  the disappearance of family dinnertime which has all but vanished today. I love these essays and memoirs; they seem to be effortlessly compelling storytelling.

What struck as you being unique about the Midwestern attitude to food and cooking?
You know, I have read these essays a gazillion times, and what I keep seeing, what I keep getting back to is that there’s a strength of character, a hardiness, and a willingness to go the extra mile. There’s an attitude to cooking that I could sum up this way:  Midwesterners share the conviction that nothing is as eternally satisfying as feeding people you love.

We’re particularly lucky that Bonnie Jo Campbell is coming to read some of her great work at the dinner as well.  Can you tell us a bit about her, and her writing?
Let’s talk about Bonnie Jo’s book Once Upon a River. Because that’s the book that I looked at to see how Bonnie wrote, what her writing style was. In this novel, the world is not kind to girls, especially one abandoned by her mother. So Margo Crane, a teen, needs to figure out life mostly on her own. Margo is the female heroine in the story and she learns to be a sharpshooter. In order to write this novel, Bonnie went and took gun lessons. And it shows, in the depth of knowledge about cleaning, loading, target practice, and shooting. It’s a page-turner.

We’re excited to have you at Cornman Farms for the dinner. The 1830s barn and farmhouse look great and this is the perfect venue for a Midwestern foodways dinner. Are you excited to come out to Ann Arbor?  
Excited?! This is the most perfect place I could ever think of to bring a collection of Midwestern writing!

reserve your seat here

About the guests: 

Peggy Wolff’s stories have appeared in the Chicago Tribune the Los Angeles Times and several other newspapers. She is the food editor for and has written articles on ultra sports, art, design and photography for numerous publications, including Chicago Magazine, Chicago Tribune SUNDAY Magazine and ArtNews. Peggy is a Chicago native who also spends her time in Park City, Utah.

Bonnie Jo Campbell is the author of several books including, Q Road, Once Upon A River, and American Salvage, among others. For her work, she’s won the AWP prize for short fiction, the Pushcart Prize, and she was a finalist for the 2009 National Book Award in Fiction. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2011. She lives in Western Michigan with her husband and a menagerie of animals.

See you there!