After reading Doug Nordfors’ contribution to a recent C-VILLE cover story—a few hundred words pondering the lackluster literary scene in Charlottesville—I began pondering the same question myself, specifically regarding the under-35 literary demographic. Being on break from my own MFA program, I decided to investigate ways to get the local, under-35 literary demographic off their asses and collaborating on something (a webzine, perhaps?). Of course, my first step was to somehow locate some local, under-35 literary types.
My friend Julia (a poet) was on board from the beginning, but I turned to the Internet to find other possible young, local wordsmiths and came across One Star Watt, the blog of local writer and editor Wistar Watts Murray. I scrolled through her various posts and immediately e-mailed Julia the link to Wistar’s site saying, “I want this girl to work on ‘Protagonist.’” (“Protagonist” is the working title for our vague project.) Julia e-mailed back a few minutes later: “Yes, definitely.”
Wistar is funny. And smart. And funny. And smart. And so is her blog. While the superficial content of the blog is the same general stuff of most blogs (i.e. blahblahmeblahblah), she makes blahblahmeblahblah fun to read and that, I think, is the sign of a really good writer. My favorite recent post is entitled “I Am Most Brilliant When I Am Sleepy.” Wistar writes: “It was about 3 in the morning when I woke up with an exciting new perspective on human pollution. I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be weird if people had special habitats for yawning and sneezing in the same way they have special habitats for peeing and defecating?’ Like if someone was sitting at a dinner table and had to hiccup, she would have to excuse herself to the hiccup room and everyone would judge her if she didn’t wash her hands afterwards.” OMG, TOTALLY, Wistar! I SO agree!!! Seriously, call me. We’ll tawk.
Note: This recipe is part of a year-end series of classic Acquired Tastes from the C-VILLE archives. This one first ran in 2002.
Pizza Bella‘s North location in Seminole Plaza may have closed, but there was a lively bar scene early one Friday evening two years ago when we dashed in to pick up a take-and-bake pizza. Because it was the Virginia Film Festival weekend and the restaurant was just around the corner from the airport, we had our fingers crossed for a star sighting. Alas, the only stars we found were the star anise in cream sauce that accompanies this pasta recipe shared with us by head chef Willie Manning. Thanks to what Manning describes as a very authentic but easy dish to whip up at home—"really a no-brainer"—at least you can be the star of your kitchen. These days, you can take your chances on Charlottesville celebrity-spotting at the other Pizza Bella location, still standing on Avon Street.
Spicy Italian Sausage with Penne in Star Anise Cream Sauce
Penne pasta, precooked and reserved (enough for four servings) 2 cups heavy whipping cream 1 1/2-2 lbs. spicy bulk Italian sausage, cut into small pieces 1/2 cup red onions, diced 1/2 cup scallions, diced 1/2 cup sliced crimini mushrooms 6-8 star anise pieces 1 Tbs. minced garlic salt and pepper 1/4 stick unsalted butter 6-8 oz. extra virgin olive oil 1/2 cup white wine (Manning uses Chablis)
In a large, heated sauté pan, combine butter, olive oil, onions, scallions and mushrooms. Cook until onions are translucent. Add garlic; cook 30 seconds to one minute. Deglaze with wine and reduce by about one-half. Add cream, star anise and sausage. Reduce until sauce is thick and sausage is light pink in the middle. Add salt and pepper to taste, remove anise pieces. Add precooked penne and serve. Makes four servings.
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