Virginia ham is likely to turn up at any meal in the state. Creamed ham is a favorite breakfast that can be served throughout the day. Chopped ham is simmered in a milk sauce with onion and bell pepper and then served over toast or corn muffins. Egg casseroles with tomato, Swiss cheese, and mushroom, either with a layer of ham on the bottom or with ham served on the side, is also popular. Even more common is breakfast ham, sliced and fried and served next to buttermilk pancakes.
Uncured pork is also popular, especially for summer barbecues. In Virginia, the favorite is loin or shoulder cooked in a ketchup-onion based sauce, shredded, and served as sandwiches on round rolls. Barbecued chicken, on the other hand, is marinated in a very simple oil and vinegar dressing flavored with salt, pepper, and a little poultry seasoning. It's usually cooked slowly on the barbecue to give it flavor. Chicken and turkey potpies seasoned with onion, carrot, and celery normally include potatoes and peas. Chicken or turkey and ham are also a common base for sandwiches. Fried chicken is common for Sunday suppers or picnics. Country-fried steak pounded thin, battered, fried, and served with cream gravy, is another common meal.
Virginia dip, creamed beef dressed up with chopped pecans, is a popular party dip with crackers or bread sticks. Shrimp spread is Virginia's answer to pimento cheese. Cream cheese is mixed with chopped stuffed green olives, onion, mayonnaise, and cooked chopped shrimp, and seasoned with a little lemon, Worcestershire sauce, and cayenne. It's served with crackers.
Oysters are a favorite along the coast, often coated with cornmeal and deep-fried. Seafood gumbo, usually catfish along with local fish such as bluefish or bass, is similar to the New Orleans recipe with onion, pepper, garlic, tomato, and okra, but usually more mildly seasoned. Fish simply baked in an onion cream sauce is standard fare. Crab cakes, common throughout the Chesapeake Bay area, are also a regular appetizer in Virginia. Deviled crab is similar, but uses bechamel sauce instead of mayonnaise to bind the meat and breadcrumbs. The mixture is usually stuffed back into clean crab shells and deep-fried. Fried shrimp are also a popular meal.
Cornmeal-based spoon bread is a common accompaniment to Virginia meals. The local version normally includes some uncooked grits to add more texture. Peanuts are a popular local snack sometimes used to give regular cream of chicken soup more flavor. Popovers, a modified pancake batter baked in heated, oiled tins, are a popular accompaniment to cold salads. Candied sweet potatoes and fried apples are also popular sides, especially with pork. String beans, black-eyed peas, and collard greens are usually stewed with some pork or ham. Buttermilk biscuits come with almost every meal.
Brown sugar pecan fudge is a favorite sweet treat, as is crisp peanut brittle. Pound cake, rich in eggs and butter, is a common dessert or coffee-break snack. The cake is usually plain vanilla and served with fresh or canned fruit, especially peaches, and whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Sweet butter-brandy or butter-rum hard sauce is a favorite on bread puddings. Chocolate cream pie, a chilled egg and whipped cream concoction, is a quick dessert commonly made from scratch. Six- and seven-layer cakes are more commonly bought than made at home. Solid vegetable shortening is the standard ingredient, not butter. Peanut pie, made much the same way as pecan pie, is another Virginia treat. Buttermilk-based chess pies and fruit cobblers are also popular.
-World Trade Press