Friday, April 30, 2010

Ramping It Up

Am I crazy?

After all, would a sane person fly more than 2,500 miles for a small town event that lasts four hours? Would a sane person then drive six hours from Columbus to Southern West Virginia just so that she could make it to the last hour of the event? Would a person playing with a full deck take a chance that she'd miss the event entirely if she took a wrong turn down a country road? Would a gal with both oars in the water travel for 18 hours just to eat ramps at the Feast of the Ransom in Richwood, West Virginia?

Maybe not crazy so much as obsessed with wild ramps, a cross between a leek and garlic that grows rampant in woodsy areas from South Carolina to Canada.

Of course, when you consider the scenery in West Virginia, the insanity case becomes a little weaker.

The last hour of the drive was alongside a tree-lined stream.

The ostentatious gateway below is not typical of the ramshackle homes that line the country roads. I thought at first this was horse property, but the stone facade is strictly for show. In fact, you'll see more church steeples than stables in this part of the country.

It was easy to tell when I'd entered ramp country, but I had no time to stop. I had a festival to attend.

As luck would have it, I arrived in time for the crowning of the Ramp Princess. I love the crossed ankle pose of the girl on the right. I think she learned that in Ramp Charm School.

I followed this pony-tailed couple to the ramp feed.

The line for the ramps was so long that I felt like I was waiting for a Korean taco at the Kogi BBQ Truck in LA. While I waited, I chatted with folks about their favorite ways to prepare ramps. West Virginians like to par boil them and then saute them in bacon fat with eggs or potatoes. When I was growing up, my mom sauteed them with scrambled eggs. We rolled the stinky concoction in flat bread that we bought from our Syrian neighbors.

The man on the left had time to grow his beard.

I fell in love with the sassy tea, the perfect ramps pairing. I'm looking for a local source for sassafras root so that I can brew my own sassy tea at home.

While waiting in line, I passed many Richwood volunteers wearing Feast of the Ransom aprons and ramp brooches. And I couldn't resist stealing a raw ramp or two from the plates scattered throughout the tables.

At last it was time for the ramp feed. The ramps were boiled and then sauteed. I wish that the cooks had also added ramps to the beans and cornbread.

In true West Virginia fashion, the ramps are cooked to within an inch of their life.

I like 'em raw.

After I returned to Los Angeles, I had a hankering for ramps. I satisfied that craving with a trip to Pizzeria Mozza, where I ordered the ramp pizza.

I brought home three slices of pizza, but when I went to retrieve my left overs, I found that the pizza was gone. The only things in the box were the sauteed greens and bulbs of the ramps. And that suited me just fine.

Now, how crazy is that?