About Rona Roberts
Rona Roberts, host of Savoring Kentucky, writes and speaks about the wonders and pleasures of Kentucky food, farms, and farmers, and about Kentucky’s potentially self-sufficient, resilient local food economy. She is the author of Sweet, Sweet Sorghum: Kentucky’s Golden Wonder, and Classic Kentucky Meals: Stories, Ingredients and Recipes from the Traditional Bluegrass Kitchen, published by The History Press and released in November, 2014. She co-hosts a weekly radio show, Hot Water Cornbread: Kentucky Food Radio, with chefs Ouita and Chris Michel. Rona founded and served as first convenor for the weekly Local Food Percolator lunch in Lexington, Kentucky, a forum for connecting and supporting all who work toward an excellent, self-sufficient local food system. Along with Steve Kay, her favorite man, business partner, and excellent husband, Rona co-hosts weekly Cornbread Suppers every Monday at 6 PM. Be assured pure Kentucky sorghum graces the table each week. You’re invited. No RSVP needed.
Want to know more about the why and wherefore of Savoring Kentucky and Rona Roberts? Here’s Rona’s story of finding her way from farm girl to food writer.
I loved cooking and baking while I was growing up seven miles outside Monticello, Kentucky, in beautiful Wayne County. Mother was a gifted, intuitive cook who thought HER mother was the best cook in the world, making meals out of not much, and making them delicious.
I learned to make the family’s evening meals, with some backup from Mother, by the time I was 11. She headed outside for flower gardening most days after her work as a school librarian. I liked the kitchen better than the heat, sweat, and sweat bees outside.
Mother and Dad grew most of what we ate, even after they took full time jobs as teachers and had to be away from the farm much of the time. Their vegetable garden always included some new vegetables from the winter seed catalogues that looked too intriguing to pass up. I remember when new types of English peas, sweet corn, kohl rabi, tomatillos, zucchini, and broccoli came into our lives.
I helped bake a cake when I was five, I’m told – and I discovered a lifelong love – cake dough! And baking, cooking meals, making things from scratch.
I had to grow up a looooong time before I realized that the foods and growing habits from my childhood made sense long after people abandoned them for the unappetizing, costly packaged foods sold in mega-grocery stores. In fact, my Massachusetts-born husband had to point out to me the wonders of Kentucky agriculture. Not that I ever stopped eating locally grown foods—doing that has been a given all my life.
Starting 30 years ago, when I met Steve, he talked about Kentucky as a paradise, a place where we can all feed ourselves with spectacular, healthy, abundant food. My sweet older sister, Paula, got interested in healthy foods and supplements before anyone else I knew. I listened.
I joined Lexington, Kentucky’s Good Foods Coop in 1972 when it launched as a buying club, more for the low cost cheeses and grains than for the principle of the thing. Same with Lexington Farmers Market, founded by Pam Miller and six farmers in 1975, long before Pam became Lexington's mayor. I started shopping at the Lexington Farmers Market seriously at least 15 years ago, and now much of what we eat from April through November comes from our friends at Lexington’s successful market.
We grow quite a bit of our own food, too. Asparagus, splendid lettuces and spring greens, six or seven types of green beans, and tomatoes – Brandywine and Sungold. We have a fine small herb garden in our downtown side yard.
Starting in 2009, we have a new “add-on” garden about 100 steps from our house. The amazing London Ferrill Community Garden offers community plots, and Steve tends one. He has grown Lacinato and Siberian kales, Golden Cross Bantam corn, and many kinds of beets and green beans there.
I still like cooking much better than gardening. Steve cultivates vegetables and a slowly expanding array of fruits; I cheerlead. I am lucky! I have had home grown or locally grown foods for most of my meals, most of my life. In this blog I share some of what I am exploring, learning, and trying with real, organic, luscious, sustainably and ethically grown local foods.
Nougat Magazine, a beautiful monthly arts publication, no longer with us, gave me a chance to become a food writer (or sorts). I started Savoring Kentucky in March, 2006 because I needed a place to put all the extra ideas and information that came my way as I wrote 27 columns for Nougat.
Enjoy, and, of course, bon appetit!
One small non-food PS: Rona and Steve launched Roberts & Kay, Inc., a professional organization and community development firm, in 1983. Rona's work for RKI as researcher and Steve's as facilitator in this first joint work venture continues today. In addition, Steve began serving as an elected at-large council member of Lexington Fayette Urban County Government in 2010, and was elected Vice Mayor in 2014.
Bonus: Follow Rona's reading at Rona's Reads