John Dabney film shown at the Historic Middlesex Courthouse

March 11, 2018

A new documentary film about John Dabney, a long-forgotten Virginia culinary legend, will be shown on Sunday, March 11, at 3:00 p.m. at the Historic Middlesex Courthouse, 877 General Puller Highway, Saluda, Virginia (map). Entitled "The Hail-Storm: John Dabney in Virginia", the film celebrates the long tradition of African-American culinary excellence and entrepreneurship in the state of Virginia and beyond. John Dabney was a giant of 19th-century Richmond. Born enslaved, he was hired-out to bars and restaurants – and managed to save enough from tips to purchase the freedom of his wife and child when they were threatened to be sold away. Dabney was famous throughout Virginia, and was mentioned in newspapers even decades after his death in 1900. His elaborate "Hail-Storm" mint juleps and terrapin stew were renown.

A post-screening discussion will allow those present to explore some of the issues that are raised in the film. Following the discussion, refreshments prepared by local African-American caterers, Rere's Home Cooking, Scott's Catering, and Susie's Heart and Soul will be served in the Middlesex Museum's Visitor Center. A collection of African-American cookbooks and photographs of local African Americans who made their living in the culinary arts will be on display.

The 20-minute film was produced by filmmakers Hannah Ayers and Lance Warren of Richmond-based Field Studio and funded by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and WCVE.

The screening is sponsored by the Middlesex County Museum & Historical Society, Inc., Middlesex NAACP Unit 7091, and Middle Peninsula African-American Genealogical and Historical Society (MPAAGHS). It is free and open to the public.

Persons who have pictures of family members and friends who were chefs, caterers, or who otherwise worked in the culinary industry are invited to submit those pictures for display. Please call 804.758.5163 to arrange picture submission. Pictures must be received by March 6 to ensure inclusion in the display.