Photograph courtesy Joy Smith
Party on
Joy Smith (right) and Nancy Saunders at an event for PEA (that’s Party Every Afternoon for you nonmembers).

“Don’t live your life on the left-hand side of the menu.”

When Clifford Dowdey, a former creative writing professor at Richmond, said this to his students, he was talking about smaller, simpler items, like appetizers. The right side of the menu, full of entrees and desserts, was where to go for depth, complexity, and richness. Dowdey was encouraging his students, like Joy Smith, W’66, to think big and live richly.

Smith took these words literally when she published a collection of recipes from her cooking column in the Fort Mill Times, a newspaper in South Carolina. Her book, Tell Me a Story, I’ll Bake You a Cake, opens with desserts and winds up with appetizers. For added flavor, Smith tells the story behind each recipe — including some about her days at Richmond.

Take the flank steak marinade, which comes from Smith’s college roommate of four years, Nancy Saunders, W’66. According to Smith, Saunders was just as “wild and crazy” as she was; the two were proud members of the unofficial sorority PEA (Party Every Afternoon). Smith has stayed in touch with her “partner in crime” to this day. During one visit, Saunders made the “outstanding” steak, and Smith has been making it ever since. 

Smith never imagined that she would spend 10 years writing cooking columns; she never set foot in the kitchen growing up. It was her interest in journalism and writing that led her to pick up both pen and spatula.

“Clifford Dowdey instilled a love of writing in me,” Smith said. “He encouraged our class to write about things we knew. The stories I share about my life create a common bond with my readers.”