Food Is Love

Joe Woods is a Cheat Lake resident, chef, and restaurant consultant with a lifetime of experience cooking, eating, and teaching culinary arts in Appalachia. Each month, he shares seasonal recipes, kitchen tips, and “must-try” dishes from Cheat Lake area restaurants and neighbors.

Hello neighbors! I hope this new year is finding you well so far, and this winter hasn’t been too hard on you. With February here, thoughts of sharing love enter my mind, and whether you have cause to celebrate Valentine’s Day or not, food is a love language for many of us, in many different ways. 

I’ll never forget early morning visits to my grandmother’s house as a child, greeted by the savory and buttery aroma of baking biscuits and cast iron skillet-fried sausage… and don’t get me started on the feeling I enjoy while eating bacon and “dunking” eggs – fried, just like my dad would – heavily seasoned and topped with dry dill weed (I know it sounds crazy, but trust me!).

You may have foods or memories like this yourselves, as many studies and stories shared tell us that my experience is not unique to me. Sharing food is a very common way that we show each other affection, find common ground, and make memories. 

Going on a first date? You’re likely to eat something together. When our friends experience a loss, we take them a casserole or their favorite foods. When it’s time for the big game, a birthday celebration, or perhaps most especially, a wedding – everyone is invited to eat together.

Food is a great equalizer. It brings people from all walks of life to the same table in the basic need for sustenance, socialization, and comfort. Chef Anthony Bourdain is famously quoted as saying, “You learn a lot about someone when you share a meal together,” and I’d say the world could use to forge some new tables these days, around which we all could sit and share a meal, working to understand and respect one another better. 

I met my wife at a church potluck dinner twenty years ago, and my seafood alfredo recipe has long been one of her favorites. It has been the requested Valentine’s Day dinner for her many times over these years, so I’ll share it with you here. I learned this family recipe while I served as the chef of a beloved local restaurant years ago, and have yet to find or create one that I or my family enjoy more. It’s a creamy and decadent classic. Here’s hoping you find a reason to share a meal with someone this month. Until next time, eat and love well, neighbors! 

Shrimp Alfredo- Serves 2-4

  • - 1 lb. large raw, peeled & deveined shrimp, thawed and patted dry
  • - 1/2 lb. Fettuccine, cooked to package directions, and strained
  • - 4 tablespoons salted butter, high quality
  • - 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • - Quart (2 Cups) heavy cream
  • - 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • - Tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • - ½ tablespoon ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • - Small bunch fresh Italian parsley, washed & minced
  • Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add butter and garlic to pan and cook, stirring constantly, until butter starts to brown, about 2 minutes. 
  • Add shrimp to pan, season with salt and pepper, and cook, shaking to flip, about 2 more minutes. (flip shrimp halfway with tongs if skillet tossing isn’t your thing!)
  • Add heavy cream, and increase heat to medium-high. Stir, and cook until cream starts to bubble. 
  • Slowly sprinkle parm cheese to melt into the sauce while stirring.
  • Allow sauce to thicken to just short of desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning, and add in cooked fettuccine. (Pasta will absorb some sauce, so I’d add it in while the sauce is still a little runnier than desired finished sauce.)
  • Turn off heat, and use tongs to combine all of the ingredients, allowing to thicken to creamy, silky consistency. 
  • Transfer to plates, garnish with parsley, and enjoy! 
  • Pro Tips: Add thinly sliced onions & mushrooms with the garlic to add depth and texture, or stir in 2 Tablespoons blackened seasoning before adding cream to make “cajun” pasta. Grilled chicken breast, or raw bay scallops may be added to, or subbed for the shrimp. Try the sauce with all kinds of combinations, and make it your own!