TABLE OF CONTENTS
Virginia B. Wood Papers
An Inventory of the Collection
Virginia B. Wood was born in 1950 to Loruth Walden and William Hobart Wood in Midland, Texas. She and her family visited Austin during her childhood for her dad’s position on the State Board of Pharmacy. Wood eventually moved to Austin to attend the University of Texas where she studied Spanish and early childhood education.
She taught briefly in Florence, Texas, and then returned to Austin where she began baking at Fonda San Miguel. She worked nights and weekends making tortillas and desserts at the restaurant. That led to a new career as a professional baker. She spent the early 1980s selling baked goods to Austin restaurants including Ricco’s, Mike & Charlie’s Emporium, Katz’s Deli, Magnolia Café, Kerbey Lane Café, and Basil’s.
She then studied journalism at Austin Community College and began writing a syndicated column of 500-word stories that was published in newspapers across Texas. In 1995, she started a food column in the Austin Chronicle. From 1997 to 2014, she was the full-time food editor for the Austin Chronicle.
In 2005, she co-wrote Fonda San Miguel: Thirty Years of Food and Art. She died in 2018 at a care facility in San Antonio, Texas and is buried in Midland.
Broyles, Addie. “Longtime Austin food columnist Virginia B. Wood dies at age 67,” Relish Austin (blog), Austin American-Statesman, March 12, 2018, http://food.blog.mystatesman.com/2018/03/02/longtime-austin-food-columnist-virginia-b-wood-dies-at-age-67/
The collection is arranged into four series that document Virginia B. Wood’s personal life, food writing, other creative writing, and research/subject files. The personal materials contain a very small amount of correspondence in the form of thank you cards and letters from 1990 to 1995. Of note are letters from Women & Their Work regarding Wood’s fundraising assistance in 1990 and 1994. A 1997 goodbye letter sent by James A. Michener to his friends prior to his death was framed by Wood, but for preservation purposes removed from the frame. Also in her personal materials is a half-filled bankruptcy worksheet from a personal lawyer.
The bulk of the collection documents Wood’s food writing career. Wood saved the Food Section from the Austin Chronicle for various years between 1995 and 2015. The Food Sections of 1995, 2008-2010, and 2013 are comprehensive, but there are very few (under 5 issues) for the years 1998, 1999, 2012, and 2014-2015. An undated draft of a cookbook titled “Crowd Pleasers: Cooking in Quantity” with a stamp from a New York literary agent, Anita Diamant, provides recipes designed to provide 60-100 servings. The bulk of the food writing documents Wood’s research and writing on Austin restaurant Fonda San Miguel, which serves interior Mexican cuisine. Notes and postcards about the restaurant’s art collection, a calendar commemorating their 40th anniversary, a bound menu, correspondence sent to Fonda San Miguel’s owner Thomas Gilliland, and a history of Chef Miguel Ravago’s career make up the materials Wood collected on the restaurant. Early reviews of the restaurant from 1975 to 1983 that were published in Texas Monthly and a 2002 feature article published in the Austin Chronicle are also collected. The drafts, outlines, meeting agendas, and proofs of the book Wood co-wrote, Fonda San Miguel: Thirty Years Of Food And Art, along with the recipes and testing questionnaires from 2003 to 2005 make up a large portion of the materials.
Other writing by Wood, in the form of short stories and plays, largely dates from 1988 and contains the stamp of her New York literary agent Anita Diamant. Subject/research files collected from the mid-1970s to 2015 make up the remainder of the collection. Of note are recipes and notes from the Ann Clark French Cooking School in Austin, Texas during the 1970s. A large number of recipes from Wood’s personal catering business are also of interest. There is also a bound recipe collection with a hand-painted cover for Maria Corbalan’s Taco Xpress and a Spamarama cookbook gifted to Wood, who served as a 1998 Spamarama Cook-Off judge. Other items of note are a 2005 master’s thesis and documentary created by Lori Najvar on Texas Czech sausage; research on the history of Boggy Creek Farm; and a scrapbook dedicated to Threadgill’s that dates from 1984-1993. A PDF on a disc of a press release for Mangia Chicago Stuffed Pizza’s 20th anniversary was printed and placed in the collection for easier access. Additionally, there is documentation of Wood’s involvement as a James Beard Book Award judge and information about Texas Woman’s University’s Cookbook Collection.
Open to all users
The Austin History Center (AHC) is the owner of the physical materials in the AHC collections and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from the AHC before any publication use. The AHC does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright owners. Consult repository for more details.
Virginia B. Wood Papers (AR.2018.019). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas.
Donor #: DO/2018/046
Donation Date: 06/30/18, 07/31/18
Processing and finding aid by Kelly Hanus in October 2018.