A few weeks ago a friend sent me a link to an article published in The Chronicle of Higher Education. The title was “The Newly Complicated Zora Neale Hurston” authored by two professors Glenda R. Carpio and Werner Sollors of Harvard University. My first thought was what makes Zora complicated? Zora doesn’t start with a swash-buckling “Z” for nothing.

Apparently, scholars have started digging into the writing to discover that Zora was a city girl. Well, yes, she left Eatonville, Florida and took up residence in Baltimore, Washington, DC and New York. Nothing complicated about that. The authors discovered a photo of Zora in the Ritz-Carlton at the table with the Harlem Renaissance heiress/philanthropist and “It Girl” A’Lelia Walker (daughter of Madame C.J. Walker); unpublished stories with city themes and characters. It’s suggested the field may have been too crowded on the urban theme among the “Nigerrati” (as she and Wallace Thurman referred to the artistic Negro intellectuals of their day). So Zora’s stories went south to the folk she grew up with; to Eatonville. But that didn’t deter her from kicking up her heels under the city lights:

“What do you think I was doing in Washington all that time if not getting cultured. I got my foot in society just as well as the rest.”

“So I came to New York through Opportunity, and through Opportunity to Barnard.”

That’s why this month Eatonville Restaurant‘s Food & Folklore is pulling back on the fried chicken and pulling out the Oysters Rockefeller for a “Zora in the City” themed event hosted by Zora’s niece Lucy Anne Hurston. This is an opportunity to ask a member of the family just how “complicated” Zora really was in the urban setting. Did Zora have a shoe fetish? Why were her parties the place to be? Did her Shrimp and Okra have anything to do with it? Or Zora’s homemade gingerbread?

Surf-n-Turf will be the main entree for the Eatonville event. Though Zora’s DC residency coincided with her studies at Howard University, she did do a bit a waitressing at the exclusive Cosmos Club. But you don’t have to be a member to be with Zora in the City.

WHAT: “Zora in the City” Food & Folklore with guest host Lucy Anne Hurston
WHERE: Eatonville Restaurant, 2121 14th Street, NW
WHEN: Sunday, January 23 at 6:30 PM
COST: $45 plus tax and gratuity. Tickets available at this link. Or call 202-332-9672

Prix Fix Menu – Prepared by Eatonville’s Executive Chef Garret Fleming:

– Passed hors d’ouevres – Oysters Rockefeller and BBQ lamb sliders – accompanied by a special themed drink;
– Chilled Iceberg Wedge Salad with thick cut bacon lardons, avocado, cherry tomato, buttermilk dressing
– (Surf and Turf) Grilled Filet served with truffled au gratin potatoes layered with caramelized onions, pomme soufflé crisp; Jumbo shrimp stuffed with lump crab and crawfish, sauce Béarnaise and veal jus, Mediterranean spinach;
– “Jump-at-the-Sun” Upside-Down Pear Gingerbread Cake

Food & Folklore is the grand finale to Eatonville’s Zora-Fest, the month-long birthday celebration of “everything Zora.” Check their website for other food/drink events and specials.