OffStage with Rhonda Vincent
Have you ever wondered about the offstage world of a professional musician? Every month in this column, bluegrass now will provide a glimpse into the lives of some of your favorite bluegrass stars. (By the way, you can move your cursor over photos to see the captions!)
She's a spitfire, and there's no other word for it. Rhonda Vincent has as much energy as some high-voltage toddlers. We ran fast enough to catch up with her at a festival this summer, and we could hardly catch our breath!
“My grandma went constantly,” she says. “My mom goes constantly. And they say I'm the same way. I ran the dolly with the t-shirts over to the record table this morning. I like to do that sort of thing. If I feel good doing it, I go for it.”
That incredible energy is enhanced by Rhonda's favorite little luxury. She starts each day with an enormous mug of French vanilla coffee - the kind in the little can with the colors of the French flag. “I have it down to a fine science at home. The milk is done at exactly the proper time when the toast is just popping up!” she laughs. “I have to start my day with that, and if I don't, the day isn't the same!”
These days, Rhonda cruises the highways of America in a Martha White bus; she's a spokesperson for the well-known company. Her mobile accommodations enable her to indulge in her favorite luxury, even on the road.
A veteran traveler, Rhonda offers a tip for the road to aspiring touring musicians. “Always travel with a travel alarm clock,” she advises. “You can't depend on a wakeup call, and sometimes the hotel's alarm clock doesn't work either.”
Clocks and electronics are some of Rhonda's favorite things. She inherited her passion for gadgetry from her father, Johnny Vincent. “Any little gadget, my dad and I love. I travel with a laptop, a cell phone, a minidisk… all kinds of gadgets.” Rhonda finds opportunities to get online wherever she goes. “Truck stops like the Flying Js are great… Nashville Airport, Concourse A… I have sought out every possible place to hook up!”
Though you'd never guess it to look at her slender frame, Rhonda's passionate about food. “When we did Prairie Home Companion, we stayed at the St. Paul Hotel in Minnesota… and the restaurant in there? Ho-lee cow! It is unbelievable. I had a filet mignon, a strawberry spinach salad… the biggest baked potato I have ever seen in my life.”
When she goes home to Kirksville, Missouri, Rhonda settles into a sweet routine. “The first thing I do is get $200 worth of groceries. I want a home-cooked meal!” She enjoys cooking for her husband Herb, and daughters Sally, 14, and Tensel, 12.
Rhonda learned her cooking skills from her grandmother, who taught her how to make caramel dumplings, and her mother, whose pickled beets can always be found in Rhonda's refrigerator. She also acquired some culinary skills from a home economics class she took in junior high school. “My brothers come visit and I fix them homemade cheeseburger pizza. I make my own crust with a recipe that I learned from my teacher!”
The Vincents love food so much that when their favorite local restaurant came up for sale a few years ago, they decided to buy it. “It's called Bogie's, and my husband is the manager. We have the best prime rib in Missouri!” she says proudly. The Vincents regularly stir a little music into the recipe. “We have a bluegrass jam the first Wednesday of every month. It starts at 7:00PM, and if I'm home, I'm there!”
As a working mother who travels a lot, Rhonda involves Sally and Tensel in her career as much as she can. When she was working on Back Home Again, her 2000 album from Rounder Records, she showed them a draft of the CD cover art. “The inside was blank, under the CD. Sally said, 'Tsk! You need a picture under your CD. You don't want that to be blank!'” The empty space was filled with a photo, to Rhonda's satisfaction - and young Sally's delight.
What does Rhonda Vincent like to do most when she's not on the road? “Sit on the Internet and Instant Message!” she grins. “That's pretty much what I do. First thing in the morning, I get my French vanilla and toast, and I get online and start talking to my friends!”
Visit Rhonda online at www.rhondavincent.com.
From the Kitchen of Rhonda Vincent:
Here is the recipe Rhonda uses, just as her grandma gave it to her. Like many traditional recipes, these caramel dumplings require some expertise that comes with lots of practice!
Brown 2 cups of sugar in skillet until all is melted. Add 2½ cups hot water. This will get hard, but just let it melt while cooking. Add 1 cup sugar, margarine and 1 tablespoon vanilla. While this is cooking make a mixture in a bowl of ½ cup sugar, margarine, pinch of salt, ½ cup milk, and baking powder. Add enough Martha White Flour to make the dough stiff enough to drop by spoonfuls into boiling sugar mixture. Bake until brown, about 30 minutes at 375 degrees.