Smokehouse Ham, Spoon Bread, and Scuppernong Wine is loaded with down-home recipes for everything from cathead biscuits and pickled ramps to chess pie and scripture cake. Though the recipes are mouthwatering, the more delicious quality of this book is its evocative description of Appalachian culture and the people who nurture it.
The immigrants who began pouring into the area in the early 18th century settled and survived in the rugged mountains by being hardy and adaptable. Lacking a nearby Wal-Mart, they still managed – with determination and creativity — to build homes, feed families, and entertain themselves using whatever was at hand. In the process, customs, legends, and folk heroes grew from some fairly surprising sources.
My own family moved down to the flatlands in the early 19th century, bringing mountain culture with them. For the most part they remained isolated on rural farms until a generation ago, still living by the code of common sense and frugality established of necessity by their forebears. Without regular interaction with the rest of the world, they continued to live as their ancestors had done, giving me the opportunity to experience firsthand the kind of life that most members of my generation can’t even imagine.
Outsiders will probably view the tales of moonshiners, corn shucking, and hog killing with amusement and a touch of cynicism. Every culture has elements that seem bizarre to non-members, but you can take my word for it – Appalachian culture, even in these days of global communication, retains its roots. Drop by my house on New Year’s Day and you can count on a meal of cornbread and black-eyed peas. If my mother is here, there will also be hog jowl and boiled cabbage. We’re not superstitious; we just don’t see any point in taking chances.
For readers who have a connection to Appalachia, Smokehouse Ham, Spoon Bread, and Scuppernong Wine will be a nostalgic visit to a world where meals come from the garden rather than the drive-through, and where families and neighbors, rather than government agencies, take care of their own. It will remind them of what Southerners hold sacred: our place, our people, our traditions. It will also bring back memories that may have been tucked away for years. When is the last time you thought about
Smokehouse Ham, Spoon Bread, and Scuppernong Wine presents traditional Appalachia with heart and a keen eye for its values:
- Planting by the signs
- Cornbread and buttermilk for dessert
- Homecoming and dinner on the ground
“In place of the denigrating mythologies of Appalachia … we see these salt-of-the-earth citizens for what they truly are: smart, industrious, creative, frugal, good-humored, and highly skilled.”
Of course, food is an essential ingredient in Appalachian culture. The hundreds of recipes presented here give a sense of the land and the people. There is a caveat, however – none of the recipes is exactly right. Only my mother’s recipes for biscuits, cobblers and gravies, for instance, are the truly delicious ones.