family traditions

Appalachian Food, Trend or Tradition?

So after appearing on the TV show State Plate where my family was featured making traditional Appalachian foods and now that CNN’s Anthony Bourdain  has traveled to West Virginia in his show Explore Parts Unknown, I am a little confused if the food of my home is now trendy or traditional? I wonder what it is that we as people are looking for when we have come back and taken the simple county food that my family eats and made it trendy.

I wonder if our nation has had so much world food exposure that we are looking for something that is truly American, something with traditions and stories that reflect our basic American history. Many Americans have never eaten self butchered meats, home-made breads,home canned fruits and veggies from the garden. So to these people my family and the mountain communities that surround me seem novel. Yet, I view myself and my way of living as traditional to Appalachia and not unique in any way. In reality it is not unique to most  Americans either, just forgotten for a few generations.

Christopher and Cody picking Pumpkins with Paige on the way to pick them up

Christopher and Cody picking pumpkins and Paige on the way with the wagon

Food is just one aspect of a life here that is lived believing you will only be able to count on your family and yourself in an uncertain future. Families still raise gardens to provide valuable nutrition, they hunt, fish and forage as a normal part of the seasons. They can and dry foods for the winter and share the bounty with those they know and love. It is simple and direct to make food from what is growing near by. It saves money and is better for you because it is less likely to have chemicals and pesticides.  It only seems odd or novel to outsiders who would never think of eating wild rabbits or making your own wine from plants that grow like weeds. It also takes skills that many have forgotten over the generations. They say time stands still in the hills, so in this way we are fortunate to have kept the skills alive.

To my surprise, I was recently invited to be part of a historical “Foodways” museum exhibit at the Beverly Heritage Center  in Beverly, West Virginia. I shared some of my families recipes and our way of preparing several items that have been in the family for generations. I even shared some of the cooking tools we use for the display, some being over 60 years old.

BHC cooking display board

As part of the display the Museum created this panel about my family’s food history. It will be on display for the summer placed on a dinner table with 5 other panels. Each one sharing a Appalachian food story and a couple of recipes. Then during opening day Jenny the curator of the project will serve several of the foods that the families have shared with her during the collection process. I hope to make the apple sauce cake for her and the visitors and share some more of my families stories. The exhibit opens June 9th in the lobby of the Beverly Heritage Center in Beverly, West Virginia. 

After my interview with Jenny, I began to reflect on the resent fascination with our rural foods. Our interview reminded me of why country families and mountain communities have such attachments to their food. Food is the link to each other and the communities that they value. As Jenny and I chatted, I found myself saying that it is often times food that brings us all together. It is church dinners and family holidays, birthdays and funerals, fairs and festivals, that whole communities will gather together to share in someones pain or celebration. Our foods are about nourishment, not only of the body but of the soul. We have family time, say Grace, and keep in touch with friends, families all with food. It is these connections with food that is different in the world today. Today’s families rarely sit down at the table to eat a meal together. Holiday meals are not home-made anymore. Never allowing everyone to get involved in the preparations.  Here in Appalachia often we know who butchered the meat, made the beer and wine that we toast with, know the woman who made the jams, jellies and the children who made the cookies sitting on the table our Thanksgiving table.

Today people have no idea what the ingredients are in their food or even how they  are grown or raised. Kids eat in the car and we get milk in plastic bottles. We have lost touch with the joy of our food.

Appalachian food is about being authentic and natural, full of stories and traditions. Sometimes it is fancy and other times it is simple and filling, but it is often more about who you share a meal with then the food on the plate that is important.

Categories: About me, canning, cooking, country cooking, Country life, Dandelions, family traditions, Foraging, Hand Pies, history, hobbies, Holidays, Jam, State Plate TV show, West Virginia, wild food | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Deer Meat, Pretty Girls and The Ghost Women.

It seems to me that family traditions are become fewer and fewer with each year. We talk less, spend time together less and often it is too late when we realize we needed information that has already slipped away. So to prevent that from happening today my husband and I spent the day teaching two of my younger girl friends the art of skinning, quartering and cutting up a deer to make into venison burger.

So when Danielle and Samantha asked me about our life style here in West Virginia, hunting and deer processing came up. They both asked if they could learn more about butchering and how we prepare the meat that we hunt. It was a wonderful day of being outside spending time with  two pretty girls and my husband.

 

So the morning started with the 4 of us in the garage with a nice buck hung and ready to skin. The process is easier when the deer is still warm but with this deer we wanted to the girls to help learn the process from the beginning. Tom took time to explain the steps needed to cut through the skin and the processes of pulling the hide down over the body to the head of the deer. Each girl taking turns pulling and tugging. Then he showed each girl how the quart the deer and cutting off anything we don’t butcher. Slowly, we moved the quartered pieces into the house to be cut up and ground into burger.

Each took a cutting board and knife and begin to talk about the different cuts of meat that people use. We made roasts and talked about stake and stew meat. We talked about our favorite ways to make jerky and what people do to cut the “gameness” of venison.  We eventually had a tub full of venison chunks that would be ready to grind in a few minutes.

 

As we talked, laughed and told stories I had the distinct feeling of the past coming to life. As if generations of women were watching us and reflecting on our work. A tribe of woman from Danielle’s Alaska, a group of farm woman from Samantha’s Ohio and a group of homesteading woman from my West Virginia, all crowd around us in spirit. They whispered their comments, talking about how they once smoked, canned, dried and froze the meats that men and boys brought home. How they took pride in their work and how hunting and butchering were shared activities in families. How no one was left out, everyone was expected to help in providing for the long winter months.

As we break for lunch, I make a pot of venison barley soup and thin slices of tenderloin fried until brown for steak sandwiches. We eat together and talked about our homes, fulling our bodies with the goodness that our hard work  produced. The ghost women of the past seem satisfied with our skills for today. They know that their grandchildren have learned some of the skills that kept generations of our ancestors alive. Lessons that the ghost women are happy that we are sharing.

Tom takes time to help with the grinding as I stuff it into bags. We feel the ghost women retreat, they shower their blessings on my family and home as they fade away. I take the bags to the freezer and close the lid. I stop in the gray light of the basement and say a prayer of thanksgiving to all of those who have helped me on my way to becoming one of the keepers of this knowledge and a woman of the woods.

6 point white tail buck

It is not often in the modern world we are asked to share our traditions with others. So, I was so happy to have these two pretty girls come and spend a day with me learning a skill that I have repeated a hundred times over the years. It was wonderful sharing my life with people who want to learn about it and want to be in some way a woman of the woods also.

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, cooking, deer, deer hunting, family traditions, Hunting, organic food, rural life, Venison | Tags: , , , , , | 10 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.

The Helsingian Pathfinder

the inward path is the way ahead

Daydreaming Millennial

Come for the thoughts, stay with the journey.

Monkeying Around

Monks, monkeys and monkeying around. An adventurous life.

Dreaming Reality

If Existence is a dream, let us dream perfection....

alifeofvanity.wordpress.com/

For anyone who has ever thought of attempting the #vanlife, A Life of VANity is an unfiltered, realistic look at the unglamorous day-to-day happenings of life in a Chevy G20 Conversion van. Unlike other #vanlife blogs, A Life of VANity is here to show you that it isn’t all roadtrips and ocean-side views, and that there’s nothing wrong with living in a backyard or two.

Beyond the Campfire

Stories of exploration

Thrifty Campers

Nature knows no such barriers

Missmackenzierose

Dream-Explore-Discover

Camellia's Cottage

Lifestyle Blog

Free to express

thoughts, experiences, travel, feelings, stories, diaries and many more...

Appalachian Housewife

The Mullens' Family's Journey Running The Pioneer Farm at Twin Falls State Park

Recipes by chefkreso

Cooking with imagination

Trish the Dish

Keeping Our Family's Bellies and Minds FULL.... One Dish at a Time

%d bloggers like this: