Posts Tagged With: 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

Holidays Without Our Parents

So,every adult child has to go through this at least once and some of us have to face it 4 or more times if you are married. It is the day you realize that you will not have a Mother or Father around for the holidays.That you are grown up and you have lost the one or two people in your life that you look up too.  This is the first full year after losing my Mother In Law and one of many years since Tom and I have both lost fathers. The Holidays feel different without them and we feel that we have lost the key to our holiday celebrations.

I think I was in shock last Thanksgiving.I do not even remember what we eat and even if we did  eat… some how I just blanked it all out from Oct 22nd to New Years day. I remember the tree and the kids opening gifts and making breakfast for my family but not much more. I was a stay at home mom then… what did I do for three months??

It seems that this fall the reminder of the loss is tangible. It is harder this year, I can’t call up and ask a questions about how to make stuffing, from the father who has been gone 25 years. The holiday craft making for Sunday School kids is just a distant memory. Christmas cookies and candy over flowing from my mother’s kitchen is no more and I wonder how we will continue as adults. Children suffer deeply with the loss of a grandparent or step grandparent,but I wonder if they feel the loss as long as the adults.The pain lingers for years as we share dinners, gifts and reminders that the person is gone. They are not replaced by thoughts of a new toy,an exciting movie or by the first boy friend or girl friend.

The reply to my heart-break most often is “make  your own memories and traditions” share them with the children. The logic seems to work until you realize how many of us do not have children or have only one.The family dynamic has changed and we don’t always have younger siblings or children share the traditions with.

In my case shopping at the mall is nothing compared to the years I spent making cookies with my mother in our kitchen.Tom still misses opening day of deer season with his Dad and Thanksgiving is not the same without having everyone together for dinner at his parents house. My husband and I still continue to share both of those traditions with our own children and try to pass down those memories to them so nothing is lost.

It is tough doing “Adult”sometimes.I guess we keep moving forward the best we can and at times just fall apart when we finally realize that times change and we can’t stop them.Loss is part of living and being a grown up is all we can do. As Dory says” Just Keep Swimming”.

I am finding it hard to be excited for the Holidays this year,even with the little ones around. I will do my best to make our home warm and inviting and we will have friends and family here.The kids will spend time together and we will eat well. But in my heart there will still be an empty chair at our table. I will spend a few minutes remembering and giving thanks for those we have been lucky to know and love,but Thanksgiving is going to be tough this year. empty-chair-at-thanksgiving

 

Categories: About me, childhood memories, Colorado, Family, grandma, Thanksgiving | Tags: , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Grandma Powers Southern Style Carrot Cake

Many of you who know me or read this blog regularly know that I like to  share my families culture, history  and traditions. So to honor the State of Virginia where this cake was first made and to honor my  mother in law I want to share her cake receipt with you. In doing this I am hoping to keep one more of our families traditions alive.

Around 50 years ago my husband’s family  lived just outside of Winchester Virginia. Where they lived with up to 7 children off and on, some are from a first marriage, ( they added one later to make a nice round 8). Moving often due to the nature of Grandpa Powers work as a bulldozer operator. He spent years building the many interstate and highway systems of the two states. I- 79 running north and south in West Virginia is one of the last he worked on. Grandpa would often fallow the construction for many miles often leaving for months at a time.This meant leaving Grandma with a house full of kids to raise on her own. So as a frugal home maker she often made home-made desserts for her children and neighbors kids. One of the mothers that she met while living in Winchester, shared this wonderful cake with her and told her that it came from a very expensive hotel in the area in the late 1950’s. It has been in the family ever since and is my personal favorite cake of all times. So someone in the 1950 got it right and we have not changed much about the cake in the last 65  years.

So as my birthday is only a few days a way, I though it fitting to make myself this cake. It is a frosting free cake. I am not an icing person and neither is my husband so this cake gets served at our house with just a cold glass of milk. I hope that all of you will try it and love it. It is just one of the many traditions that I am so happy to have gained from one of my favorite people.

Southern Style Carrot Cake

3 cups sifted flour

2 cups sugar

2 tsp baking soda

2 tablespoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon cloves

1 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cup vegetable oil… ( yes we know that it seems like a lot but it is just perfect)

3 beaten eggs

2 tsp Vanilla

1 20 oz can crushed pineapple ( Use a good brand, generic seems tough in the cake we use Dole)

1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped pecans

Just use a kitchen spoon for this cake no need to get the mixer out. Bake at 350 for 1 hour and 1/2 to 1 hour and 40 minutes, test with tooth pick to make sure the cake is dry inside.

I start shredding 2 cups carrots this usually means about two large and one small carrot. If you have slightly more than two cups just add it in.

Mix dry ingredients together, flour sugar, soda, salt and spices.

dry ingredients for carrot cake

dry ingredients for carrot cake

Stir and then add in wet ingredients, oil, can of pineapple, vanilla and slowly at the end add beaten eggs.

adding wet ingredients to carrot cake.

adding wet ingredients to carrot cake.

ready to beat eggs and add to cake

ready to beat eggs and add to cake

When eggs are incorporated in the  batter add shredded carrots and pecans. Pour batter into a large pan like a 13 x 11 deep ( not a Pyrex 11 x 13 glass pan) cake pan or angel food cake pan. The cake can be cut into about 12 to 15 pieces.

two piece angel food cake pan with cooking spray

two piece angel food cake pan with cooking spray

I use this pan so the cake can be placed on my cake stand and it cools faster with out the outside ring.

 

Carrot cake out of the oven

Carrot cake out of the oven

This cake is dense and rich but not overly sweet.The cake stores well at room temperature and with out cream cheese icing it does not need refrigeration.  It does take about 4 hours for the cake to totally cool and get firm to eat with you fingers. Yummy as a late night snack.

Finished Southern Style Carrot Cake with no frosting needed

Finished Southern Style Carrot Cake

 

Thanks for the Birthday cake recipe Grandma it is delicious as always.

Wanda Gay Powers At Christmas 2012

Wanda Gay Powers At Christmas 2012

 

Categories: Birthday, cakes and family deserts, country cooking, grandma | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Family Tradition: Deer Season Opening Day Nov 27th 2014

I was born into a hunting family, I married into a hunting family and I am now raising my own little hunters. So if you find hunting or eating wild game offensive please skip this post. The hunting life style is a huge part of our everyday lives here in North Central West Virginia. Our family’s have hunted for wild game for generations. This is a wonderful photo of my husbands Grand Father with a 28 point buck that shot some time in the 1950’s in Randolph County West Virginia.

Thomas Bennton Powers  with his monster buck

Thomas Benton Powers with his monster buck

My father on the other hand hunted for Elk and Mule deer in the mountains of Colorado. Both families eat what they hunted and were subsistence hunters. This was a way to feed their  family’s through long cold winters and lower the cost of having sometimes 4 to 8 children.

So hunting in my family today is less important to sustain our smaller families, but is still a deeply rooted part of who we are as people. It is on these cold dark November mornings that sometimes three and ever four generations gather together after working long hours all summer to find time to finally visit. In most cases the whole family gets involved in some way, some cook food for the hunters who roam in and out, some butcher, some hunt, some grind and pack but every one takes part in the opening of Deer Season.

Toms dad with a nice buck in the 1980's

Toms dad with a nice buck in the 1980’s

Tradition is that Grandma starts Grandpa’s coffee pot around 5:00 a.m. on opening morning. The sisters get chili on the stove for lunch and I  wash knives clean grinders and get butcher paper out and get ready to butcher.The drive way slowly fills with trucks and SUV’s and at 5:45 a.m. just about everyone in the family besides the smallest children are up eating a hardy breakfast going over plans for the day. Before the death of my father-in-law mornings in the kitchen sometime warmed 10 people ready to head to the woods looking for a deer that was worth the effort of dragging home.

Cody A Powers age 8 first deer.. 1998... 78 years after the above photo of his great grandfathers deer

Cody A Powers age 9 first deer.. 2000… 50 years after the above photo of his great grandfathers deer

In our family it is not only the men who hunt and my daughter in law and myself have hunted and learned the rules of safe hunting. We are not able to hunt as often as the men but we enjoy what time we can spend in the cool quite mountain air just like they do. The hunting sport is very adaptable for anyone who choose to have the experience. My son who is 6 will hunt with his dad this year although he is not allowed to kill any thing until he is 8 years old. I will hunt later in the year after the Thanksgiving rush is over and go muzzle-loader hunting in Dec. if my foot allows. My daughter in laws brother who is a paraplegic will hunt from his truck in a mountain meadow with a friend again this year. The people who enjoy the hunting experience are as different as any group but share one common believe. That hunting is a gift, that nature should be shared and protected. That the more time we are able to get back to our roots the better we are as people.

Opening day of deer season young couple hunting together(Cody and Jamie Powers)

Opening day of deer season young couple hunting together(Cody and Jamie Powers)

Hunting teaches so many lessons that are rarely learned any place else. First is of course is gun safety and second is the lesson about life and death. It is in a hunters first kill that they discover the emotional and moral consequences of killing another being. There are many people who after that first kill discover that hunting is NOT EASY. It is not a prideful experience and many people chose to never do it again. Then there are others who give thanks for what they have received from the earth and know that with the loss of one life, ours will continue. It is one of the only ways that a person can feel that they are truly part of the cycle of life. That you are a living part of nature, part of a system that is older than the human race.

Cody at 22 years old with his 1st wild turkey.

Cody at 22 years old with his 1st wild turkey.

I know that there are bad people everywhere and the hunting community has their share. I can’t tell you that people do not poach wild animals, I can’t tell you that people don’t trophy hunt. I can’t tell you that people don’t get hurt while hunting, guns are dangerous and deadly. What I can tell you is this, that the time shared outside with a grandfather or grandmother is what teaches the next generation about the meaning of life. It is the connection from one generation to the next that forms a bond of education and respect. I want my sons and grandsons to have the same experiences and life lessons that my husband and I have had in the woods. It is from generations back that we teach others how to have respect for what the land gives to us.

Seneca Rocks, West Virginia

Seneca Rocks, West Virginia

So as opening morning of deer season approaches the excitement builds. The guns get cleaned, the warm gloves are found, friends called and plans confirmed. When dawn comes you experance a fall sunrise through the trees, watch steam rise from an icy pond, listening to chip monk chattering in the leaves and see hunting in a different way. It really isn’t about killing at all. It is about family and wild life and the glory of an early morning in the woods.

Tom and Christopher getting ready to hunt together age 5

Tom and Christopher getting ready to hunt together age 5

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Cody, deer hunting, family memories, Hunting, natural resources, Seneca Rocks, Uncategorized, Venison, wild food, wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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