Appalachian foodways: Cooking ethics and traditions of a diverse population

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Map of Appalachia
Map of Appalachia
Applalachian fall
Applalachian fall
Applachian river
Applachian river
Appalachian farm
Appalachian farm
Appalachian roadway
Appalachian roadway

Appalachia

Appalachia is a mostly mountainous area situated in the eastern section of the United States, It stretches from Alabama in the south to Pennsylvania and into parts of New York in the north. The people living in that area originally migrated from Africa, Asia and Europe. Since World War II the Appalachian culture, once allowed to develop on its own, has been incorporated into the American infrastructure. Although highways and chain stores now dot the mountainsides, even in the most remote sections of the hills, legacies from the early settlers of this diverse area still remain. One such legacy is that of their cooking traditions.

"Mountain" food may not have a homogeneous style, but it is particularly distinct. Although climate and topography have played a large part in what the Appalachian land is able to produce, the area offers much in the way of natural resources. Combine that with the food-ways of the American Indians, which melded with those of the early settlers, and you have a unique culinary style, which includes the selection and combination of food products, as well as ways of cooking and serving it.

Chicken and dumplings
Chicken and dumplings
Corn Bread
Corn Bread
Grits
Grits
Corn Fritters
Corn Fritters
Berry Cobbler
Berry Cobbler

Authentic Appalachian Foods

According to food historians, the most authentic foods from this area appear to be: chicken and dumplings, cornbread, apple stack cake, biscuits and gravy, soup beans, fried potatoes, pork chops, fried chicken, deviled eggs, and green beans. Ellen Bogle, an Appalachian historian, also identifies grits, country ham, kraut, peas, poke, and venison as being equally important.

At the "Heritage Festival of Whitesville" Kentucky in 2002, shucky beans, fried pies, apple butter, wilted lettuce, okra corn pone & fritters, molasses, and berry cobbler were among the important foods displayed, as well as boiled cabbage, rhubarb, baked sweet potatoes and bacon.

These foods are still relied on and enjoyed by Appalachian residents today. Many of the iconic foods of this region are equally common in the southern states; such as, cornbread, biscuits and gravy, fried apples, and chicken and dumplings. Foods such as moonshine, buttermilk and potatoes can be connected with those of Britain.

Drying Apples the modern way
Drying Apples the modern way
Dried Apple Stack Cake/   Applachian Wedding Cake
Dried Apple Stack Cake/ Applachian Wedding Cake

Drying and Preserving

One method of preserving foods in Appalachia was by air and sun drying. Apples grew well in the area and were used in many dishes. The best way of preserving them was to dehydrate them. After coring and peeling the apples, they were cut in half and then quarters. Each quarter was cut into two or three slices. When the apples were ready, they were spread on a large white cloth and placed on top of a shed or other flat area to dry in the sun. A wire screen was laid over them to keep the flies and bugs out.

The slices could also be dried by a wood-burning stove, in a sunny window, or in the oven at a low temperature. When completely dried, they were stored in cloth bags or glass jars. Today, apple dehydration is still very popular. The procedure is basically the same, but utilizes more up to date drying and preserving methods, such as freezing the finished product.

Apple Stack Cake

One of the most "mountain" of all cakes is the Dried Apple Stack Cake. It is a unique variation that replaces the wedding cake, which can be very expensive in the economically deprived area of Appalachia. Friends and family each bring a layer and the bride's family spreads apple preserves, dried apples or apple butter between each layer. It looks like a stack of thick pancakes.

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Comments 26 comments

Lisa HW profile image

Lisa HW 7 years ago from Massachusetts

I never realized these particular foods were associated with Appalachia (and I've never heard of that apple-stack cake at all. :) ). Enjoyed the Hub.


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 7 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky Author

Thanks, Lisa. Boy you're fast. Just finished this hub a couple of minutes ago.


judydianne profile image

judydianne 7 years ago from Palm Harbor, FL

Some of these foods were very popular in Ohio as well. At my family reunions, we ate soup beans, corn bread and my grandma always made a strawberry-rhubarb pie.

Thanks for this interesting hub!


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 7 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky Author

Your welcome, Judy, and that's for stopping by and commenting.


Ms Chievous profile image

Ms Chievous 7 years ago from Wv

Alekhouse,

When I saw this title I thought you were going to talk about real applachian cuisne such as roadkill special or rattlesnake stew! ;) I liked your point about living off the land though. A lot of people here in WV still can what they reap in their gardens. Also butchering deer and fishing are a big part of the appalachian diet


Princessa profile image

Princessa 7 years ago from France

thanks for a great discovery. This is the first time I hear about Appalachia as a region and its food tradition.


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 7 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky Author

@Ms Chievous: Thanks for the comments. I had already done a hub on roadkill, etc when I did my article on Burgoo, so didn't want to be repetitive. If you're interested, check it out at:

Burgoo: http://hubpages.com/food/httpwwwthelegendofburgooc...

Curing hams: http://hubpages.com/food/httpwwwHowtocureahamcom


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 7 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky Author

@Princessa: It's a region not to far from where I live. I'm in Kentucky and parts of Appalachia are close by. Hope you enjoyed the hub. Thanks for coming by.


fastfreta profile image

fastfreta 7 years ago from Southern California

Really good hub, also the photos of the food made me so hungry. Most of these recipes are also indigenous of the deep south.


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 7 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky Author

Yeah, I know they are. Grew eating a lot of them...my family was from North Carolina. I can remember the smells of my grandma's kitchen: cornbread, sweet potatoes, rhubarb pie...etc, etc...yummm.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 7 years ago from South Africa

Great Hub - thanks. I like the idea of understanding diversity through food culture - great idea.

Love and peace

Tony


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 7 years ago from Southern California, USA

This hub makes me crave some really great dishes I have not had in awhile, such as chicken and dumplings and biscuits and gravy. Great to hear about all the rich history of Appalachian food.


Rob Dee profile image

Rob Dee 7 years ago from Florida

i once saw a southern style cookbook that had recipes for possum, raccoon and others. Was fairly amusing.


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 7 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky Author

Tony, Thanks for the nice comments.


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 7 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky Author

SP, You and me both. After I wrote this, I had a family of guests stay with me for three nights. They were from Canada and asked if I could make some American, traditional southern food for breakfast one morning. So I made biscuits and sausage gravy, cheese grits, and country ham. They loved it.

Personally, I wouldn't touch biscuits and gravy with a ten foot pole! Although, I love cheese grits and country ham. But give me my biscuits with butter & honey and scrambled eggs.


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 7 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky Author

@Rob Dee: Yeah, they used a lot of wild animals in their cooking back then: Possum, Raccoon, Rabbits, Squirrel, and I guess, Roadkill. Yuck! Check out this article on Burgoo

http://hubpages.com/food/httpwwwthelegendofburgooc...


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 7 years ago from Southern California, USA

Glad to hear your guests loved the dishes. You sound like a very good cook, and I am sure running a bread and breakfast has taught you a few things.

My grandpa also talked about how he used to like squirrel. I am just way too sensitive for meat like that :).


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 7 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky Author

SP: Me neither....about eating Squirrel. My dad was a hunter and would bring home Squirrel, Rabbit, Deer and Pheasant. I couldn't touch any of it. My heart wouldn't let me.


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 6 years ago from East Coast, United States

What a rich food culture for an area known for its poverty. Those folks had great music, beautiful views, and delicious food. Pheasant is wonderful and so is rabbit, unless it's riddled with buckshot.


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 6 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky Author

Thanks, Dolores, for the comments. I love the remark about the buckshot. LOL


elisabethkcmo profile image

elisabethkcmo 6 years ago from Just East of Oz

I enjoyed this hub, alek.. the apple stack cake sounds marvelous. Have you read the book "A Walk in the Woods' by Bill Bryson? It's about hiking the Applacian Trail. I really enjoyed it.

thanks for a great and unique hub


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 6 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky Author

No, haven't read Bryson's book, but it sounds like something I would like. Glad you enjoyed the hub. Thanks for commenting.


yyn1221 profile image

yyn1221 6 years ago from China

hear hear! Makes me want to start gardening and canning again something to think about for the near future ;) darn it...now I'm hungry....


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 6 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky Author

I know what you mean. I get the same longing...nothng like home canned fruits and veggies.


Kim M Gregory profile image

Kim M Gregory 4 years ago from The Coast of The South Carolina Lowcountry

Great article...


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 4 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky Author

Thanks, Kim Appreciate the comment.

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