’Tis the season for family celebrations and office parties. If you’re not giving thanks for past memories, you’re creating new ones. In Appalachia, people like to keep things local, which means toasting with local cider and sparkling wine. Fermenting hard cider and making wine started in Europe, and the European settlers who came to the Appalachian Mountains brought their tastes and recipes with them.
Up until a few years ago, you didn’t hear much about kale. In fact, you might not have even recognized it. A leafy green plant, it looks kind of like spinach. Maybe you’ve seen it used as a garnish on fancy dishes at high-end restaurants. You’d have to be at least a little bit odd to actually eat the stuff… right?
But of late, kale has risen to the top of many healthy favorite food lists. Its powers are being hailed in foodie magazines, at restaurants and among food lovers all over the country. Why the sudden interest in kale?
I love sharing time with my mom, Nancy Suddreth, who is 72. Recently, while we were puttering around the kitchen, she let slip this whopper: “Did you know that black walnuts cost ten dollars a pound?”
I almost dropped a plate. “Ten dollars a pound?” I couldn’t believe it. “Why don’t we just gather them like we used to. I know where a black walnut tree is.”
They belong prominently on a Southern Appalachian dinner plate.
Nothing hits the spot on a brisk fall evening like a sweet potato that’s fresh out of the oven and bursting at the seams with its unmistakable rich, hearty flavor. The sweet potato, while not native to Appalachia, has been grown in these mountains for centuries. The plant thrives in the rocky soil and holds up well even in times of blazing heat and little rain. The leafy vines can yield a large crop in a relatively small area, making them a favorite on the farms of early Appalachia.
The term “potluck” has been around since the Middle Ages, when families would throw leftovers into a pot rather than throw them away. The pot provided ready food for visitors or travelers passing through, although how tasty this meal might have been was left up to the “luck of the pot.”