I have always been fascinated with Appalachia. I am not sure why, as I have never been there and I know so little about the region. Perhaps its appeal comes in that (at least in my imagination) it seems to be such an un-American part of America: poor, backwards, even third-worldish. That areas like Appalachia could exist in the might U.S. of A. appeal to my ironic side.
I decided to make Appalachian food because I found an Appalachian cookbook at the library. I figure, if there is a cookbook, there is a cuisine, and I will try it. This particular cookbook was interesting because it was part of a project for collecting recipes and other information from the older people in Southern Appalachia. They recalled their childhood, their cooking methods and the recipes that their parents and they had prepared for their families - going back to the early 20th century.
Most of the recipes in the book seemed familiar: chicken and dumplings, meatloaf, corn bread, apple cobbler. I have visited them when cooking other regional/ethic American cuisines, which leads me to believe that American food is much more homogenized than I had thought at first. Indeed, Appalachian food does not seem to be very different from Southern food in general - though there are always regional and family-based variations for all recipes. For many years, Appalachian farms were self-sufficient so what people in the region ate was what they could grow, raise or hunt themselves. They used many vegetables and grain (primarily corn), but also many types of meat. Chickens, hogs and even cows were raised and commonly consumed, so that meat was not a luxury but a staple. Initially, all cooking was done in the fireplace, where heavy pots would be suspended over hot coals. Later, they switched to wood ovens and finally to electric ovens, which are certainly easier to use.
Everyone whom I told I was going to cook Appalachian food joked about my preparing road-kill, and while the book featured recipes for opossum, squirrel and racoon I settled for recipes with more common ingredients. I wasn't sure how good the food was, so I decided to cook it only for Mike and I - that meant there were lots of leftovers. Mike ate the salmon croquettes the next day, but the other stuff went to waste. The meal I ended up with was satisfying and interesting to cook. I served:
Appalachian Food Links