The Appalachian region was a cultural melting pot as the country became more and more populated. You had the Native Americans, who were here to start with, along with many people who had a Scotch-Irish heritage, those from England and many more.
All of these carried their own long-held traditions in cooking and preparing food. However, some foods are more well known as “Appalachian food” than others.
Appalachian Main Courses
For main courses, wild game was undoubtedly the meat of choice. It was often easier to hunt your own meat than to purchase an animal and tend it until slaughter time. Some families just didn’t have the means to house an animal, and some just didn’t have the room.
There were many times that families would sit down to a meal of fried rabbit, quail or other small birds. Even squirrel made the menu quite often. These meats were usually stewed or put into some kind of soup, with vegetables and a thick soup base. That made the meal stretch a little further.
Appalachian Side Dishes
Side dishes, especially during the lean years, mostly consisted of what you could grow or forage for yourself. In fact, anyone from the mountains of Appalachia can tell you precisely what “kilt lettuce” is. Breads and sweets were also common, thanks to a great many fruit trees and bushes.
Apples were often found in abundance. The same is true for corn, potatoes and usually beans. They were either eaten green or dried and “put up.” Another thing most mountain folk can tell you about is “leather britches.” But there will be more about these, coming up in the future.
Fruit of Their Labors
Some of the most common meals came from the land. It was common for those that raised, tended, cultivated, harvested and prepared them. There were apple stack cakes, potato candy, chocolate gravy, and the bread that it went on. There was meal gravy and cornmeal mush.
Mush could be turned out to chill, cut into squares and then fried. Biscuits and gravy graced many a morning table, even if it was the only thing there.
Mountain people will quickly tell you, biscuits and gravy make an excellent meal all by itself. Many people use bacon grease or bits of sausage in the gravy for extra flavor.
Cornbread and soup beans were a supper all by themselves. The beans were a great way to get protein into your diet if there wasn’t much meat.
I think these days, one of the things that make Appalachian and mountain food so hard to replicate is that they were foods that sometimes took a great deal of time to prepare.
Soup beans have to cook for the better part of a day. So do the wild game soups and stews. Some of the deserts took even longer than that!
Just as authentic Mexican cuisine stems from the traditions and time they took to prepare everything, Appalachian foods are much the same. You just couldn’t make a truly homemade tamale in an hour or so. The same rule stands true for many of the foods that these mountain people ate.
I will be putting together many recipes in the upcoming days that are truly linked to Appalachian heritage. I would love to hear from anyone with any special requests for recipes or anything else you’d like to see here.
Thank you so much for stopping by!