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Heritage Cooking — What’s in YOUR cooking pot?

July 23, 2012

Years ago,  we were able to make the trip from Connecticut to the Smith family homeplace in Lynchburg, Virginia two years in a row for the family reunion. There, five generations mingled for stories and laughter.  Besides getting to know my husband’s family and enjoying all the musical talent, the best part was undeniably the food.

Southern cooking was very different from what I had been fed as a kid. My mother-in-law presented me early with a Southern Living cookbook and taught me how to cook summer squash, green beans and much much more. I was rather dismayed, however, when I asked her how to make biscuits and she took a can out of the frig.  She told me some things are better left to professionals. *G*

So, we had pretty eclectic cooking in my home, what with my gradual improvement with Southern cooking and the few dishes Sam’s daddy could cook, together with my heritage cooking from my grandparents’ European roots.

Heritage cooking brings back memories from childhood. Life was simpler (for us kids anyway) then and we can fall into old pleasant memories with a taste of lemon cake just like Aunt Tootie’s or a mess of beans that reminds us of the ones we ate at Granny’s house.

Here in West Virginia the Country Roads Cook-Offs showcase regular home cooks, not chefs like on tv, to prepare their favorite recipes. Assisted by the West Virginia Farm2U Collaborative, the Country Roads Cook-Offs encourage people to remember and share these heritage recipes so they are not lost. All cook-offs have the same two basic requirements-using local ingredients and honoring both the local food traditions and nonprofessional cooking enthusiasts—but each differs to fit the specific location.

The Mountain Lakes Festival in Sutton this past weekend included a Country Roads Cook-Off at the scenic Bee Run area of Sutton Lake.

Karen Swinney and Alison Meadows prepared Hillbilly Gumbo using catfish from Sutton Lake, sausage and garden vegetables.

Buck Edwards used beans and vegetables from his garden with bacon and ham to prepared a spicy green bean dish.

The judges (Ruby Dean Collins of the Baker’s Kitchen in Sutton, Oscar Aguilar of Diogi’s in Fayetteville, Graham Rankin a well-known foodie in Huntington, and Sam Smith the winner of  That Dam 5K Race in Sutton that morning) carefully tasted and deliberated.

~~~~~~~~~Karen and Alice were deemed the winners and will be representing the Mountain Lakes Region at the State Cook-Off. The People’s Choice votes also favored the HillBilly Gumbo.

This year additional cook-offs will be held as part of festivals throughout the region, including  the Heritage Farm Museum and Village’s Fall Harvest Festival in Huntington, on September 1,  where cooks can enter for sharing and tasting without being in the formal competition.  There will be other Country Road Cook-Offs held on October 13 in Abdingdon, Virginia and in Elliott County, Kentucky.

I challenge all you wonderful cooks to get out and show off your favorite dish!!!

16 Comments leave one →
  1. July 23, 2012 7:42 am

    As always, Beth, you tell the story and share the pictures that engage your readers! Thanks for being a part of our Mountain Lakes Festival!
    Melody Urbanic
    Cafe Cimino Country Inn & Braxton County CVB (Sutton, WV)

    • July 23, 2012 9:48 am

      Wish there had been more contestants…I can at least help get the word out for the cook-off here in Huntington September 1

      • Ruby Dean Collins permalink
        July 23, 2012 10:03 am

        We were expecting about 8 to 10 teams, but due to the recent storms, many were unable to attend. Your event in Huntington is one I’m looking forward to hearing about too!

      • July 23, 2012 10:08 am

        I can appreciate how the horrible storm and the weeks after it without power made a lot of people change their mind about participating. IT was a lot of fun though even with only the 2 groups.

  2. July 23, 2012 9:39 am

    Nice piece. So many memories came back to me. I grew up in Michigan so northern cooking predominated – meat and potatoes. I still make potato salad the way my mom did. But when I moved to the south, I learned as you say a whole new way to cook. I modified it some. When I make cornbread, I add salsa, black olives, jalapenos, cheddar cheese and real corn. One time I served it to a southerner and she informed me I had made spoon bread. Cornbread is dry and crumbles when you eat it. I still make it my way, cornbread or not!

    • July 23, 2012 9:48 am

      I definitely cooked my beans differently and was scolded by the family LOL

  3. Ruby Dean Collins permalink
    July 23, 2012 9:59 am

    A wonderful story, and lovely pictures Beth! Thank you for being there to cover our event!

  4. Buck Edwards permalink
    July 24, 2012 10:19 pm

    I really enjoyed the event and met a lot of nice people. This was my first competition and I look forward to competing again.

    • July 25, 2012 6:34 am

      It was a pleasure meeting you and watching you prepare your dish which I enjoyed very much.

  5. July 28, 2012 8:59 pm

    My mom and dad are living (half the year) in Sutton – so I really appreciated this post and your picture of Sutton lake. Sweet! (My dad was born and raised in Newville).

    As for the food, I’ve eaten almost everything you mention and showed in the photos. I remember always making home made biscuits when I was growing up. My dad still makes them from scratch. Instead of rolling them out and cutting with cookie cutter though he drops them by the spoonful on to the baking sheet. I don’t bake or eat flour anymore. 🙂

  6. August 9, 2012 9:16 am

    This was a wonderful story, and I enjoyed the photos. Being born/raised in the South, it was like a mouthful of memories to me, only in digital form. 🙂 I love ALL the dishes you represented here! And I do make biscuits from scratch – hubby hates the canned ones. 🙂

    • August 9, 2012 11:57 am

      send me your recipe!!!

      • August 9, 2012 11:14 pm

        doncha hate it when you have a great reply completed, and it just DISAPPEARS! I had the recipe all written out here, and POOF it was gone. All gone. Grrrrr
        Let me try that again. Here’s how I make biscuits. 2 cups self-rising flour (love that stuff); 1/3 cup shortening (Mother used lard, better biscuits…jes sayin’); 3/4 cup milk (Mother used water, we were poor). Cut the lard into the flour til it’s kinda grainy looking, add the milk a little at a time til it forms a ball. Mix very little (more mixing makes it more like tortillas, I always thought), just enough to make it stick together. Roll out on floured board and cut with cookie cutter. Or, do like my mother: pinch off a piece about the size of a baby’s fist, roll it a couple of times in your hand, plop it on the cookie sheet and flatten the top a bit with three fingers. Bake at 450 for about 10 minutes, or until they’re golden brown and flaky. Let the munching begin! Let me know if you try this. You can adjust the batch, as this only makes a small batch.

      • August 10, 2012 2:49 pm

        Thanks! Saturday morning breakfast menu will be local eggs and sausage and these biscuits. Yummmmmm

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