When was growing up, I assumed, as I’m sure most kids do, that everyone’s home life was the same as mine. Mom was a stay at home mom, and Dad was an electrician. We (the kids, there were 4 of us) played all day, and then came in promptly at 6:00 pm, and sat down for supper. Mom was a good cook, and we mostly enjoyed our food.
Dad was a grump most of the time, and we weren’t allowed to have too much fun at the dinner table. And every once in a while, he would get downright ornery about everybody eating what was on their plate. I remember my oldest sister falling asleep at the table because he wouldn’t let her leave until she ate her peas. (She still hates peas to this day.)
So when I was old enough to spend the night with friends, I was amazed and fascinated that not all families sat down for supper together, at the same time, or sometimes their Dad cooked, and of course the food was SO different than ours.
Mom is from California, so her cooking had a lot of Mexican influences. And she learned a lot about cooking from her mother-in-law, who was from Pennsylvania. We lived in Florida, so she picked up some of their style, too. So we had an interesting fusion.
When we moved to the Appalachian mountains in North Carolina in 1972, man, it was a whole new world. It was country cooking all the way. I had a friend over to visit and mom made tacos – and the friend had never had them before. Can you imagine? They had biscuits and gravy, and cooked with lard and fat back, and ate collard greens smothered in vinegar.
I was not a fan.
I’ve lived here 48 years. And I’ve grown to appreciate much of the mountain style of cooking. Of course, the little town we moved to when I was 7 has grown to something ridiculous. There are lots of food options here now, and lots of people who live here that are transplants. In fact, it is hard to find real, old style mountain cooking anymore.
All of this to come back around to my friend Tammy. She was born and raised in Watauga County, as were her parents, grandparents, and probably all of her ancestors for as far back as you would care to go.
Her mother, Jane, wrote a cookbook – Mountain Born and Fed – and between the 2 of them, I have access to anything I want to know about mountain cooking.
Tammy is an amazing cook, of course – I think everything she decides to try she is good at. But it’s interesting how cooking styles change and evolve. She grew up with mountain cooking. I know when we lived together, it was all college food, and then when we moved into an apartment, it was whatever was cheap – or what we could scrounge from the restaurant where we worked.
I love to visit Tammy for many reasons, but I’m always fascinated by her food. It’s so different from my cooking. It’s more basic and rustic, yet so amazingly delicious. She makes a lot of soup, with crusty bread. Lots of salads, and unique veggies. She uses pottery bowls and cloth napkins. It makes me feel like I’ve slipped into a slightly different dimension, and it’s one I would happily stay in forever.
And yet – when I come back home, I go back to my regular type of food. Why don’t I cook soup more often? Why don’t I use cloth napkins?
Perhaps, one day when Tammy has some extra time on her hands – or if I get to visit her – she’ll do a guest post, and share one of her delicious meals with us.