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Appalachia on the Table: Representing Mountain Food and People

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by Erica Adams Locklear
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What if what we think we know about our ancestors’ cooking isn’t what they really knew and did?

Erica Abrams Locklear, a professor of English and Humanities at the University of North Carolina, received a cookbook her Appalachian grandmother had kept. Held together with black string, nibbled by mice, it contained handwritten recipes and clippings from many sources.

But instead of a folksy collection consisting solely of hyperlocal foods and home remedieswhat she thought of as “mountain food”Locklear found date nut fondant and streusel, cheese twists and cakes decorated with sugared flowers, foods that seemed to have no place on her grandmother’s wood-burning stove, or in Locklear’s ideas about who her grandmother was and what she ate.

The cookbook inspired an investigation of how Appalachian food and cooks came to be perceived as something separate from other Southern traditions, to say nothing of the rest of the US. And in that examination she explores not only the development of American culinary identity, but the consequences for the very identity of mountain people in the popular imagination and in their own minds.

Locklear explores everything from literary and popular fiction to cooperative extension agent manuals as she seeks to look beyond romance to the reality of daily cooking and eating.

Paperback. Black-and-white photographs.

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