Appalachian Thursday – Cracking Nuts

The apples have fallen, the pumpkins are getting carved, and the leaves are turning orange and yellow and red. Must be time for the nut harvest! Of course, if we don’t hurry, the critters will beat us to it. Growing up on the farm, we had walnuts, chestnuts, and filberts (hazelnuts). With walnuts, it was best to let nature dry the husk and expose the shell, which would still turn our hands black. Chestnuts could be removed from their prickly casing by pinching them between the soles of our boots and pushing them out. Hazelnuts we just let dry a bit and then whacked ’em but good with a hammer. Mom probably made things using nuts, but mostly the pleasure was in just eating them straight from the shell. And eat them we did! Chestnuts in particular were an easy target and the crisp texture and flavor of that buttery, yellow nut was SO good. You can score them and roast them briefly to make them easy to peel, but we just bit ’em until the shell cracked. Even here, on our little ole plot of land in NC, we have walnut trees (can’t plant tomatoes under them) and several hazelnut shrubs. But it’s a lot of work and not always worth it if the weather hasn’t been right or worms have gotten there first. So mostly Thistle and I sit inside the French doors and watch the squirrels feast. […]

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Appalachian Thursday – Bread on the Table

We had friends over for supper on Sunday and I didn’t serve bread. It took nerve, I know. Whether you serve biscuits, cornbread, or light bread, there should ALWAYS be bread on an Appalachian table. Maybe because it helped simple ingredients go a long way. Maybe because it’s GOOD. Especially if you churn your own butter! Even when my grandmother stopped making her own bread, she would still put a stack of store-bought loaf bread on a plate and sit it on the edge of the table. Unlike that basket of biscuits or homemade rolls, it didn’t go in the middle of the table, but it was there. “Push bread” the men called it because it was handy to push the last bites of food onto their forks. I make biscuits for weekend breakfasts now and again. I like them split and buttered with maple syrup (I use a fork). Or apple butter! And I make my cornbread with creamed corn so it’s extra moist. (I also add a dab of sugar–blasphemy in the South, but common in Appalachia.) I never have been good at making light bread (yeast bread), but maybe that’s because I had too many ladies in my life who were masters at it. If you’d like to attempt biscuits, I highly recommend it. They’re pretty easy to make and they’re SO much better than what comes in those supermarket tubes. BISCUITS 1/2 cup self-rising flour per […]

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How’s Your Microbiome These Days?

I recently read an article suggesting that it’s harder to lose weight today than it was in the 1980s. Yeah. Made me do a double take, too. Here’s the sub-headline: “A new study finds that people today who eat and exercise the same amount as people 20 years ago are still fatter.” What?? I read on. The gist of the article is that our microbiomes have changed over the past couple of decades. Like me, you may be wondering what a microbiome is. To oversimplify, it’s the bacteria living in your gut. The bacteria that should be living in your gut. Turns out we NEED bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and viruses living in harmony with our innards. And, it would seem, our diets are changing our microbiomes for the worse. Chemicals and prescription drugs along with the hormones and antibiotics that have been rampant in our food for so long are changing or outright killing off our microbiomes. And scientists now hypothesize that as a result we simply can’t process food as efficiently. And it’s making us fat. I was following right along with the article, grateful to have been raised on homegrown farm food and glad I live in an area where people pay attention to such things. Then I came to this statement by Jennifer Kuk, a professor of kinesiology and health science at Toronto’s York University: “The fact that the body weights of Americans today are influenced by […]

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The Lies We Tell Ourselves

I’m not someone who goes on diets. Low-carb, no-carb, Mediterranean, Atkins, Whole 30, keto, and on and on. My personal dietary guideline is to eat a wide variety of mostly unprocessed foods. As Michael Pollan wrote, “Eat food. Not too much.” Typically, if I need to lose a few pounds I just eat less of it. However. Age and hormones seem to be conspiring to make even that simple solution not so simple anymore. At least that’s what I tell myself. Which brings me to the meat (ha!) of this post. My challenge MIGHT have less to do with my age and MORE to do with my growing willingness to “cut myself some slack.” So I’ve been taking stock of the lies I tell myself that trip me up in the quest to drop those insidious pounds that sneak on when I’m not looking. It’s been a tough day. I deserve . . . chocolate, cake, a glass of wine, crusty bread with butter . . . fill in the blank. (On the flip side–it’s been a great day! I deserve . . .) This ONE cookie/piece of candy/handful of chips won’t really matter. It’s a special occasion. I’ll just eat less at the next meal. I did really well yesterday, I can relax today. I went for a really long hike–that’ll make up for an extra . . . It’s shameful to waste this food. I haven’t really eaten […]

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