End of Summer

School starts here today. I used to look forward to the first day of school, but even so there was a bittersweet feeling in the air. Now I miss having the definition–the segmentation that came with the seasons. Life anymore is a bit of a blur. And Labor Day weekend is right around the corner. When I was growing up that meant time for the annual hot dog roast at Toad and Berle’s. Yes, his name was Toad and he lived in what had been the community schoolhouse when my dad was a kid. There would be a big bonfire and the men would cut sticks and sharpen the ends for spearing hot dogs and holding them in the flames. The women would bring every side dish you could think of and there would be watermelon. Oh, and desserts. My goodness the desserts. Plus marshmallows. Although I think s’mores were too fancy for us. The creek was nearby (see photo above) and we were meant to stay out of it but we didn’t. There was also a cliff over on Uncle Willis’ land (that’s somehow not nearly as high as I remember). We were meant to stay away from there, too. But we didn’t. After eating, folks would sit around smoking cigarettes, talking, telling stories (otherwise known as lies), maybe playing some music. We kids would set fire to the hot dog sticks and write our names with burning embers […]

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Appalachian Thursday – Pawpaw Season

No, it’s not a pet name for your grandfather. September is when pawpaws–also known as Appalachian bananas–are getting ripe. A pawpaw is a large, greenish oval that’s the largest, edible native fruit in the U.S. Folks say it tastes like a cross between a mango and a banana with a pudding-like texture. I’ll confess I’ve never had one since I […]

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Summertime Supper (+a recipe)

Summers when I was a kid meant supper from the garden. These days it would be a stretch to say I’m doing much vegetable gardening. There’s a pot of herbs on the porch, potatoes growing in the front yard, and a cherry tomato plant that’s almost produced enough fruit to cover it’s expense. In short, we’d starve if we depended on what I’m growing. But that’s okay because there’s local produce at the grocery store and a farmer’s market on every corner. Which means we can still have supper from the garden–it’s just not OUR garden. One of my favorite suppers this time of year includes buttery corn-on-the-cob, sliced tomatoes, fried okra, and corn bread. And if you really want to garnish that plate just right, you can add some crisp cucumber salad. And you should probably finish the whole thing off with peach cobbler and vanilla ice cream. Then go hoe the garden some more. CUCUMBER SALAD 4-5 pickling cucumbers peeled and thinly sliced 1 sweet onion (Vidalia if you an get it) halved and sliced 1/2 cup cider vinegar 1 cup water 1/2 cup sugar 2 teaspoons salt 1 garlic clove chopped fine Alternate layers of cucumber and onion in a glass dish. Combine remaining ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer, dissolving the sugar and salt. Pour hot liquid over vegetables, let cool, cover and refrigerate. You can eat this salad after six hours […]

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Should I Pray for Power?

We saw some storms blow through late Friday afternoon knocking out the power just before five. Our landline went down as well, so I loaded up Thistle (who is FREAKED OUT by power issues) and drove about a mile and a half to where I can get a cell phone signal. Called it in. Of course, they’d had about 400 […]

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The Great British Baking Show

I don’t watch that much TV (cuts into reading/writing time). I like HGTV, a few Food TV shows, have a weakness for Jeopardy, and sometimes catch the news. But the one show I will actually rearrange my schedule to watch is on once again. I ADORE the Great British Baking Show. And after a brief (failed) attempt to mix it up with new judges and hosts, they’ve gone back to the original. Ahhh. Mary Berry, Paul Hollywood, Sue, and Mel. Friday was a double header. And yes, I stayed up until 11 p.m. without dozing off. I don’t even do that on New Year’s Eve. So what makes this show must-watch for me? It’s no single thing–the sum being greater than the parts–but I think the main thing is . . . it’s nice. Sure, it’s a competition, but the competitors seem to support each other. Maybe even like each other. They’re just regular folks who all enjoy baking. And while Paul can be pretty direct in his critiques, he’s never mean or cruel. And Mary is usually right there saying something like, “the flavors are good,” or “the texture is lovely.” So much of “reality TV” these days focuses on people behaving badly. It’s bachelors or bachelorettes pushing the relationship envelope as close to an R-rating as they can. It’s family’s airing their dirty laundry. It’s competitions where the goal is to undermine everyone else. The Great British Baking […]

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Appalachian Thursday – 155 Candles for WV

Yesterday was West Virginia Day. That would be the 155th birthday of my home state. Often, I celebrate the day by subjecting my readers to the history of how West Virginia became a state (and was almost called Kanawha, which I think would have been nice!), but this year I’m giving you a break. Instead of a history lesson, I thought I’d give you some fun facts about the incredibly unique southernmost northern state/northernmost southern state. FUN FIRSTS – some more dubious than others . . . On July 1, 1921, West Virginia was the first state to institute a sales tax. Mother’s Day was first observed in Grafton, WV, in 1908. You can visit the Mother’s Day Shrine there today. The first brick street in the world was laid in Charleston, WV, in 1870. It was the first (and only) state created by presidential proclamation. Thanks Abraham Lincoln! Jackson’s Mill is the site of the first 4-H camp in the United States. And I went to camp there! The first US prison exclusively for women was opened in the state in 1926. Minnie Buckingham Harper, a member of the House of Delegates by appointment in 1928, was the first African American woman to become a member of a legislative body in the United States. FAMOUS WEST VIRGINIANS Stonewall Jackson – Civil War general Pearl Buck – author Chuck Yeager – test pilot Jerry West – basketball player and coach […]

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When did food get so complicated?

I remember the first time I heard of free-range chicken. Having grown up on a farm, I couldn’t think what that meant. What other kind of chicken could there be? Then I found out about tiny cages, cut off beaks, and other abominations. And I learned that “free-range” didn’t mean chickens actually went outside–it simply meant they could if they happened to find that little door in the side of the massive chicken house. Eating seemed relatively simple when I was growing up on the farm. We raised a fair amount of what we ate–garden stuff, fruit, dairy products, domesticated and wild meat. And when we bought things at the grocery store we were generally looking for the best quality at the lowest price. That was that. In college, it was all about the cost. My goal was to get the most of the foods I liked for the least amount of money which I also needed for education, car expenses, entertainment, clothing, and so on. Then I started focusing on things like fat and calories. “Healthy” eating. Food became the sum of its parts–fiber, protein, sodium, saturated fat, vitamins, etc. I started paying more attention to those nutrition panels on the sides of packages. And now. Now I’ve read books like The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Palin and Folks, This Ain’t Normal by Joel Salatin. I’ve become aware of the atrocities happening daily in our food system. I’ve become […]

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