The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Do You Have Old Recipes To Share?

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1988

Issue: November, 1988

Our grandmothers all seemed to have a way of making use of everything. They lived by the old adage, "Waste not, want not." Perhaps their sets of values were instilled in them by their parents who grew up in the reconstruction period after the Civil War when times were indeed tough in the South. Every penny had to be squeezed just to survive.

An abundance of food was not taken for granted and children were told over and over it was a sin to waste food. My mother told me that her mother said, "Take one bite of meat and two bites of bread," meaning there was more bread than meat to feed the family. Another member of the family told of one winter surviving on practically nothing but flour and lard. "We had biscuits and water gravy," she told me, "and we made it."

Thanks to our ancestors being the creative resourceful people they were, they found many ways of making simple foods very tasty. Many people have told me they didn't realize how poor they were until they grew up and looked back on their childhood. Then they could see how the foods they loved were the cheapest available, but served with generous helpings of love. Whole generations grew up on beans and potatoes and didn't know the difference, probably wouldn't have changed their taste in foods if given the choice. Just ask any old timer what would be his favorite meal. The chances are that it will include a lot of home grown vegetables, cornbread and milk fresh from the cow.

Some favorite foods were nothing but leftovers in disguise. Leftover baked potatoes were grated and magically transformed into hash browns for breakfast. Potatoes were used in a hundred different ways. Leftover mashed potatoes could be used several ways. One way was to blend the mashed potatoes with some milk and flour and fry the patties in a cast iron skillet as potato cakes. Even candy can be made out of mashed potatoes by mixing confectioners sugar with the mashed potatoes until it makes a stiff dough. Then roll it out thin and spread peanut butter on top. Roll it up and cut slices for pinwheels. It's as delicious as store bought candy any day! Many country women saved the peelings of potatoes in the spring and planted them. Yes, if they had eyes on them, they would grow into next year's crop.

Most country and mountain families kept hogs and cured meat. When a ham was gone, even the bare bone would be put to use. It was thrown into a pot of hot water and used as the seasoning for potatoes. You've probably heard the joke that they used everything about the pig but the squeal. That's close to the truth.

Bread was treated with respect as our grandparents were taught in church it was "the staff of life." Even stale bread was saved and baked into a tasty desert called bread pudding.

In the late summer and fall when apples were dried, not even the peelings were thrown away. They were put into a pot with water, boiled and made into apple jelly.

Even leftover grits and mush were saved and fried for another meal.

Of all the leftovers my favorite is buttermilk. After churning and removing butter, it's what's left.

If you have an old time recipe, especially one that uses food to the maximum, send it to The Mountain Laurel and we will share it with our readers. Not many people these days remember how to cook many of the old fashioned foods in an old fashion way. In case there are duplicate recipes sent in, we will use the first one we receive. I will be looking forward to hearing from you and trying the new taste treats you share.