Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Words You May Never Have Uttered

Today's guest post is by Brandi Creasman Watkins, aka Bonnie Sherrill. Brandi was born and raised in the mountains of western NC. After being away for nearly a decade, she returned to her hometown and spent the next decade working in victim services and social work. She retired so that she could focus on her family, Thirty-One Gifts Business and her writing. She started blogging, writing & even published her first book, Mountain Notes to Grant-Writing in 2016. She is now working on the 2nd book in this series, Mountain Notes to Parenting, while she homeschools both of her youngest children. You can find more of Brandi's writings at her blog, A Country Girl Surviving.

Words You May Never Have Uttered

You may need a passport to enter another country, but you just need an open mind and some gas to reach the South. However, you may experience the same culture shock that you would endure in the Congo or African Sahara – we have similar language barriers and mating habits. You will certainly encounter those that think you should just turn around and head back where you came from. But…just maybe, if you are in the right frame of mind, you will find us just as fascinating as the Amish, the Cherokee, New Yorkers or the Mormons.

The single defining characteristic of any foreign culture is language and for real, the Southern language should count for a language in college prep. For example:

Befuddled. Definition: confused with a hint of ignorance to the reasoning that X topic is even being discussed. Like…why do you have to discuss ear wax when you could instead discuss the ramifications of Billy Bob thinking that he could fix the leak in his house with anything other than duct tape? This word MUST accompany the gesture of scratching your head at least one time during the conversation.

Flabbergasted. Definition: shocked with a hint of anger. You may hear this when a redneck stubs his toe and blames the wife for placing the incriminating obstacle in his path. Apparently, the wife thinks that if something is static for 50 years, her husband should learn to walk around it. Whatever!

Spirits. In the south, we refer to all alcoholic beverages as ‘spirits’ because it lifts our spirits to partake. Very simple. However, southerners don’t get the whole wine connoisseur mess….we make our own wine from the fruit that God gave us…right here in our backyards. The idea that ‘wine tastings’ happen, definitely befuddle us.

Tattoos. We all run into people and ask them about their tattoos and some get very upset if we insinuate that they had a personal experience with image that they later marked themselves with because they just get tattoos. BUT, in the South, our tattoos mean something. Period. Most may say MOM, some may say F-Obama, but they all mean something to us that will still mean it tomorrow (unless we were drunk.)

Mountains. Some may believe that this is a geographical distinction or even a place where they “vacation.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. ‘Mountains’ is a way of life. It’s a religion. It’s a people.

Helldamn. Although Webster does not recognize this as a compound word, it is the only compound word that can succinctly describe something that went wrong. This something could have been intentional, stupid or just plain fate.

Waterlogged. Definition: a state of being after too many hours in the water. In the olden days, logs were transported via the rivers and they stayed in these rivers for quite some time before they reached their destination. See, our words make sense to us!

Church. Definition: The single reason to defuse any argument under the sun. This word is synonymous with the Good Book, the people attending or the very argument that you can’t win. Church is the end all, be-all in the South. You don’t wear jeans to church….ever….under any circumstances. TV Shows do not have any place in a Southern Church – no divorce, no Modern Family, no Law & Order, no Teletubbies. Criminal Minds and other murder shows would be acceptable.

Caddywompus. Definition: describes when something is askew or off-centered. For example, I have this retarded tree in my yard that has limbs that are caddywompus and drives me to the brink of a misdemeanor. I would include a picture, but I don’t want to ensue riots, because we don’t have the parking space.

Oh Fresh Hell. Definition: A new ‘alternative’ way of thinking, acting or being. A southern woman might exclaim this after seeing her teenager come downstairs in all black attire and make-up or maybe hearing her son exclaim about the newest way to talk to his girlfriend. ‘Oh Fresh Hell’ may be timeless, but the shit it explains is not – just grab a homemade wine, get flabbergasted, drag them to church in the mountains and scream a Helldamn to those that are caddywompus.

This post is brought to you by the my personal friends on Facebook! I hope you enjoyed and please let me know if you have some Southern Terms that weren’t included!


I hope you enjoyed this guest post as much as I did! Brandi and I grew up in the same small town in western NC. I tried to think back to when I first met her but if you were from Andrews, NC everybody just always knew each other. She is still just as funny as ever! She reached out to me during my last hospital stay and decided that we need to team up to share some of our posts with us both being "small town Appalachian bloggers". I look forward to working with her again and sharing more of her hilarious posts in the future

This is a pic from the area where Brandi & I grew up. Pretty, huh? 
This was taken by my friend and fellow Andrews girl, Tammy West McCoy. 


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

A Sweet Lesson In Life

Today's guest post is by Jequeta Mullins Briskey. Jequeta was the youngest of 11 children and she grew up in Clintwood, Virginia. She didn't start writing until after she was married and most of her short stories and poems are centered around growing up in southwestern Virginia. She currently lives in northwestern Ohio with her husband, John, and they have 3 children, 8 grandchildren, and 5 great-grandchildren.  


A Sweet Lesson In Life

It started back in the early 50s when I was in the fourth grade. My dad decided that he would go into the strawberry business. He thought that it would be profitable and would bring in some much needed money for our family. Not only did he have the space and the know-how to plant the seedlings and bring them to life, but he also had the extra hands to help him with the task. Those extra hands would belong to me and my siblings.

He picked out a prime spot on our little mountain side farm and prepared if for planting, naturally with our help. I don't recall actually helping to do any of the prep work with the soil, the planting, weeding, and care of those tender plants but somehow they survived. The first year is never great for strawberries but the second year found us working hard at picking the nice red ripe fruit every other day. 



Most of those strawberries were four our personal use and we really enjoyed them. After working all morning in the blazing sun on our hands and knees, picking the fruit from those verdant green plants, one would think the last thing on our minds would be eating that fruit. But, knowing that Mom was in the kitchen baking an old fashioned strawberry pie for lunch would make our mouths water. These pies were not like the pies of today with their glaze and piled high with whipped topping. Her pies were made with sweetened cooked strawberries thickened with a flour mixture and poured into a handmade baked shell. They contained no topping and we never asked for a topping because in those days, we didn't know that anything of that sort existed. We accepted what we had and were thankful for it. 

By the third year, Dad's strawberries were producing in abundance. We started letting other people know that we had an excess amount of strawberries and that we would be willing to sell some of them. So, off we went to the fields early in the morning to pick the fruit. We had attained gallon buckets over the past two years in anticipation of this day. These buckets were most likely gallon lard cans or anything of that sort. Each of us would carry a bucket along and we would take what my Dad called a "swath" which was our individual portion in which we were to remove all the ripe fruit, leaving the green ones to ripen for another day. And we were cautioned not to step on the plants as this would likely damage them from producing again. 

Dad had told us that we would get paid for helping him with this task. We were allowed to pick one green berry for each gallon bucket we filled and he warned us that he knew our capacity for picking and he would know if we cheated. In one day, if we picked well and fast, we could make a dollar for picking ten gallons of berries, That was a lot of money for us in those days. We felt rich! We didn't think about how long it took for use to make that much money but just having the money was joy beyond compare. 

When we had filled one of the buckets we could pour them into a larger container to be carried down the hill to where our home was. This would eliminate several trips up and down the hill. Eventually, my brother rigged up a pulley system from the house to the top of the hill so we could hang a bucket of berries onto the pulley and lower them down to the house by way of a handle. This sure saved a lot of steps and time for us. 

Word got around our community that we had strawberries for sale and people started placing orders with us. Whether it was only one gallon or a huge order of twenty to thirty gallons, we could always fill those orders. Dad would fill the gallon buckets heaping full until the berries were falling off the sides. Then he would transfer the berries over to the containers our customers had brought with them, all the while he would make sure the customer helped him count the gallons so as not to short them on their order. And when it was time for them to pay up, the price was always $1.00 a gallon. In all the years we kept that business going, he never changed the price. Word got around that Dad was very generous and fair and that made more business come our way. Eventually we got to the point of selling thousands of gallons of berries each season.

Mom would never want the first berries in the spring. These were the ones that were bright red and huge. Just looking at them would make your mouth water. Most people would ask for those but not mom. She would always wait until the end of the season when the berries were smaller and a deeper red. Then she would ask for her share of the crop. These late berries had a sweeter taste. Sure, it took longer to clean and process them but it was well worth the effort. The jams and jellies she made from this fruit was the best and it was always a great treat to pull a box of sweetened berries from the freezer on a snowy winter day and taste summer sunshine. I think back on this now when I go out to buy strawberries for myself, might I say at a ridiculous price, and I try to choose the smalls berries in the bunch because I know they will taste the best. 

This business for us lasted about twenty years. By the time I graduated high school, there were no more children left at home to help Dad and his age had slowed him down. Eventually, he let the strawberry patch go but even after our crops had gone and we no longer kept it producing, we would get phone calls asking if we still had strawberries for sale. I guess Dad had a good idea after all. That business kept our family going for many years all for the price of a few plants, some fertilizer, and several strapping young kids capable of picking their share of red summer sunshine. Oh, the memories it brings for all of us. Thank you, Dad, for teaching us another lesson in life.

I hope y'all enjoyed Jequeta's short story as much as I did. She couldn't have sent it to me at a more perfect time because I've had strawberries on my mind for the past month! I agree with Jequeta...they do taste like summer. If you missed my post last week and would like to make some jam with all of the strawberries that seems to be poppin' up, you can find my post and recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Jam here. Does strawberries taste like summer to you too? 

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Strawberry & Rhubarb (Pie Plant) Jam

Hey, y'all! I feel like I haven't written a blog post in FOREVER but I needed to take a break. It was nice and I'm ready to get back in to the swing of things. I've missed y'all! 

A couple of weeks ago, I went over to my husband's grandparent's old place and came home with some rhubarb! We dug up most of it to transplant it here at the house but ended up with quite a few stalks in the process. I knew exactly what I was going to use it for even before we got our hands on it: strawberry & rhubarb jam! 

My great-grandma Collett was the one who introduced this sweet-tart combo to me when I was a little girl. She would make the best strawberry rhubarb cobbler and I loved it from the very first bite. I've always liked the combination of sweet and tart flavors...maybe that's why I love Sour Patch Kids so much! 

As I was looking for some info about rhubarb, I came across the word "pie plant" in a couple of articles online. I immediately thought of the Little House On the Prairie books! I'm a HUGE Little House fan and recently re-read (for possibly the 100th time) the books in preparation of visiting the Ingall's homestead in De Smet, SD in a couple of weeks. In The First Four Years, Laura was deciding what she was going to fix for the threshers which also happened to be the first meal that she was fixing in her and Almonzo's new home. She said, "There was pie plant in the garden; she must make a couple of pies." She goes on to cook the big meal and accidentally forgot to add sugar to the pies. The threshers were all kind and added their own sugar but Laura was embarrassed by her mistake. Live and learn, right? 

As many times as I've read that book, I never knew what "pie plant" was. You can imagine my surprise when I discovered that it was rhubarb! Have any of y'all ever heard it referred to as pie plant? 

Once I got home with my rhubarb, I went to our local produce stand for strawberries. They were so pretty! 


The first thing you need to do, of course, is wash your strawberries and remove the stems and slice them up. 


I used my chopper that you see above to chop those things up! You could do this in a blender or food processor but why dirty up more than you really need to? I just used a little muscle and had those babies chopped up quicker than you could pull out a machine and load it up. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy. 


You're going to need 2 cups of chopped strawberries for one run of this jam. 

Next, you're going to wash and dice up your rhubarb. Not all rhubarb is completely red. If you buy it from your grocery store or produce stand, you'll probably find the red variety because that's what most people want when purchasing rhubarb. There are a few different varieties and mine happens to be mostly green with a little red marbling in it. Whichever type you have, you'll need 2 cups for this recipe. 


Add your berries and rhubarb to a heavy duty pot. Add 1/4 cup of lemon juice to the mix along with one box of Sure Jell. I also like to add a little butter to prevent it from foaming up as much but this is optional.

Bring the mixture to a rolling boil, stirring the whole time to prevent scorching. Once the mixture is boiling, add 4 cups of sugar. Bring the mixture back to a rolling boil and, while continuing to stir, boil for 1 minute. 


Remove from heat and ladle the mixture into hot jars leaving about an inch of space at the top. If you choose not to add the butter, skim the foam off of the top before ladling the mix into your jars. 



I used both pint and half pint jars. Wipe the rims clean and add hot lids and rings, finger tight. I used this little pot holder that my husband's granny made me to hold the jars while I put on the rings. She is also the one who originally planted the rhubarb. I thought of Granny Jones the whole time I made this jam. I think she would appreciate the fact that someone is still getting get use out of her work.

Once you have the jars full and sealed, add the hot jars to a boiling water bath and boil for 10 minutes. Remove from canner and set on a kitchen towel to cool. If you happen to have a jar that doesn't seal, just put it in the refrigerator and use it first! 


We've really been enjoying this stuff on biscuits and toast. I ended up making three runs and ended up with 4 pints and 12 half pints. One run should make around 6-8 half pints, depending on how much space you leave at the top. 

You can find the complete recipe below if you'd like to copy, paste, and print it out. Let me know if you make some!

Strawberry & Rhubarb (Pie Plant) Jam
2 cups chopped strawberries
2 cups diced rhubarb (pie plant)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 pkg Sure Jell
1 tbsp. butter (optional- it will help lessen the amount of foam)
4 cups sugar

Bring first 5 ingredients to a boil on high heat. Add sugar & stir until dissolved. Continue to stir and bring to a boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and ladle into clean, hot jars. Wipe rims and add lids and rings until finger tight. Add to boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Remove and allow to cool on kitchen towel. 











Monday, May 15, 2017

Family Heirlooms: Granny's Biscuit Cutter

Granny has been on my mind a lot lately. Most of you that read this blog via Facebook know that she passed away on April 25th. I feel like there just wasn't enough time for me to ask all the questions that I had about her life. Out of all of us, I believe I'm the one who was always probing for stories about what life was like when she was growing up and everything should could tell me about the rest of the family. 

When I was little, I always watched her flit around the kitchen as she prepared meals for us. When she'd make biscuits she'd use this little metal cutout that had a wooden handle. I thought that it was fascinating that she had a special tool just for cutting out biscuits because I remember my mom using just whatever she could find & it was usually the opening of a cup.

I don't know what prompted me to ask Granny where she got it but she told me that it had belonged to her mother-in-law, my great-granny Fannie. I always thought that was a funny name. She passed when I was around four or so and I remember being confused when she wasn't around. My Dad told me that they took her up to heaven. In my four year old mind, I pictured them packing her up in our big yellow Chevy Malibu and them driving up like Danny and Sandy did at the end of Grease! Ha! 

I asked Granny if I could have it some day. My Uncle Doug (my dad's youngest brother who is more like a brother than an uncle) overheard the conversation and told me that HE was getting it. Now, why in the world would a feller who never made biscuits want with an old biscuit cutter? From that point on, me & Uncle Doug would go back and forth over who was going to end up with Granny's biscuit cutter and Granny would just laugh and wink at me. 

Last week when the family was reading over Granny's will and wishes for her funeral, they came to a section written out for me. She left me a few things but the best part said, "I want Kim to have my biscuit cutter (ha ha, Doug)." She always had a great sense of humor! 



The Saturday following my discharge from the hospital, my stomach was still kind of queasy but I got to craving biscuits close to lunchtime. I got out Granny's biscuit cutter and got a little emotional using it. It has been used by three generations of Appalachian women (although I'm the fourth generation to own it) to make biscuits for their families. No amount of money could persuade me to give it up. 

I decided to send a message to my Uncle Doug to let him know that I was enjoying it. Here it is: 

Granny would've gotten a kick out of this!



The biscuits were good but the memories are better. I will think of her every single time I use it. My priceless family heirloom. 



Thursday, May 4, 2017

Places To See & Things To Do: The International Biscuit Festival

Hey, y'all! It's so good to be home! Thanks so much for all of your kind words and prayers. I'm still trying to get my feet back under me but being home makes things MUCH better.

Now that spring seems to be here (ignore the cold and windy weather that just doesn't seem to want to leave WNC) there are festivals popping up all over the place! And I want to go to ALL of them. I was very disappointed that I didn't get to go to the cornbread festival last weekend but I found one that helped ease the disappointment: The International Biscuit Festival! Doesn't that sound like heaven?! I can't think of Appalachian food without thinking about biscuits.


A whole festival dedicated to celebrating those hot, flaky, buttery layers of southern goodness...heaven! This will be our first year attending and I'm counting down the days. You may be wondering what this festival is all about. Lucky for you, I've been speaking with Ms. Lindsey Collins, the event director. Lindsey says, "This is the Biscuit Festival's 8th year, and it has helped grow Knoxville's downtown community into what it is today." 

There is a section of the festival known as Biscuit Boulevard. "Several of the region's finest restaurants and bakers bring their Signature Biscuits for you to sample." Glory! According to their website, Biscuit Boulevard will be open starting from 9am Saturday, May 20th, 2017. The Boulevard runs along Market Street, just south of Market Square in downtown Knoxville. You can buy a Biscuit Boulevard ticket for just $15 and try FIVE different Signature Biscuit creations! Vote by placing the perforated tab of your ticket in your favorite Biscuit vendor's Mason Jar at their booth and help to select the People's Choice winner. Boulevard participants will also be offering a selection of other goodies for you to purchase directly. 

There will be some long lines so prepare to arrive early! Lines continue to grow throughout the day and the festival ends at 2PM. We're planning on getting there when the doors open!

Believe it or not, the Biscuit Festival isn't just about eating biscuits. Besides Biscuit Boulevard, there is:
  • The Miss or Mister Biscuit Pageant 
  • Biscuit Baking Contest
  • The Biscuit Songwriting Contest
  • The Biscuit Bazaar
If you'd like to find more information about any of these events and/or order tickets, you can check out their website: The International Biscuit Festival.

The festival was kind enough to team up with me to sponsor an Appalachian Mountain Roots giveaway! Tomorrow, May 5th, look for a giveaway post and follow the directions in the post to be entered. The prize includes 2 Biscuit Festival tickets and a handmade wooden biscuit cutter made by my very talented woodworking husband! 

$70 Value

We'll be wearing our "app-uh-latch-un" t-shirts so if you're at the festival and happen to see us standing in line, come up and say hi! I'll be writing a post all about it when we get back. I mean, who doesn't like a good biscuit?! 

Be sure to check back tomorrow and find the giveaway post so you can be entered to win the prize pack! 




Monday, April 24, 2017

Memories Of Home

Today's guest post is by Jequeta Mullins Briskey. Jequeta was the youngest of 11 children and she grew up in Clintwood, Virginia. She didn't start writing until after she was married and most of her short stories and poems are centered around growing up in southwestern Virginia. She currently lives in northwestern Ohio with her husband, John, and they have 3 children, 8 grandchildren, and 5 great-grandchildren.  


Jequeta's parents at their 50th Anniversary, 1979.

Memories of Home

I went back once more to the home of my birth, 
That's when I realized how much memories are worth.
The home that my father had built with his hands
had lost all it's luster, but serenely stands. 
The kitchen was downstairs, the bedrooms above.
The living room, the "can house"; they were all built with love.
The front porch, so big, was adorned with two swings.
Relived in my memory, how much pleasure it brings.
I remember the river once so clear, flowing free.
I remember every rock, every bush, every tree. 
The animals we had both for food and for fun. 
The strawberries we picked in the hot blazing sun. 
The meals my mom cooked on the ancient old stove.
We walked to the store 'cause nobody drove.
My dad told us stories of when he was a boy.
We kids played for hours with our handmade toys.
When winter winds came and the world seemed at rest, 
it was time to do quilting and mom was the best.
Her fingers would fly making stitch after stitch,
and when it was needed, she could yield a mean switch.
My dad was a giant, both gentle and kind.
His voice was enough to make us kids mind.
I remember him plowing and clearing the land
to start a new garden to feed all his clan.
My mind overflowing with memories of home, 
as I stand there staring at the life I had known.
There were no flowers in the yard anymore. 
The little creek was gone. It had been there before.
As I relived the memories of my childhood years,
I couldn't stop my eyes from filling with tears.
I couldn't believe, but I should have known
how time changes things after you've grown.
So, I vowed then and there to never return.
I would never go back, though my heart it would yearn.
If I ever feel the need to return back home, 
I would do it in my memory because memories live on. 

I hope you enjoy Jequeta's poem as much as I did. I shared one of her short stories, Summer In The Mountains, last month. If you missed it, you can find it HERE.




Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Places To See & Things To Do: The National Cornbread Festival

Hey, y'all! I've got some exciting news: my husband and I will be attending the National Cornbread Festival in South Pittsburg, TN for the first time on Saturday, April 29th. We decided to make it our wedding anniversary trip.   

That sounds like it could be the punchline of a joke...if you go to the National Cornbread Festival for your 17th anniversary, you might be Appalachian. Ha! ;)

If you are a regular follower here at Appalachian Mountain Roots, you know all about my love of cornbread. I wrote about it in my Cornbread & Milk post several months back. After hearing about the festival on the radio I thought, "A festival that's all about cornbread?! Sign me up!" 



We would love to meet any of you who plan on attending! My son is modeling the t-shirts that my husband & I will be wearing. If you see us out and about, please come over and say hey! 




Here is what you can expect at the festival:

National Lodge® Cast Iron Cornbread Cook-off
Cornbread Alley (sample various cornbread recipes)
Live music throughout the festival.
Arts and Crafts from area vendors.
Tours of the Lodge Cast Iron Foundry
Cornbread 5K Race
Tours of historic South Pittsburg
Classic Car Cruise-In
Cornbread Eating Contests

Play games, ride carnival rides, and enjoy wandering through the booths that line the streets of historic South Pittsburg. Enjoy cornbread, handmade arts and crafts. Taste Southern, artisan treats like honey, fudge, and rock candies. The festival is packed with great family fun – including a Kid’s Corner with games, face painting, and inflatables!
******************

Sounds fun, right? I can't wait to tour the Lodge Cast Iron Factory. I love Lodge products because they're American made and last FOREVER. Have any of you attended the festival before? I'd love to hear how it was. Are any of you going this year? I plan on writing a post about it and share some pics from the event over on the Appalachian Mountain Roots Facebook and Instagram pages. Please be sure to say hi if you see us in our 
"app-uh-latch-uh/ Appalachian Mountain Roots" shirts!