Food & Beverage

Bound TogetherHome on the Heels of the Family Recipe

By Gail Greco

Dorothy had to swivel and smack her ruby reds three times to get back to Kansas. Phew, that takes too long! We in the High Country get home much faster and we’re not dreaming!

“I just open a drawer and I’m home again.” Family recipes pop up everywhere in retired guidance counselor Debbie Kirkley’s “happily cluttered” kitchen in Boone.

Cheryl Angel of Avery County travels back home to eastern North Carolina on a cucumber pickle. “Mom’s pickles, perfectly crisp, bathed in sweet vinegary syrup,” she describes. But, Mom’s pickles ran out recently so Angel found herself trying to replicate them. “I can’t compete with hers, but everyone says my version is delicious, the next best thing!” 

Jo Sorrell is back in China Grove, NC, from Boone—in the blink of an eye she’s spotting a torn scrap of flour-sack with her grandmother’s handwritten recipe on the back.

And, the Dorothy I know personally, my sister by that name, doesn’t wear red shoes, but zips home on a flying carpet, a.k.a. a sheet pan from grandma that bakes better cookies, she finds, due to the pan’s high-quality surface.  

Once a year, gathered around the kitchen in Boone, a rolling pin, a recipe, and ravioli take the Daly family of Boone back home to their roots in Emilia Romagna, Italy. Grandma Adele Foli, born in 1888, came to the states bringing with her family recipes, including a ravioli of spinach, meat, and cheese that she taught her granddaughter Mary Daly to make when she was a child. 

On ravioli-making day today, Daly hands over to her kids, in an almost symbolic gesture, the very rolling pin and pasta wheel she and her grandmother used. “Making her recipe with her tools is a way for me to honor my Nonna,” she muses, “and for my children to understand their heritage and pass it on to the next generation.” 

Local restaurants are often inspired by family recipes. Casa Rustica has served the Pedronis’ dishes from Italy since Peter Pedroni opened the restaurant in Boone 41 years ago! Son Ricky’s in charge now, his grandmother Pina’s mushroom cream sauce and his father’s Bolognese, both still menu faves.

Food from the past grows its own family tree—pure, simple, soulful that no shoe-clicking or e-buttons deliver. The yearning to preserve home with food memories is universal, as Olga Koutseridi, 34, of Austin is doing. Remembering endearing childhood summers in today’s war-torn Mariupol, Ukraine, the educator at University of Texas is collecting recipes to save her heritage. Where there is no home now, she is reportedly finding another way for family and friends to be there.

Y’all Come Get It, Now

Taylor Campbell, Manager of the High Country Food Hub, a branch of Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture (BRWIA), cooks Mom’s beef stew to get home. The recipe is in BRWIA’s just-printed Our Blue Ridge Kitchens cookbook, edited by Carolina Norman. One of the book’s 50 recipes is a double-cheese bread from App State Assistant Professor Renata Carneiro from her family home in Brazil. Retired educator Tom Shessler of Zionville, NC, submitted an aunt’s meal-in-a-soup. “When you share a recipe, you carry people with you and never eat alone,” he observes.   

Saturdays in her Boone country kitchen, Dana Holden bakes grandma’s biscuits from memory. “Out of the oven they’re puffy-fresh, but not if I reheat them; the taste and texture of home is not there, so I never reheat,” she declares. Having tasted them, I doubt there are any left to reheat, anyway!

Tsk, tsk, on me. My family recipes are still in a folder. Sheet Pan Crumb Cake (neither my sister nor I can duplicate the over-sized plump crumbs Gram was proud of) are waiting for my editorial attention. “It’s time to do this for you, now,” neighbor Dawn Sullivan scolded, after I helped produce her family cookbook last fall, something her six children had been requesting for years. Well, at least I should do what Pegge Laine of Boone does, putting family recipes into a brochure for a niece getting married; mine is marrying later this summer—there’s time!

Lee Rankin, cookbook author and owner of Apple Hill Farm in Banner Elk, is glad we’re paying attention to family recipes again. “There was a time we weren’t, which is why I’m asked to fill in the blanks for people in tears unable to recreate a recipe they remember, but don’t have, because they didn’t write it down.” Rankin’s 22 year-old son, an avid cook, is wiser, recording as he creates his own recipes, too. 

Our very own CML publisher, Babette McAuliffe, objectively asks me, “Might this cookbook be worthy of your article?” She hands me a loose-leaf binder from friend and noted personal chef Adele Forbes of Linville who just passed in May. Inside are 76 cherished recipes in Forbes’ cursive hand on decorative paper protected in plastic.

Within the pages of In Mama Joe’s Shadow: Cooking with Adele’s Best Recipes, I found the heels-together moment I needed to show how recipes can be beautifully organized in something as simple as a three-ring binder. So, I say to my publisher, “This book brilliantly exhibits how family cookbooks resound with relative emotion. It’s more than deserving of note. It’s rhapsodic!”

Food magazines report that home-cooking will continue its post-pandemic surge and Carolina Country, mailed monthly to Blue Ridge Energy customers since 1946, agrees. The magazine had to add space to cover food. “It’s our most popular section,” notes Editor Scott Gates. “In From Your Kitchen, readers around the state submit their recipes, and so we all get to share in the joy of these dishes.”

Watauga County Library assistant and poet Bonita K. Gragg shows how a blackberry pie expresses that kind of ‘sharing the joy’ in this poem she wrote special to CML:

Grandma’s Made-From-Scratch Blackberry Pie

Oh the days of summers gone by when I was a child at grandma’s house,

 I remember her walk and her smile but, most of all I remember her pies.

I would pick for hours on those hot summer days, get stung by bees, and bit by chiggers,

              just for the taste of the berry’s sweet center.

Stain on my face and a full pail in my hand, back to the house I ran with a grin.

Wash and clean and sweeten to taste. Your lattice of dough goes on top.

Now pop in the oven and watch until it’s golden brown.

 It should rise and make a small crown. 

Time for supper, the smells are free. Ice cream or not, get ready for a treat. 

Now get your coffee, get ready to smile, and show your beautiful blue teeth! 

As with all family recipes, a pie becomes something more when it evokes home and you must write about it. Dorothy didn’t eat a slice of pie, but who knows what she had in that iconic picnic basket she toted all around Oz. After all, she did get home just as fast as we in the long run, by repeating, “There’s no place like home.”Forbes’ quote in her cookbook ties the ‘why’ of it altogether. “Gramma said when you come on something good, first thing to do is share it with whoever you can find; that way, the good spreads out where no telling it will go!”

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