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Cooking With Family

Janet Smart Cooking with Family

 Instead of sharing one recipe with you today, I'm going to share a whole book full!

I first met Janet Smart way back when I first started the Blind Pig and The Acorn. She lives in West Virginia and she blogs at the site Writing in the Blackberry Patch. Janet and I have many things in common with our love for family and Appalachia right up at the top of the list. 

A couple weeks ago Janet sent me her latest book, Cooking With Family: Recipes and Remembrances. It is a fantastic cookbook! There are many recipes that I'm familiar with, but there are quite a few that I've never even heard of even though Janet's family are Appalachians too. Especially interesting and heartwarming are the short tid-bits of information Janet shares with the recipes. 

As if all the delicious sounding food wasn't enough, Janet also shares "Non-Edible Recipes" like how to grow a coal garden and how to make three aprons from one pair of old blue-jeans. 

I haven't even told Janet yet, but I'll tell you. Her cookbook is so well written and such a wonderful representation of Appalachia that it will reside on my bookshelf beside my John Parris and Sydney Saylor Farr cookbooks. 

If you'd like to pick up your own copy of the book you can grab one on Amazon here or you can contact Janet at 


p.s. Additional info from Janet: 

Hi, Tipper. Thank you so much for your kind words about my cookbook! I enjoyed putting it together. If your readers go over to Amazon and use the 'look inside' feature, they can see the table of contents with its list of recipes. There are also 4 original poems. I hope people who read my cookbook get inspired to write down their family recipes, (pages included in the back for them to do this), family traditions and food superstitions, so they won't be lost and, most of all, they have fun creating memories in the kitchen with their family!

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We have dozens of cookbooks, if not scores. While some are regional, like Justin Wilson's books, none are Appalachian. Janet Smart's new book will fill the most important niche in our cooking library. Thank you, Tipper. Thank you, Janet.

Well Tipper I thank you very much for this post , I love these kinds of cook books. I just signed up for her blog and went to Amazon and ordered the cookbook. Glynda

Jim is 'right on' about the superstition of 6 or less layers of cakes for the stack cake...When I read it a minute ago the "ping" went off in my head about all the stories of "stack cakes" whys, how's and superstitions! My Mother-in-law and especially her Mother from Alabama had many superstitions about cooking, as did my Mom and Grandmother from Madison County, NC...The number of layers on the "stack cake" came to mind as soon as I read Jims post!
I can also verify about Joseph Dabney's cookbook...I have it and love it myself! Also, John Parris cookbook as well as others....uhhh, I can't let go without mentioning some good recipes for fish and game, etc. coming from Jim's and wife's own cookbooks...
Thanks Tipper,
PS...I am going to have to buy another one of Jim's cookbooks, I let my son borrow....I left it there for my son to see some of the recipes, (he's a fisherman) and great cook....for every time I mention it to him, he accidently forgets to give it back to me! So I just gifted him the book! Ha

My wife recently made some apple cider mini-muffins (dusted with cinnamon and brown sugar and with lots of butter!). They were so good. She found the recipe on Yummly. They are said to be the next nearest thing to the apple cider doughnuts that are, it seems, a regional specialty in upper NY and I suppose into Pennsylvania. Caution: they could be habit forming.

Last fall I got a notion to make some crepes. The recipe I settled on turned out pretty good and I sorta got the hang of cooking them. When they were done I filled them with apple butter and folded them up. They were absolutely delicious.
After me and Dusty (the wife wouldn't even try them) had our fill, I decided to try making more with the remaining batter and stacking them into a cake and filling and frosting it with the apple butter. I had to use skewers to keep the upper layers from sliding off. I got about 12 or 13 layers (crepes are thin), frosted it and put it in the refrigerator til the next day.
I wish now I hadn't tried it. The apple butter was still delicious of course. The crepes though had refused to let the apple butter penetrate them and had developed a taste and texture similar to unsalted boiled egg whites. That's my one and only venture with crepes.
I might make crepes again sometime but there won't be no crepe cake ever again.

I have visited Janet's blog a few times, but I love the looks of her Stack Cake. I don't cook as much as I use to, but I suppose everyone has their problems. I'm looking forward to Thanksgiving Dinner, not the Turkey so much, but especially that Homeade Dressing. ...Ken

Mercy, the picture on the cookbook says it all! Nothing else would have to be printed for me to know that this is a family cookbook. For it seems to me that a "Stack Cake" of at least 6 layers is "Family"!
My mother-in-law had to have at least 6 layers and the rest of the family wanted it stacked as high as she could get it without toppling over! Well, maybe that is a stretch but more than 6 layers...It was a family thing with all the daughters and mother cooking together and the daughter-in-laws bringing in our recipes from our mothers and grandmothers...Ha As a new bride, coming into a family of great cooks from the South, I always tried to bring my very best effort and recipe to the Thanksgiving dinner!
Later in the evening, if my mother-in-law and or the sisters asked me for my recipe....I would feel such 'pride' inside my heart that is was almost sinful...Oh, that was one of my mothers recipes that I sprung on them one time..."Sinful Dessert"...or some just called it "Sin"! Ha
Thanks Tipper for the post today....
PS...You know how I love cookbooks...
PS..2 When I was little, our house was heated with coal. To make it look neat for the government housing they put little wooden fences around the coal pile near the streets. ha The Secret City was not far from coal mining towns...A new girl transferred to our school, that once lived in the town of Coalfield, when her Dad acquired a new job in the Secret City...She taught me how to make a 'coal garden'. I thought she was one of the most clever girls I ever met. Last time I heard from her she was going to college studying chemistry! Figures! Not me...the only thing I loved about that garden was putting on the many 'food colors' and mixing them...until it started growing of course!

i hope some of your readers are familiar with one of the revered cookbooks of the south, Marion Flexners “Out of Kentucky Kitchens”. It was reprinted a number of years ago, and is usually available from larger used booksellers on line. It is full of lore of persons, cooks, regional stories from Kentucky and others places. My family turns to it whenever we are in quest for something distinguished but homey in a oldtime way. Mrs. flexxner lived in Louisville as an adult but grew up in Alabama with the cooking traditions and cooks of the OldSouth. Grab it up if you ever happen on it.

Tipper--I absolutely cannot resist a cookbook with linkage to Appalachia, and I've already e-mailed Janet in this regard. One point I made to her, since she mentions food superstitions, is that the luscious looking stack cake gracing the cover of her book would have drawn a wee bit of criticism from my Grandma Minnie, a wonderful maker of stack cakes. Grandma invariably used seven layers, and her reasoning was that seven was a lucky number. Accordingly, a stack cake, in her view, merited seven layers. That being said, if Miss Janet's pictorial offering was before me, I'm afraid it wouldn't remain pretty for long. I'd just have to have me a big old slice.

I'll also suggest that there are two other cookbooks which, to my way of thinking, actually transcend the company of John Parris and Sydney Farr (and that pair is pretty good culinary company). They are Joseph Dabney's "Smokhouse Hame, Spoon Bread & Scuppernong Wine: The Folklore and Art of Southern Appalachian Cooking," and Mark F. Sohn's "Mountain Country Cooking: A Gathering of the Best Recipes from the Smokies to the Blue Ridge." In addition to containing scores of scrumptious recipes, both (and especially Dabney) have a world of information on culinary folkways.

Jim Casada

This year our 3 kids and their families and some of the extended family and others will be here for Thanksgiving. Usually the traveling folks have been able to extend their vacation time and be here at least 4 or 5 days; but due to work schedules and other obligations, several will be making "fly by" visits arriving late Wed and departing Friday afternoon or early Saturday. Because of this I announced that this year I would just do the dinner myself "keeping it sweet and simple" (my version of "KISS") with make-a-heads and basics so we could have our time for visiting together. (- And, there are young babies to pass around for holding and for snuggling!)
Considering complaints and advice I had already been receiving about having too many choices and too much food, I wasn't ready for the "loud" protests which followed. Some of the same folks who complained about excessive food wanted to make sure their favorites would be on the table. Others rather angrily announced that they had been perusing magazines and clipping interesting recipes they wanted to try for Thanksgiving. Still others said, but "this" is my specialty! or - it won't be Thanksgiving without "this"!
Like many (I imagine most) of your readers, I grew up with 4 generations working together in the kitchen for any big family meal and I loved the comradery and the stories about how they used to do it and the discussions about how and why certain ingredients or methods should be used. The food was always good; but the food wasn't the most important thing. To this day, stirring the gravy with a fork instead of a whisk, including miniature marshmallows in the apple salad, eating homemade rolls from Grandma's recipe, or savoring Mom's cranberry relish stir up fond memories of bygone relatives;. Maybe that's why the cookbooks which share the stories of the recipes and those who made them, like Janet Smart's cookbook, are so popular today.
So - we'll see what new stories are made in our family kitchen this Thanksgiving. I just hope the focus isn't on the food - - oh, we will enjoy it, to be sure - - but I hope we truly take the opportunity and the time to visit kindly with each other face to face.

Imagine that cover picture made of split apart biscuits filled and frosted with spiced fruit (applesauce) and chilled overnight. That's what I grew up loving. I would make me some right now but I can't even make a descent biscuit.

I have been seeing West Virginia pictures lately, along with watching "Barnwood Builders" and I'm thinking I might need to go there. Some of my coal miner family members used to live there.

Thanks Tipper for alerting us about this book. I've ordered it and signed up for her blog.

My sisters and cousins have talked often about making our own family cookbook. I'll have to buy a copy (or two or three) of Janet's cookbook for inspiration. I'll be buying a copy of the girls' CD as well, just haven't gotten around to it. Of course, I want it autographed!

I don't mean to be a snob, but, I thought between us we knew most of the old time recipes....guess not. I'll look forward to seeing Janet's book!

Hi, Tipper. Thank you so much for your kind words about my cookbook! I enjoyed putting it together. If your readers go over to Amazon and use the 'look inside' feature, they can see the table of contents with its list of recipes. There are also 4 original poems. I hope people who read my cookbook get inspired to write down their family recipes, (pages included in the back for them to do this), family traditions and food superstitions, so they won't be lost and, most of all, they have fun creating memories in the kitchen with their family!

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