Granny's Carrot Cake

Grannys carrot cake

Several years ago I decided I wanted to make a carrot cake. I searched and searched online till I found the fanciest recipes you've ever seen for carrot cake. I tried a couple of them and didn't like a one. Finally I did what I should have done in the first place, went down to Granny's and got her carrot cake recipe. 

As I copied down her tried and true recipe I noticed at the top it said Kay Morgan's Carrot Cake

In Granny's hand written recipe book she always writes down the name of the person who shared the recipe with her. I find myself doing the same thing.

Kay and her husband were close friends of Granny and Pap's back when I was a baby and Paul wasn't even born. I wonder what Kay Morgan would think about us still making her carrot cake all these many years later.

Granny and Kay Morgan's Carrot Cake

  • 2 ½ cup self-rising flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sodie (baking soda)
  • 2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups shredded carrot
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Cream Cheese Icing

  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • ½ stick butter/margarine
  • 1 box powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ cup shredded coconut

Old fashioned carrot cake for Easter

Cake directions: Mix together flour, cinnamon, salt, and sodie-set aside.

Cream sugar and oil.
Add eggs one at a time mixing well after each.
Add dry ingredients and mix till combined.
Add carrots and mix till combined (and nuts if using)

Pour batter into 3 greased 9 inch cake pans and bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes or till done. Granny's notes say you can add a little milk if the batter is too thick but I've never had that problem.

Let cake layers cool while the icing is made. My layers always stick unless I use parchment paper to line the bottoms. Most of the time I go with the theory that what matters is how a cake tastes not how it looks. 

Icing directions: Mix cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla together until light and fluffy. Spread over cake and sprinkle with coconut. I only spread the icing between the layers and on the top. Granny ices the entire cake-I guess you'd say I take the easy way out. 

Download Print Granny's Carrot Cake (right click to open link and print recipe)

This is the time of the year for Carrot Cakes and I have one of Granny and Kay's sitting in my kitchen, if you lived close enough I'd share a piece with you.

Tipper

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Oh Why Not Tonight

Oh Why Not Tonight - an altar call song in Appalachia

Gospel music plays a major role in the culture of Appalachia. I'm not talking about music in relation to monetary terms nor successful performers, although more than a few country and bluegrass stars got their start singing in church. 

My thoughts and beliefs come directly from my own personal experiences, but I feel strongly that my statements about the relationship between gospel music and Appalachia would be shared by most who grew up attending church in these mountains.

Even as a young child I remember being astounded by the power of songs of faith. There's a palatable feeling that occurs when folks gather to lift their voice in worship. If you've never felt it, slip in the door of one of those little old churches scattered through out and listen as the choir sings and see if you don't feel it too.

One of my closest childhood friends is named Sharon. We were in the same classroom at school and we went to the same church.

We liked the singing more than the preaching-as most kids are likely to do. We knew the page number of all our favorite songs and we'd anxiously wait to see if the song leader called out one that we loved to sing. 

Down On My Knees written by Mosie Lister, The Prettiest Flowers Will Be Blooming by Albert E. Brumley, I Want To Know More About My Lord by Lee Roy Abernathy, and Are You Washed In The Blood by Rev. E.A. Hoffman were a few of the upbeat songs we liked.

We had a love for the more lonesome gospel songs too. Songs like- Lord I'm Coming Home by William J. Kirkpatrick, Almost Persuaded by P.P. Bliss, Oh Why Not Tonight by Elizabeth H. Reed and J. Calvin Bushey, and Take My Hand Precious Lord by Rev. Thomas A. Dorsey.

The lyrics of those old gospel songs I grew up with lend themselves to the culture of Appalachia. I'm not suggesting that they were all written here, most were not. But the strong recurring themes of God, Jesus, love, the cross, faith, death, blood, hell, rivers, long roads, toiling, snares, mountains, shining lights, rejoicing, happiness, joy, better times to come, dark valleys, and loved ones calling come fit perfectly in the mindset of most folks born and raised in Appalachia. I would go so far as to say the manner in which they were written, the words used, strike a chord with the language of Appalachia. Maybe in the same way the isolated nature of the region played a role in the continuity of our dialect it also helped folks hold on to the sacred songs of our past.

Paul has been uploading some of Pap's older music to the Blind Pig and The Acorn youtube channel. He recently put up a few videos made from the first recording of The Wilson Brothers - Words of Life way back in the 70s. Take a listen to their version of Oh Why Not Tonight

Hope you enjoyed the song! My favorite part is the way they say poor and of course Pap's high tenor. 

Tipper

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We Mountain People

Mountain people

Jerry and Pap - Life long friends

"We mountain people are the product of our history and the beliefs and outlook of our foreparents. We are a traditional people, and in our rural setting we valued the things of the past. More than most people, we avoided mainstream life and thus became self-reliant. We sought freedom from entanglements and cherished solitude. All of this was both our strength and our undoing."

~Appalachian Values -Loyal Jones

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Tipper

p.s. The Pressley Girls will be playing TODAY Saturday March 25 at 6:00 p.m. at the Martins Creek Community Center.

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Was

Appalachian grammar the word was

was verb past tense of be, used with both plural nouns and plural pronouns as its subject. [OED dates this usage from the 14th century; DARE labels this usage "especially South, Midland" in the U.S.]
1801 Meigs Journal 4 A Spectator even without knowing the Language would be convinced that matters was well arranged. 1866 Elijoy Minutes 110 [T]he meeting lasted 16 days & nights during which time there was 27 baptised & there was 48 Joined the church. 1939 Hall Coll. (Cataloochee NC) We went over and put us up a still, and we was a-making some awful good [liquor]. It was so good you could taste the gal's feet in it that hoed the corn it was made out of. 1939 Hall Coll. (Sugarlands TN) They'd bunch up if you was sick and come work your corn for you and make quiltings and roll logs and grubbings, one thing and another, and help you when you was sick and disabled or you couldn't help yourself, but they don't do that anymore. 1969 GSMNP-44:12 They come from Ireland. They was Scot Irish. 1973 GSMNP-76:15 You had to work the roads six days a [year] after you was twenty-one years old. 1974 GSMNP-50:1:23 We was poor folks and hired out [to] get enough money to buy cloth to make me a dress. They didn't have dresses made up in the stores then.

~Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English

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The was usage described in the dictionary entry is beyond common in my area of Appalachia right down to my house household and my own mouth. 

There are two quotes from the dictionary that caught my eye:

1939 Hall Coll. (Cataloochee NC) We went over and put us up a still, and we was a-making some awful good [liquor]. It was so good you could taste the gal's feet in it that hoed the corn it was made out of. 

1939 Hall Coll. (Sugarlands TN) They'd bunch up if you was sick and come work your corn for you and make quiltings and roll logs and grubbings, one thing and another, and help you when you was sick and disabled or you couldn't help yourself, but they don't do that anymore. 

Tipper

p.s. The Pressley Girls will be playing tomorrow Saturday March 25 at 6:00 p.m. at the Martins Creek Community Center.

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March in Pigeon Roost

March in Appalachia

The 1974 Winter Edition of the Foxfire Magazine contains a compilation of newspaper articles written by Harvey Miller. At the time of the magazine's publication Miller's weekly column had been around for sixty years and was till being published in the Tri-County News located in Spruce Pine, North Carolina.

1961

I have just read the interesting article printed in the State magazine published in Raleigh about the great flood of 1916. Several old timers here said it was nothing compared to the flood of 1900.

F.M. Miller of this place reports that he was only about a month old when the great May flood of 1900 occurred and the recalls of his parents telling him that they had to flee to higher ground when their log cabin in the valley was being surrounded by water. 

Another old timer reported that when Aunt Ellen Miller's building that housed her old corn mill that was pulled by the water wheel went floating down the creek, the people who were watching the rising stream from the hillside saw a white cat that acted unconcerned setting on the roof of the building which rode on down the creek and the house stayed together for sure until it drifted out into the river. He said the cat went on down the Chucky River.

Every foot log that spanned the creeks went down the stream. There was not any bridges built over the creek anywhere at that time. Stock here such as horses and cattle was drowned in the full waters. 

One good sign that spring of the year is just around the corner is that there is the odor of polecats in the air here in the hill country for the last few foggy mornings.

There is some people here, especially children, who keep lead bullets hanging around their necks, which they claim keeps their nose from bleeding. The bullets has been made flat and holes put in them made for a red string. But the bullets must be ones that has been shot and killed a hog.

3/2/61

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1964

I am going to tell about some of the wild plants that was used for food; also roots and herbs used as a medicine purpose, but I do not vouch for their curing ability. But that's what the old people way back 'yander' had as a remedy for certain illness.

The wild plant as I have always known it by the name of Sheep Sorrel was not only used for food but for a medicine, too. It was eaten raw and is sour like pie plant but now called rhubarb. Sheep Sorrel was used as a poultice for skin diseases. The good recommendation that it had way back 'yander' that a skin sore would heal with one application. The Sheep Sorrel grows best in poor ground.

Pheasant craw plant I suppose has been eaten a lot for food and used as a medicine. Talk about being bitter! You find pheasant craw as bitter as bitter can be. But it is said to be a good stomach medicine and it can be chewed raw and the juice swallowed. I have always heard it said that a bitter herb or root is not poison.

Indian turnip can be eaten as a food. But I find it really strong. If I ever eat Indian turnip, it is only in little tastes and then I want some cornbread to eat with it. 

Mountain tea is good to chew as well as there is not anything better than the little red berries that grows on the mountain tea. But you will find the herb more tender in the spring of the year  than it is during the winter time.

Lambs tongue is also good to eat. The bulb that grows on the root is what is eaten. 

There is no sweeter odor than that of wild roots and herbs found used to at the country stores and the smell of the roots and herbs lasted all summer and fall long. Wild ginger is perhaps the loudest smelling of the all wild roots. Also sassafras and wild cherry is loud smellers.

I have been told that pennyroyal herb placed in barns where hogs roam and bed will keep away fleas. Pennyroyal is another herb that smells good.

I will be telling more about the roots and herbs that grows in this part of the country from time to time as space permits.

Mrs. Senia Ray of Pigeon Roost spent Sunday night at Brummetts Creek visiting Mrs. America Griffith.

We have had an awful bad winter here this year and at this writing, winter weather is still here.

3/5/64

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1965

Lester Miller of mouth of Rock Creek section reported to the writer that he went out of the sheep business last fall after keeping and raising sheep for more than twenty years. He said sheep-killing dogs got to be so bad that he decided to quit trying to raise sheep about three years ago.

3/18/65

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Always interesting to pay a visit to Pigeon Roost. Lead bullets that stop nose bleeds and sheep-killing dogs are only a small example of the things Miller wrote about. I especially enjoyed his writings about mountain roots and herbs and I wish I knew more about both. 

Jump over to the Foxfire website and poke around. They are still publishing the magazine and those wonderful Foxfire Books too.

Tipper

p.s. The Pressley Girls will be playing Saturday March 25 at 6:00 p.m. at the Martins Creek Community Center.

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Small Scale Gardening

Small scale gardening

The Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English offers the following definition for patch farming:

1972 Graham County 50 With the first stages of early clearing, the farmer did "patch" farming near the cabin. Many farmers today still speak of a "patch" of corn or other crops. The farmer gradually and systematically extended the patches into wider fields by each year extending his farming into a new area known as a "new ground."

Back in the day when I first started gardening I read all sorts of books and magazines on the subject. I was fascinated by the articles which showed how much food could be produced in small raised beds. Typically the gardens profiled were in urban settings where there is less square footage to go around for gardening purposes. 

In those days, we had even less flat land around our house than we do now so I thought my narrow little bank tops would be perfect for raised beds. I remember telling Pap about what I had been reading and he got this smile on his face. I said "What?" He said "Why Tip people around here have been growing gardens like that since I was a boy, only nobody called them raised beds. But every wife would have her a little garden patch right close to the house where it'd be handy for her to tend it and for them to eat from it too." 

Then Pap showed me, you don't have to break the bank to build those little garden patches aka raised beds.

We found some 2-to 3 foot length tree branches The Deer Hunter had cut and thrown in the woods and used them for the sides. Pap showed me how to fill the bottom portion of the new patch with leaves and then dig a few buckets full of dark loamy soil from the edge of the woods to put on top. 

In the years since Pap first showed me how to form little garden patches I've made them all over the yard-one here and one there gradually increasing their size and building up the soil all at the same time.

I've used all sorts of boards, logs, branches, and rocks to form the sides. Basically I used anything I could find that was handy. And I've discovered: if you're able to fill the patch with 12 inches of good lose dark rich soil like the gardening books tell you to-GREAT. But if you're like me and you're really doing good to end up with 3 or 4 inches of so so soil it still works better than trying to grow vegetables on top of hard packed dirt. And if you're short on gardening space those little patches here and there and can boost your vegetable production in an amazing way.

Remember if you plan to purchase seeds from Sow True Seed please go through me to purchase them-just click on this link- Sow True Seed and start getting those seeds!

Tipper

p.s. The Pressley Girls will be playing Saturday March 25 at 6:00 p.m. at the Martins Creek Community Center.

 *Source Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English and Pap.

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Spring of the Year

Spring Mommy Goose Rhymes from the Mountains by Mike Norris

The poem above is from Mommy Goose Rhymes from the Mountains written by Mike Norris. 

I think Mike captured spring in Appalachia perfectly. You think it's warm, but the chill wind makes you quickly realize it's not!

Yesterday was the official first day of Spring. I feel like I'm so behind in my gardening endeavors that I may never catch up. I'm secretly hoping the cold weather stays just a little bit longer so that I can have more time to do what needs to be done before Old Man Winter is gone for good.

Tipper

p.s. Rhymes from the Mountains CD is now available on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, Google Music, and a bunch more places online. Check it out on iTunes and listen to samples of the tracks here: 
http://itunes.apple.com/album/id1160037010?ls=1&app=itunes

If you have the book without the CD, it's really not complete, as the song, narration, and 40-plus minute conversation with Minnie are a key part of the project. (And physical CDs can be ordered from Amazon.)

Bookstore versions of the book may be ordered many places online, but Amazon and The University Press of Ky [it's the university press of the whole state, not just UK] are two good sources.

p.s.s. The Pressley Girls will be playing Saturday March 25 at 6:00 p.m. at the Martins Creek Community Center.

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Corn Fritters - Hoe Cakes - Johnny Cakes = YUM!

Johnny cakes

Some folks call them corn fritters while others call them Johnny Cakes or Hoe Cakes. Whatever you call them the little pancake like things are good! Especially with a glass of sweet tea to wash it down.

Johnny cake recipe

To make corn fritters you only need cornmeal and hot water mixed into a batter and fried in oil. The fancier recipe below has egg and flour which gives the fritter more substance.

Corn Fritters - Johnny Cakes - Hoe Cakes

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 cup hot water or milk (I use hot water)
  • 1 tablespoon oil

Are johnny cakes pancakes

Mix all the dry ingredients; stir in the egg, milk or water, and oil; fry like a pancake.

In the cookbook More Than Moonshine, Sidney Saylor Farr shares a story about asking her Grandmother how Johnny Cakes got their name. The gist of her Grandmother's explanation was: A pioneer lady made her hungry boy, named Johnny, a cake and told him it was Johnny's cake. I've also heard the cakes were originally called Journey Cakes because of the ease with which they could be made as one traveled on their journey. 

Eating johnny cakes

Corn fritters or whatever you call them are good with syrup and especially good with a smear of pepper jelly. But my favorite way to eat them is plain. There's something about the texture and nuttiness of the cornmeal that make them so tasty straight out of the pan.

Tipper

p.s. The Pressley Girls will be playing Saturday March 25 at 6:00 p.m. at the Martins Creek Community Center.

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Tipper's Jig

Fiddle tunes by katie pressley

Over the years when the girls asked me what I want for my birthday, for mother's day, or for Christmas I always tell them to learn a song for me. For the past two years Chitter has written a fiddle tune for my birthday and presented it with Chatter's accompaniment as I came in the door from work. The tunes absolutely tickle me to death.

The first one she wrote, Two Old Chairs, has become a part of our regular performing line up. It is so fun to play. I shared the reason behind the name of the tune in a post with you-if you missed it you can go here to read about the name. The tune itself is very lively and fun. It makes you think of a room full of happy dancers or smiling children running in pure delight. 

She really flattered me by naming the second fiddle tune Tipper's Jig. While the first tune she wrote made me think of an exuberant happy gathering of people interacting with each other, Tipper's Jig makes me think of soaring mountain tops where the wind whips the clouds across a blue sky and deep valleys where the settlements are busy with people going to and fro as they maneuver through this thing we call life.

I hope you enjoyed my song.

Tipper

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Overheard

Overheard in Appalachia

"We were going to England to watch a tennis tournament."

"England? That's an awful long way to go to watch tennis. Can't you just go to Asheville?" 

Tipper

Overheard: snippets of conversation I overhear in Southern Appalachia

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