North Carolina Icons: Appalachian Trail, Part 3: Food, Culture, Traditions

NC IconsIn our North Carolina Icons series this week we return for a third feature on the Appalachian Trail. It’s number 6 on Our State magazine’s list of 100 North Carolina Icons. You can learn more about it and other North Carolina icons from the State Library of North Carolina.

In our first post, we gave some suggestions for great hiking books to help you get your boots on the ground. In post deux, we considered the plants, animals, and views of the Appalachian region. Today we want to focus on the history and culture of the Appalachians, from food and games to folktales and traditions.

The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Cookery, by Linda Garland Page and Eliot WiggintonMore than simply a cookbook, The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Cookery combines unpretentious, delectable recipes with the wit and wisdom of those who have prepared and eaten such foods for generations. Drawn from the wealth of material gathered by Foxfire students, this engaging volume evokes the foodways of a southern Appalachian community.

Illustrated with photographs of the kitchens, people, and foods of Appalachia, this captivating collection contains more than 500 recipes. A sampling of favorites includes rhubarb cobbler, sassafras tea, fried quail, Brunswick stew, angel flake biscuits, seven-day cole slaw, and lime pickles. The book also explains traditional methods of preparing and preserving food, including directions for making homemade yeast, curing pork, ‘gritting’ corn, canning foods, cooking with a wood stove or fireplace, and preparing wild game. Originally published in 1984, the cookbook earned high praise from both food editors and folklorists. It returns with its bounty of practical information and personal recollections as an outstanding record of a folk heritage.


The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Toys and Games, by Linda Garland Page and Hilton SmithPart oral history and part rule book, The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Toys and Games is a joyous collection of memories of playing indoor and outdoor games; of making dolls, homemade board games, playhouses, and other toys—each with complete instructions and the flavor of southern Appalachia. Every toy and game has been tested by the Foxfire students and is devised to make or play yourself, without major expense, complicated parts, or electricity.

Originally published in 1985, the book includes familiar games like marbles, hopscotch, and horseshoes, as well as more obscure entertainments such as stealing the pines, crows and cranes, and thimble. Here, too, are instructions for constructing playhouses, noisemakers, puzzles, and whimmy diddles. The book also provides information on special games traditionally played on Sundays and holidays.


The Adventures of Molly Whuppie and Other Appalachian Folktales, by Anne ShelbyCombining traditional Appalachian folktale plots with a contemporary sensibility, writer and storyteller Anne Shelby creates fourteen lively, original stories of a funny, magical, yet familiar world in The Adventures of Molly Whuppie and Other Appalachian Folktales.

Many of the stories feature a girl named Molly Whuppie, who is clever, brave, and strong. Encountering witches, giants, an ogre who refuses to do housework, unwanted boyfriends, and all manner of conundrums, Molly manages to outwit them all with a potent combination of nerve, trickery, and plain luck. Also appearing in the stories are Molly’s sisters Polly and Betts, the famous Appalachian hero Jack (Molly saves him a few times), and three cornbread-baking mice. These delightful and often surprising stories are sure to appeal to readers and listeners of all ages who enjoy an adventurous tale well told.


Decoration Day in the Mountains, by Alan Jabbour and Karen Singer JabbourWritten by an internationally recognized folklorist and illustrated with more than 100 photos, Decoration Day in the Mountains: Traditions of Cemetery Decoration in the Southern Appalachians is an in-depth exploration of a little-known cultural tradition that dates back to the Civil War and is still observed widely throughout the Upland South, from North Carolina to the Ozarks. Decoration Day is a late spring or summer tradition that involves cleaning a community cemetery, decorating it with flowers, holding a religious service in the cemetery, and having dinner on the ground. The Jabbours illuminate the meanings behind the rituals and reveal how the tradition fostered a grassroots movement to hold the federal government to its promises about cemeteries left behind when families were removed to make way for Fontana Dam and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.


Remember to keep track of our NC Icons tag while we continue to post weekly updates of things to do and places to visit in North Carolina.