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Appalachia

Chickens and the Civil War: a roasted dinner from A LIFE FOR NANCY—THE DAUGHTER OF FRANKIE SILVER

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Lean times are common for Nancy and her children as they struggle to survive in Danita Stoudemire and Riley Henry’s historical novel, A Life for Nancy—The Daughter of Frankie Silver (Bookstand Publishing, 2012). But when winter hits their rural Appalachian community in the midst of the Civil War, life becomes unbearable in the cabin where they all fight to exist. Two days before Christmas, however, Nancy—the daughter of the only woman in Burke County, North Carolina to be hanged for murder—finds a dead chicken lying on the ground outside. She decides to pluck the pitiful bird and bring it inside to share with her children for Christmas dinner. A small store of root vegetables and other sturdy produce remains buried…

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Sweet celebration: creating Leela’s four-layer coconut cake from Karen Spears Zacharias’s MOTHER OF RAIN

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Life was anything but a party for Maizee Hurd in Karen Spears Zacharias’s novel, Mother of Rain (Mercer Univ. Press, 2013). From the voices urging her to do unspeakable things, to the loss of her loving husband at Normandy, it seemed as if poor Maizee was doomed to a life of heartache the moment she found her mother lying dead in the garden behind her childhood home. For this reason, it was her son, Rain’s, first birthday cake that I knew I wanted to try to recreate as I worked my way through Maizee’s tragic story. The cake, and the party his community organized to celebrate his young life, unfortunately seemed to symbolize the end of what had been a relatively…

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Friendship in Appalachia: Sweet Tea Rosemary Grilled Chicken inspired by Kathryn Magendie’s SWEETIE

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Shy and scientific-minded Melissa is the polar opposite of Sweetie, who finds magic in all she sees and possesses boundless energy and courage. In Sweetie (Bell Bridge Books, 2010), Kathryn Magendie chronicles the adventures and tragedies of these two girlhood friends as they come of age. Melissa’s mother simply doesn’t know what to make of her daughter’s new friend who seems to pop in and out of the thicket near their mountain community on a whim. Wondering about the girl’s seeming lack of supervision, never able to grasp the fact that her name is Sweetie not “Sweet Tea,” Melissa’s mother is unsure if her daughter should continue her friendship with the unusual girl. The devotion Sweetie and Melissa feel for each other, however, outweighs…

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Catching stories and fried corn

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Danger approaches 16-year-old Shelly Parker’s doorstep in Black Mountain, North Carolina, so she takes off for Georgia’s Lowcountry in Ann Hite’s The Storycatcher (Gallery Books, September 2013). The Appalachian girl—urged by the spirits who dwell in the shadows and forests surrounding her small mountain community to take precautions to avoid the disaster that is imminent—will see and experience things in the island village of Darien that she never imagined. One thing she is familiar with, from her life as the daughter of a serving woman, is fried corn. At the request of her hostess, she sets to work preparing it in the kitchen of her home-away-from-home, just the way her mother, Nada, taught her. I was curious, when I read this portion…

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