What is eaten and why? “Cornbread Nation” with Ronnie Lundy

Appalachian Foodways Course for the UNCA Asheville/OLLIE/College for Seniors, April 1, 2015. What is eaten and why? “Cornbread Nation” with Ronnie Lundy

Ronni Lundy started her session by bringing biscuits and local Sorghum Molasses Syrup. She made a real southern treat, warn sorghum molasses mixed with warm butter. What a wonderful childhood memory. To mix warm sorghum molasses and warm butter into a sticky spread, just for those hot biscuits on a cold morning – yummmmm!

Ronnie Lundy & Bill Best

Ronnie Lundy & Bill Best

Sorghum cane (looks similar to sugar cane but with a big clump of seeds on top) is harvested and crushed in the fall here in the mountains. The syrup is boiled in pots or vats until it thickens. Then it is sealed into canning jars for enjoyment. For some families, other than honey, this was the only sweetener available for pancakes and stack cakes.

Ronni explained the difference between what most people know as molasses and what a lot of mountain folk call molasses or sorghum molasses. Most molasses (blackstrap) are derived from sugar cane or beets. Sorghum is a major grain that originates from Africa. Brought here by slaves, the sorghum plant has a sturdier stalk that yields the green sticky liquid that must be boiled down for hours to achieve thickness and sweetness. Sorghum molasses is a product unique to the Appalachians.

Ronni talked about the dual cultures of Appalachia (rural & cities) and her journey from the coal mining mountains to the city. “Everyone in the mountains seems to be connected by kinship or sometimes by hardship.” The rural mountain culture is one of connections and mountain people spend that time “nurturing connections.” Perhaps, that’s why the mountain people tend to know their neighbors much more easily than people in cities. Even death is a nourishing time in Appalachia. Everyone brings food and stories to share around the table.

Ronnie is the author of Shuck Beans, Stack Cakes, and Honest Fried Chicken, a classic fusion of the food and music cultures of our region. https://www.southernfoodways.org/awards/ronni-lundy-2009-lifetime-achievement-award-winner/