I was born and raised in a very small town in Appalachia to be specific Appalachia stretches across 13 states but the whole of my state is enclosed in Appalachia which is West Virginia. My parents had a 60 acre farm where we raised everything we ate. We drank out of water hoses and did not die either by today’s standards….(joke) I am 48 so I grew up in the age of almost no technology to speak of no cell phones, smartphones, tablets, computers ect. As a kid I hated all the hard work we had to do every Summer/Fall. We had a small apple orchard we shared with our grandparents who lived on the next farm and we had huge root vegetable crops each year along with raising pigs.
The end of summer would come and the real work began. Peeling about a million apples each year to preserve, dry and basically every way you could eat a apple it was done by us. It wasn’t enough that we did all this on our own farm but then we would visit the grandparents farm, my aunt’s farm and do the exact same thing there too. Then here comes the real work of preserving/canning everything from the root vegetable garden because as a child what I saw as work in reality became what we would survive on each winter. We also had huge grape vines, and blackberry and raspberry bushes to harvest as well as a few peach tree’s and saying summer/fall was a busy time was an understatement. We also made our own butter, cream and cheese in addition to having around 30 chickens. There is no idle time on the farm, there is always something that needs done.
I am not all together certain I was truly aware that we were poor back then. But, it really didn’t matter I suppose you could say we lived up a holler…..but let me clarify a misconception of a majority of people from my region we do not have extreme accents like you see of some people on TV I am not sure where they find some of those, but I can assure you most of us speak quite normally. I also suppose some people would of considered us hill folk but my father was an educated man who served 25 years in the military. We were taught right from wrong, my parents were very strict and at 48 years old I do not regret one moment of what we were taught. My only wish and regret is that I would of understood the importance of all the hard work of harvest time better back then.
We ran around in the woods as children there was a whole mountain behind our house to explore and we made good work of exploring and foraging for roots, and herbs. My grandfather had a remedy for almost everything. He was very knowledgeable in roots in herbs and used them quite frequently with all of us. He used to ply us with yellow root all the time and if any of you have ever used that….it’s the worst and most bitter tasting herb to stomach.
When my grandparents got older my father decided it was time for everyone to move to town and so we all did. My grandparents found a small house less than a mile from us and they were a everyday part of our lives. But even though we have moved to town we would still continue the large root vegetable gardens and still much preserving/canning for all of my childhood. My grandparents had 3 huge apple tree’s on there property and we still harvested so much and gave bushels away.
I suppose my true point to this is…..in this region I was raised much the same as anyone else around here. Whatever you harvest becomes what you live on in the winter. We didn’t even have meat that often only on Sundays. But our diet would consist largely of vegetables BUT we are also speaking of fried everything, fried potatoes, green tomatoes, squash. Any meat usually fried as well. So I was always cursed as the chubby kid and I liked to eat. I am not sure that ever really changed. Years of eating fried foods, biscuits and gravy, or tons of cornbread. It was a very high carb lifestyle that is even true today.
If you are poor and live here your shopping cart is not filled with fruits and veggies because once you buy those they have a very short shelf life at home. You are forced into a high carb lifestyle to be able to stretch that as far as you can. Every single choice you make at the grocery store is based on how many meals you can make by making that choice. It is not uncommon for people to have spaghetti very often because it’s cheap. Or any type pasta for that matter…I was raised on Goulash which was simply in my house macaroni and hamburger and a jar of canned tomato bits.
Nor was it ever uncommon for the ladies of my family to establish bragging rights of how many quart jars were preserved/canned during harvest time. I by no means do the scale of preserving/canning that my mother did but I along with my sister were taught at a very young age all these methods and of course our methods revolve around the Ball Canning Book passed down from mother. I don’t even cook in any resemblance to my mother because of everything I’ve read about don’t eat this, don’t fry that. I eat nothing fried at all now. YOU would think that may make a greater impact on my weight loss journey but it really doesn’t. And still to survive in this region requires you to grow a great deal of your food sources and be super creative in all aspects.