Above, a photo that I snapped of the inside cover of Victuals the day it arrived at my doorstep– I wanted to share the beauty of this book the minute I saw it.
Ronnie Lundy’s Victuals (pronounced “Vittles”) is a chronicle of a 4000+ mile journey through Appalachia, a story and a history told through food. It’s part cookbook, part edible atlas. It winds its way through Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky, and North Carolina, and pays homage to the traditions of Europe, West Africa, and the pre-colonial Americas that come together in the food of the Mountain South. It’s a book filled with seasonal and regional recipes, but also a history of the land and the people of Appalachia. Victuals reflects a confluence of climate, culture, industry, and ethnic heritage.
Personal history also plays a huge part in this book. Ronnie Lundy grew up in Appalachia. She vividly remembers her “summers up home” in Kentucky, and recipes like the swing shift steak come directly from her childhood.
There are recipes for every season. There are recipes for bright vegetable sides and hearty meat-centric suppers. There are recipes for sweet desserts and salty snacks alike. There’s a roasted root vegetable salad that comes dressed with bacon and orange soghum vinegar. Kale potato cakes, spring ramp pot roast, miner’s goulash, and a speckled butter bean cassoulet with rabbit confit. A simple skillet cornbread, a luscious buttermilk brown sugar pie, salty cheese nabs, and the sweet-and-savory banana pudding you’ll find below. There were also a few odd but delicious-sounding pickle recipes I put on my list for the spring– picked ramps and pickled green strawberries.
The book is divided by key food groups and ingredients. Each section is devoted to a staple food– salt, corn, beans and apples, among others. The apple section is one of my favorites. It includes fried apples, cake, a sticky pudding, and a recipe for pork & kraut in cider gravy.
To be honest, I had no idea the food of Appalachia was so varied. Staple foods pop up repeatedly, but there’s almost infinite variation in the preparation and addition of seasonal produce. And while this book digs deep into food traditions, the recipes are modern and fresh.
Is summer over already? It’s the first day of September and the last few weeks have flown by. I find it hard to believe— as I do at the start of every season— that it’s already time for the weather to change. Soon we’ll be trading in bathing suits for coats and sweaters, ice cream for hot cocoa.
But let’s not think about that just yet. September is actually the warmest month of the year in the Bay Area. The highs are in the high 70s and we’re just settling in for a long Indian summer. Today we’re making another ice cream recipe to get us through the last sweaty days of the season.
This matcha ice cream is cold, creamy, and sweet.
Note: This is a recipe post, but it’s also a personal post. If you’re just looking for the recipe, you’ll find it at the bottom of the page.
For the first two years of this blog, I wrote cheerfully about healthy recipes with trendy ingredients. I tried to muster up enthusiasm for things I wasn’t really excited about making, but had convinced myself food blogging was all about. I tried very hard, but it didn’t always feel right.
I’ve done the quick-and-easy recipes. I’ve done the health-conscious recipes. But at heart, I’m all about old-fashioned comfort foods, homey recipes, bits of nostalgia we all grew up with.
It’s the most down-home Southern food that makes my heart leap in my chest, that has me rushing to the kitchen to make it. It’s spicy Indian stews and curries, particularly South Indian, that bring back fond memories of childhood. It’s the sweet treat or the lovingly baked yeast bread that soothes me when I’m frustrated or flustered.
Patience. Time moves more slowly in the South, and the food takes a little longer to prepare. I grew up in Florida around a lot of good food, with a family that ate home-cooked meals, together at the table, every single night. I grew up eating a lot of Indian food lovingly cooked by my Mom. I also ate a ton of hearty American fare, the stuff most American childhoods are filled with. Watermelon and french fries and Tostitos pizza rolls. And these foods I grew up eating are the ones that inspire what I cook today. Occasionally I’ll put a tropical twist on something, and that’s also deeply me– my childhood in Florida or trips overseas to visit my grandparents in the Indian tropics.
Time to reclaim my roots.
This vanilla ice cream is a summertime classic. It’s simple. Made of a sweet custard base and real vanilla– vanilla bean if you have it.
It’s creamy and sweet, rich but not cloying.
The solstice and the 4th of July are the two big days that mark the beginning of summer.
Now we are in the thick of it. Expect barbecues, picnics, and day trips to the beach. Pool parties if you’re lucky.
These brownies are easy to pull together and they’re great for events. Take them anywhere. They’re delicious. They’re chocolatey from the cocoa, but they are also light enough that they won’t overwhelm everything else on the table. The frosting is thick enough that it won’t melt in the heat. I never thought I’d say that I liked a cakey brownie, but these have a lighter texture and I love them– something about them reminds me of childhood.
So bake these, share them, take them with you.
(Note: Don’t skip the frosting on these. The brownies alone have a dry and crumbly texture, and they don’t do well un-frosted.)
Our key ingredients. Flour, sugar, cocoa.
Would you believe me if I told you this recipe only uses 10 ingredients? It’s true.