Victuals: An Appalachian Journey, with Recipes was busy making the list of 2016’s best cookbooks before it was even released (Clarkson Potter, August 30). It’s the latest effort from food maven and Kentucky native, Ronni Lundy. In a Best Of 2016 lineup that includes Ina Garten, Tasting Table says, “Appalachian food is about to experience its heyday, and with Lundy’s lush stories about the region’s culinary narrative, you’ll come to crave the corn, braising greens and shuck beans that come with it. The desserts are particularly alluring, like gingerbread that uses black walnuts and the ‘sorghum sea foam’ frosting on top of chocolate-blackberry jam layer cake.”
As Jane Black points out in the Washington Post’s rave review of Lundy’s latest, “Today, I’ve rarely seen real green beans outside of Appalachia. It’s the last place in the country where people demand them.” She adds, “to call it a cookbook seems almost unfair.”
Lundy’s books (Sorghum’s Savor; Butter Beans to Blackberries; The Festive Table; and Shuck Beans, Stack Cakes and Honest Fried Chicken) are not so much cookbooks as they are anthropology, and the latest is no exception.Lundy says, “I would have to own that while I love to cook, recipe is not my primary interest in writing about food. I am profoundly grateful to those for whom it is and for their work, which informs mine, and I try to live up to good practice and honor great cooking when it comes to writing recipes, but I am as interested as much in why we are doing what we’re doing when we stand at the stove as the how. And that interest is personal, political, sociological and extremely historical. The great thing in writing about food (and the secret subtext hidden in many recipes) is its revelation of the voices of people who traditionally have not been consulted when history is told—even their own history. Recipe and cookbooks are where we hear what women’s lives were actually like in different eras, and what constituted daily life for the family. If you want to look at it in those terms, in food we learn the experiences of the humble, the poor and the outcast as well as those who have it made. Food is an easy door into strange cultures and stories. Plus you get to eat while you’re doing all that research.”
Cookbook author Kendra Bailey Morris writes, “Ronni Lundy’s Victuals is a beautiful testament to Appalachian food and culture. If you want to learn more about this region, especially from a culinary, historical, social context, this is your read. Oh, and recipes—pepperoni rolls, chili dawgs, fried pies, pea salad, fried chicken and white gravy. Almost heaven, indeed!”
Of the “chili dawgs,” Eastern Kentucky natives need not fear that their beloved chili buns have been neglected. Lundy says the book includes “a big full color photo of Chili Bun with upstart Slaw Dogs on p. 99 and a lovingly crafted recipe for Chili Bun Chili along with tips for picking the right bun. PLUS my version of what should be the city seal of Corbin, rendered by brilliant tattoo artist Ash Swain, on the front end pages. Three pool cues crossed representing Nevels, The Dixie, and The Fad.”
The new book will put Lundy on the road for a two-month tour, with several stops in her home state. There will be a cocktail and food from the book event at 610 Magnolia in Louisville Wednesday, Sep 14. Lundy and Toni Tipton-Martin will be at Carmichael’s in Louisville on Sunday, Sep 18 at 3 p.m. She will have a reading at the Morris Book Shop on Wednesday, Sep 21.
This article also appears on page 7 of the September 1 print edition of Ace.
Read Ace 1999 interview with Ronni Lundy here.
Read Ace 2015 interview with Ronni Lundy here.