Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), and several Kindle ebooks.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

New River: bonnets, apple butter, and moonshine

New River bonnets, apple butter and moonshine, by Charles Lytton is part memoir, part history of the River Ridge area, part cookbook, and part country lore. Subtitled "The Raising of a Little Fat Boy," the book is a fine addition to Appalachian literature.


For readers unfamiliar with country living, Lytton has included explanations. For example cat-headed biscuits do not contain any feline parts. "Cat-headed" refers to their size. Every morning for 25 years, Lytton's mother would bake 36 of them for breakfast. They were good slathered with yellow cow butter.

What is yellow cow butter? Lytton explains it in the glossary:

In the spring, summer, and early fall when there was lots of green grass to eat, all manner of milk cows gave thick yellowish cream. This translates into yellow butter, the norm for all country foods. But in the winter when cows started to be fed dry hay, corn fodder, and very little grain, the cream they produced did not have much color. "Yellow cow butter" is the good kind. (p.1)

Something else  he explains is how to test to see if the lard is hot enough to properly fry something:

We put three or four popcorn kernels in the lard to indicate the proper cooking temperature. When the lard is hot enough to pop the pocorn, you can put chicken or green tomatoes into the lard and your food won't be too greasy. (p. 2)

If you're curious about what mountain oysters are (and how to fry them), how to cure the croup, what gigging is, or how to make squirrel gravy, this is the book for you. If you want to know what life in the country was like a half century ago told by someone who's been there and done that, this is also the book for you.

I loved the down-home flavor of New River bonnets, apple butter and moonshine. I devoured the book in two days, and what I read left me hungry for more.  Lytton is a consummate story-teller, and his tales of life on River Ridge are worth reading time and again. And some of the recipes sound pretty good, too.

Besides writing stories, he also tells them. At the "Authors on Grayson" event at the 2011 Galax Leaf and String Festival, I had the privilege of hearing him spin some yarns.


If you'd like to meet him, he'll be one of the authors at the Mountain Spirits Festival in downtown Rocky Mount, Virginia, on October 1. He'll be both selling books in the authors' tent and telling tales in the library.

I expect he'll bring plenty of copies with him.


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4 Comments:

Blogger Franz X Beisser said...

My kind of information. I like the real life. Too much in this world is synthetic. Not only what we consume, but also conversation and even friends.

4:42 PM  
Blogger Sweet Virginia Breeze said...

Sounds like a very interesting book with lots of old fashioned wisdom.

8:33 PM  
Blogger CountryDew said...

Sounds like a good book. Thanks for sharing it!

12:18 PM  
Blogger Sally Roseveare said...

I'm so glad he will be at the Mountain Spirits Festival on Oct. 1. His book sounds delightful.I'll definitely buy a copy.

9:56 AM  

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