The Place Setting, by Fred W. Sauceman

Michael and Jane Stern have made careers by publicizing small town eateries all over the country. Fred W. Sauceman’s The Place Setting, published earlier this year by the Mercer University Press, is a wonderful guide to down home cooking in the Southern Appalachians.

Sauceman not only spotlights restaurants that serve chicken livers, “beans all the way,” and buttermilk biscuits, but also provides recipes for now exotic dishes such as killed lettuce, cushaw custard, and chow-chow. That last one comes from the late Jeanette Carter, daughter of A.P. and Sara Carter and co-founder of the famous Carter Family Fold in Maces Spring, Virginia. Ms. Carter, it seems, worked as a cook at Hilton Elementary School in the 1960s. Her recipe is below the break.

While focusing on food, the author also spends time with the folks who make it and eat it. This is one of the delights of dining at a place such as Johnson City’s The One-Stop, which sells about 50 pounds of fried chicken livers per day (and recommends a red American zinfandel to go with them). “Foodies” aren’t just the people who shop at Whole Foods or the ones who serve arugala salads.

Perhaps the only thing that would make the book better is a good set of maps. The cover of the book contains a crypic line–“First Course”–and I hope this means that the author has future volumes in the works.

Jeanette Carter and her chow-chow

Jeanette Carter and her chow-chow. Photo by Larry Smith

Jeanette Carter’s Chow-Chow

1 gallon chopped cabbage 1 gallon chopped green tomatoes

1 quart chopped onions 3 chopped green bell peppers

1 tablespoon dry mustard 2 tablespoons powdered ginger

1 tablespoon cinnamon 2 tablespoons tumeric

1 tablespoon celery seed 3 tablespoons salt

3 pounds brown sugar 1/2 gallon of vinegar

Combine all ingredients and bring to a boil. Cook slowly for 30 minutes. Put in sterilized canning jars and seal. Serve over soup beans or use as any other relish.


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