Well, two months later than planned means right on schedule.
If you’ve been with me for a while, then you know I have a thing for family history (my own, mostly) and old recipes. A fascination with how food and family life have intersected over the generations. So, I posted recipes and stories from the Italian side of my family last year. Now, I’m doing the same thing with the Appalachian side.
Growing up in the North all my life, it came as a surprise that many of my ancestors were from the South. Sure, my maternal grandmother made fried chicken, but didn’t everybody’s? I vaguely knew she grew up in Virginia even though she had lived in Connecticut for as long as I could remember. Still, Virginia’s just barely over the Mason-Dixon line. Does that even count as Southern?
Also, I had thought these Southern relatives were of British descent, and some turned out to be, but most of them were Pennsylvania Dutch, which, come to find out, is German. Did you know this? In German, the word for German is Deutsch, so it only took a couple of New World misspellings to get to Dutch. And it turns out that the Pennsylvania Dutch weren’t married to Pennsylvania, either. Some migrated south to the Virginia mountains. It can give a girl a bit of an identity crisis.
I’ll be honest, my first thought about the German thing was: Does this mean I’m a Nazi? But, then I came to my senses. Of course, it doesn’t. What makes me a Nazi is my staunch unwillingness to diverge from my set plans (though my plans tend to be of a more benevolent nature). And it does go a long way toward explaining my unnatural love for sauerkraut.
You find out lots of interesting things when you dive down the rabbit hole of genealogy. Things you’d like to know, and things you might have been better off not knowing. Like incest (not uncommon, by the way, in small, remote communities where everyone’s kind of swimming in the same gene pool). And slave-ownership. So, of course, with regards to the latter, I couldn’t help thinking: Does this make me a racist? After further reflection, I realized, no. What makes me a racist is my sudden dearth of black friends. Oh, and things like this. So, yeah.
Unlike the Italian side of my family, in which I was a participant in the family culture, I was less involved with the Southern side. They were quieter folks. We visited less often because they were further away. So I’m more of an outsider looking in. Luckily, my mom transcribed many of my great-grandmother’s stories before she died, and there’s a lot of interesting stuff in there. I also have a great-aunt who still lives in Virginia, but I don’t know how often we’ll be hearing from her. She is a good and God-fearing woman, and I’m not sure she has the stomach for my blog.
Anyway, the recipes start next week. Any Appalachians in the house?