As I began collecting oral histories focused upon Appalachian Foodways, I had no idea that I would indeed reap more than I could have ever imagined. Thus far, I have had the pleasure of reminiscing with seventeen Appalachian individuals. Each oral history is a fountain of hidden knowledge that I have been blessed enough to stumble upon. My eldest interviewee, a 98-year-old WWII veteran, discussed with me the "egg butter" his mother prepared; endearing pull candy parties; and anxious pie suppers. Likewise, a beloved mother in her seventies shared with me the endeavors of preparing meals for sixteen vivacious children and following up supper with fresh pieces of broken honeycomb. This same mother canned over a thousand jars of food to feed her family through the winter.
With each individual oral history, I am forever changed and my heart is warmed by the character before me. I am amazed by the struggles endured by these incredible, Appalachian people who confess time after time that:
1) We never went hungry; we had plenty to eat.
2) We were poor but never knew it because we were self-sufficient.
3) Neighbors were our life line; community was appreciated and necessary.
There have been times that I have pulled away from a participant's home attempting to dry my eyes while waving goodbye. This is one of the precious customs of the people of Appalachia--seeing one's company to their car. Upon other occasions, I am recalling our conversation while striving to situate a jar of green beans presented to me by my interviewee in a safe place within my vehicle. A precious gift prepared from such wise hands would never be turned down.
Anxiously, I am attempting to collect more and more of these priceless testimonies before this wisdom is gone.