At the beginning of each new year, I choose a theme for my cooking blog posts. Some years I blog a lot. Other years, like 2023, I hit the keyboard much less! This year, I think I’ve found a theme that will keep me writing.
I live in Southern Illinois and my ancestors are Scottish, Irish and German. My cooking style is all about using local products and following family recipes and cooking styles common in this region. I know that the German on my mother’s side of the family entered the United States at the Port of New Orleans in the early 1800s and followed the Mississippi River to the St. Louis region. I know that my father’s Scottish ancestors originally settled in the Carolinas and Virginia, then came through the Blue Ridge Mountains, into Tennessee and Kentucky. In 1815, they settled in Southern Illinois, but they were in America before the Revolutionary War.
My cooking styles are very similar to what food historians have identified as Appalachian Foodways. This year, I plan to follow the food timeline until it lands in Appalachia. I expect to learn a lot as I take you along on this journey!
According to Wikipedia, 90% of Appalachia’s earliest European settlers were Anglo-Scottish. This ethnic grouping is often called Scotch-Irish. Many of these settlers emigrated to the mountains in North Carolina and Tennessee. Those folks are my people.
Over time, I’m sure the food culture of ‘my people’ was influenced by other ethnic groups in the Appalachian region. The earliest pioneers in the region were German. African Americans have been present in the region since the mid 1500s. They arrived as slaves with early explorers. They came back to the region in the 18th century.
There were also Swedish and Finnish setters. Welsh immigrants arrived in the 19th century because of their mining expertise. The early 20th century brought Italian immigrants to the region. Native Americans were there before anybody else.
Combine all these ethnic groups and we have one diverse melting pot. There is no wonder that recipes and cooking methods that began in the earliest eras of worldwide history found their way to the Appalachian food culture.