VICTUALS. Say it the way my people have for centuries: vidles.
– Ronni Lundy
We are loving to read Ronni Lundy’s book Victuals! It’s no wonder that Edward Lee read her earlier cookbook cover to cover.
When I found out that Ronni Lundy was embarking on a series of road trips through Appalachia for her book Victuals, I called her up and volunteered myself as a road trip companion. Lundy’s book Shuck Beans, Stack Cakes, and Honest Fried Chicken was the first cookbook I bought when I moved to Kentucky. It was the first cookbook I read cover to cover, as you would a novel. Until then, I had always thought of cookbooks as references you flipped through to fin what you needed: a recipe for a clafoutis, or how much salt one used to brine a chicken. Cookbooks provided measurements and instructions, but I never thought to go to them for a sense of time and place.
– Edward Lee, Buttermilk Graffiti | Chapter 6: Slaw Dogs and Pepperoni Rolls, p.102
The sweet warm scent of the apples under the tree brings back a memory of long summer afternoons on the porch swing with my great-aunt Johnnie, her voice tender and curious as she showed me birds landing in the trees, told me their names, made up stories. […] She held a sharp, small paring knife and deftly, in rhythm with the swing, would quarter the small, misshapen yellow-green globes she’d gathered that morning and that sat around us now in bushel baskets. She cut out blemishes and worm holes, throwing the scraps to the yard where the birds convened. She didn’t peel the apples. She pared slices from the quarters and let them drop into her ample apron. When the apron was filled, we’d pause and walk to the screen porch where the round oak table had been stretched to oblong with its extra leaves. A sheet covered its top, and as our day progressed, apple slices began to cover the sheet, drying in the breeze. […] The last mess of apples Johnnie pared in the afternoon sere “fried” in butter and brown sugar for supper that night.
– Ronni Lundy, ‘Apple-achia’, Victuals: An Appalachian Journey, with Recipes, p.175,176
We have had fried apples in the past. And we’ve loved them.
I recently read a post about the most amazing sounding fried apple dish […] [Fried] apples were brilliant! And such a simple idea! Why had we never thought of it??
– me, Fried apples – thank you Barbara! Wednesday, 14 September 2005
I do LOVE fried apples!
– me, Any apples in that basket? Friday, 11 October 2013
Oddly, even though we’ve often had fried apples since 2005, we didn’t remember that Barbara (Tigers & Strawberries) had said fried apples were an Appalachian dish. With every word we read in Lundy’s book, we are kicking ourselves that we hadn’t known anything at all about Appalachia or Appalachian cooking when we were in Virginia way back near the end of the last century. We had no idea that the amazing and wonderful succotash we ate at a Richmond diner was probably Appalachian in origins. We were completely clueless when we visited Monticello (even though the guide might even have said something about it) that Thomas Jefferson planted experimental apple orchard because he “deemed cider-making a significant art” and had a “six-acre North Orchard at Monticello”. (I’m afraid we were too busy being unable to forget about the guide’s thrill at reporting, in her wonderful slightly flattened Virginian accent, that after Jefferson returned from Europe, he introduced such delicacies as “macaroni and cheeeese”.) What amazing dishes did we miss because we knew virtually nothing about Appalachia?!
Ha. Better late than never.
Even though I had pretty much forgotten that I had raved about fried apples in the past. But suddenly, after reading the apple section in Lundy’s book, we neeeeeeeded to have fried apples again.
T started by making cornbread in the cast iron frying pan. Then, as I peeled and cored the apple, he cut bacon in to bite-size pieces and started frying it.
I confess that we didn’t follow Ronni Lundy’s recipe exactly. She says to fry the sliced apples in reserved bacon fat. But we had just bought the most wonderful slab of bacon from our butcher. We decided to leave the bacon in the pan as we fried the apples. What could be better than that?
Yes indeed. Fried apples with bacon are brilliant. You neeeeeeeed to try them.
They’re great with corn bread….
Apples were so plentiful in the mountain South that it’s fair to say there was not a single table that wasn’t graced with this delicious dish on a regular basis. Apples were so diverse in variety in the regino, and in taste from orchard to orchard, that most cooks tasted first and then added and adjusted […] to harmonize with the apple’s flavor. I suggest you taste and then imagine [how] the particular apple you have would dance better
– Ronni Lundy, Fried Apples, Victuals: An Appalachian Journey, with Recipes, p.189
Because both of us had read Huckleberry Finn, long before we met each other, T and I already knew how “victuals” is pronounced. In fact, the pronunciation of various so-called tricky words, including “victuals” (“epitome” was another favourite word), was often a subject of my family’s dinner conversation.
But T’s history with the word “victuals” is thrilling: when he was in high school, a teacher was reading from Huckleberry Finn: The widow rung a bell for supper, and you had to come to time. When you got to the table you couldn’t go right to eating, but you had to wait for the widow to tuck down her head and grumble a little over the victuals, though there warn’t really anything the matter with them—that is, nothing only everything was cooked by itself. In a barrel of odds and ends it is different; things get mixed up, and the juice kind of swaps around, and the things go better.
After the teacher mispronounced “victuals”, T held up his hand and said, “Excuse me, Sir. It’s pronounced vid'-lz.” Surprised, the teacher graciously thanked him. (T suspects that the man remembered T fondly every time he read the word “victuals” again.)
victual (vĭt’l) n. (usu. pl.) food, provisions. v. supply with victuals, lay in supply of victuals, victualler (vĭt’ler) n. purveyor of victuals, esp. (licensed~) licensee of public-house
– The Little Oxford Dictionary of Current English
vict-ual (vĭt’l) n. 1. Food suitable for consumption 2. vict-uals. Items of food: provisions
– Webster’s II New Riverside Dictionary
» Fried apples – thank you Barbara!
» Any apples in that basket?
» Wordless Not-Wednesday: what to do with all those apples
» Swiss Chard and Apples go Together Beautifully