Monday, August 18, 2014

Local food in Appalachian hills ... and more

My last post was pre-programmed as last week I drove to Tennessee, near Nashville, to my daughter and her family's home.  My husband had been staying there for two weeks enjoying our four grandchildren.  The week-end before I arrived they all had driven to Columbus, Ohio, to visit my husband's sister and her family.  On the way back to Nashville they stopped at the 364-acre (147 ha) Kings Island Park, east of Cincinnati.  It is advertized as the largest amusement park in the Midwest, with "thrilling" rides (I have never been in this park.)  There is even a, somewhat, replica of the Eiffel Tower there.  Below on the right is my husband with the grandchildren.  Our daughter is on the left holding our granddaughter and the young au-pair French lady from New Caledonia is on the right.  (Click on collage twice to enlarge.)

The grandchildren have so much energy - they kept my husband busy.  We had not seen them since last March and could tell that they had grown.

When it was time to go back home, I decided to drive on some Tennessee back roads for part of the trip.  From Murfreesboro, TN, we went to the little town of Beersheba Springs, TN.  I had read that it had been a resort in the 19th century.  In 1854, a rich Louisiana planter had bought property there and built a luxury hotel to accommodate 400 guests, cabins and stores.  French chefs cooked for the guests and music from New Orleans entertained them.  The hotel declined after the Civil War and in 1940 was purchased by the Methodist Church as a retreat and for summer camps.  There is a yearly arts and crafts festival there.  The resort area has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Below are photos and postcards of the hotel, with the current view at the bottom right, but now the town is tiny with only 477 inhabitants and it is hard to imagine it as a "resort."

The area is very hilly with narrow roads curving up and down.  The hills are not tall mountains but still when you get to the top and see all the hills surrounding you and the valleys way down below, it seems that we are pretty high.  It is difficult to take pictures because there are no places to stop and it is dangerous to stand by the road - it would be easy to tumble down if a car came by, but there were hardly any vehicles on the roads.  In the valley tall corn and other crops were surrounding us.

These hills are part of the Appalachian mountain range.  The name comes from the Apalachees, a Native tribe who used to inhabit the area.  This mountain system is very old, formed about 480 million years ago as a result of tectonic movement.  It is the oldest chain of mountains in North America and located mostly in the US apart for a small part extending into south-eastern Canada and France.  Yes, France, but France in North America.  Most people do not know that France is in North America in the northwestern ocean, facing Newfoundland, in the small islands of St Pierre et Miquelon.  We visited the islands in August 2008 and I wrote several posts about it (click on the post titles to read them) - Destination St Pierre et Miquelon, part one, then part two,  and part three, and lastly the final part.  Below are some pictures I took while at St Pierre et Miquelon where the hilly Appalachian terrain can be seen.

The Appalachian system of mountains extends for almost 2,000 miles (3,200 km) with a width of from 100 to 300 miles (160 to 480 km) wide.  It spreads from Newfoundland and Labrador province in Canada to central Alabama in the USA.  The mountain used to be as high as the Alps or the Rocky Mountains but they eroded and now the average height is 3,000 ft.  In addition to the provinces in Canada (Newfoundland-Labrador, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, etc.) and France (St Pierre et Miquelon) the mountains cover parts of the US states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama.  Most of the range of the Appalachian Mountains is covered with thick and extensive forest (evergreen, spruce, birch, oak, beech, etc.)  When you drive to the top of hills the view is very scenic.

Our little Kennesaw Mountain (1,000 feet high/300 m) is part of the Appalachian chain.  I took the photo below about 12 miles from the mountain coming back from a grocery store.

Hikers can walk the Appalachian Trail or Appalachian National Scenic Trail which is about 2,200 miles long (3,500 km.)  A while back I was at the place where it ends, or starts, in the North Georgia mountains.  It extends to Mount Katahdin, in Maine.  The top 4 pictures below were shot in Georgia (photos courtesy Wikimedia Commons.)

From Beesheba Springs we drove down Highway 56-S to Tracy City.  We went up and down hills and winding mountain roads at least 3 times.  We stopped in Tracy City, in the foothills of Monteagle, as I had read that the oldest family bakery in Tennessee was located there.  We parked on the side of the building, facing some large squashes on a rack.  Across the road was the Tracy City Police Department and City Hall (population about 1,500.)  No one was around.

We entered the Dutch Maid Bakery, established in 1902.  At first, it is difficult to concentrate as the shop is full of baked goods, antiques, Americana, photographs, signs, vintage objects, etc.  In the center of the room were tables with small cakes and sample plates.  On the side were racks of breads - salt rising, sour dough, whole wheat, old world rye and more.  Cookies were displayed on top and inside glass display cases.

We sampled some of the little cakes.  My husband decided on chocolate chip cookies and I choose several of the small cakes in addition to a loaf of salt rising bread.  Fudgy brownies were just coming out of the oven, so we purchased one as well.

Two of the cakes I purchased were the Mixed Berry Mountain Moonshine cake and the Apple Pie Moonshine cake.  You could sure taste the liquor in the cakes!  When I came to the US I did not know what "moonshine" was.  Moonshine is high-proof distilled spirits, produced illegally, mostly during Prohibition (1920-1933.)  In Appalachia distillers produced moonshine (mostly corn mash) at night so as not to be detected.  Moonshine has many nicknames: white lightning, mountain dew, Tennessee white whiskey, hooch, city gin, skull cracker, ruckus juice, mule kick, panther's breath, cool water, happy Sally, wild cat, jump steady and many more.  It was a big industry in the backwoods of the Tennessee hills as well as other part of Appalachia such as Georgia, North Carolina, Kentucky, etc.  Government prosecutors would arrest bootleggers when found, send them to jail and destroy their still.  Below is a postcard of a still and two old photos from Grundy County, Tennessee, where both Beersheba Springs and Tracy City are located.

In the 1950s moonshining was widespread in the Southern states.  From 1954 to 1974 Federal Agents destroyed 72,000 stills in the Deep South!  Now you can legally purchase some moonshine brands but distillers are still producing it in large quantities, illegally.  In 2009, an 82-year old woman from North Carolina, was arrested for distributing moonshine out of her child day care center.  Two brothers were arrested, also in 2009, for producing 929 gallons of moonshine.  On the map below you can see the approximate route, in red, we took from our daughter's house outside of Nashville, to our home.  I circled number 44 which is the location on the map of the Dutch Maid Bakery in Tracy City.

We were so tired when we arrived home that we did not eat supper - just a couple of peaches.  The next morning we had a large breakfast at the J. Christopher restaurant - actually it was too large as we took half of it home.  My husband had the Route 66 Skillet: corned beef hash and oven-roasted potatoes capped with sunny-up eggs and an English muffin.  I had the J."Grits'-opher's" a bowl of cheddar grits topped with bacon and served with a biscuit.

In the afternoon we had a cup of tea, served in our new St. Petersburg, Russia, mugs and slices of the Mixed Berry Mountain Moonshine cake.  We kept the other moonshine cake, the maple cake, brownie and cookies for another day.

At the bakery, Appalachian local food maps were given, called Bon Appetit Appalachia!  I took one.  It shows the locations, in the Appalachia areas, of farmer markets, farm-to-fork restaurants, farm tours, festival and events, vineyards and wineries, craft breweries and spirits.  They have a site online and it is active - you can click on a number in a state and see what is offered at that location - click here to have a look.

We will certainly use this map again.  While looking online I saw that the historic Dutch Maid Bakery in Tracy City has a small YouTube video showing how they make their moonshine cakes.  The owner of the bakery does not give out the recipe.  I guess I am going to have to find some moonshine and bake my own version as Tracy City is a bit far away.  At the beginning and the end of the video you can see the roads and hills around Tracy City.  Here it is below.

It must have rained in Georgia while we were away as our plants in containers looked gorgeous.  Also some unknown mushrooms sprout up outside the kitchen window.  Anyone knows what type they are? Good to eat?


David said...

Vagabonde, Yet another interesting and eclectic posting! Your grandkids are really cute. Your husband must have the patience and energy of a saint. Four young kids full of energy would have me wiped out in just 3 or 4 days!

We've been to Murfressboro but never to Beersheba Springs. We have stumbled across a couple of former resort towns...usually centered around hot springs, that are much like this one. The good days are long gone...Sharon Springs in upper New York state comes to mind. Sad with glimpses of history and the 'good old days'.

I'm kind of a geography nut...and I knew that the Appalachians stretched up into Canada but I hadn't considered Newfoundland and St. Pierre et Miquelon. We're planning to visit that area in the next year or so. I probably have 100 to 150 stamps from St.Pierre et Miquelon.

Thanks for the tip on the Dutch Made Bakery in Tracy City! We would love that store...and buy a lot of goodies that we shouldn't eat...but would anyway! We've had lunch at J. Christopher's but never breakfast. Looks good! My better half would go for the cheddar grits and bacon with the biscuit. Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Elephant's Child said...

I always love travelling with you. Informative and beautiful postings.
And Appalachia has stirred my heart since I first read about it (many moons ago). Thank you.

Glenda Beall said...

I live in the Appalachian mts. but haven't been to this area of TN. You make me want to visit. I love your photos of everything. I enjoy J. Christopher's when I am in Roswell visiting my sister. I am a big fan of grits so I'd might like your breakfast.
I would like to invite you to read a post at this link? www.glendacounilbeall.blogspot about a woman, a Creole restaurant in Roswell. You might visit one day and sample her food.

ELFI said...

j'aime ces collines boisés, à visiter absolument .. pour la boulangerie et toute la nourriture je pense de rester en europe :))))

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Vagabonde .. these are the tours I like doing as I travel around - and is definitely something I'd look into if and when I get back over to the States ..

Wonderful you had time with the grandchildren .. and the photos are lovely to see .. cheers Hilary

Thérèse said...

I never realized the the Appalachian Mountains stretched so much!
So many names for "moonshine!" lol, I copied them :-)
We would love to have a J. Christopher restaurant next door but it is not the case...
So much fun to see your family and read your post.

sablonneuse said...

Good heavens, I thought a full English breakfast was copious but thise plates looked HUGE! No wonder you couldn't finish it all.
I'd have loved the traditional bakery.
What an interesting trip. Thank you for sharing it with us.

DJan said...

That was fun! Your pictures and history of the areas you visit always add so much to my knowledge. And your grandkids sure are cute. Is that your yellow shirt with the Tour de France logo? I had fun tagging along on your trip, even if it was only virtually :-)

Sally Wessely said...

You had another amazing trip, and you took us along. I would love to visit that part of the world sometime.

Dee said...

Dear Vagabonde, thanks once again for inviting me along with you and your husband as you pursue the beauty and variety of our world. I'll be interesting in learning how your experiments come up with regard to baking a "moonshine" cake! Peace.

Frances said...

Vagabonde, it was fun to see this post and to vicariously travel through the Appalachian Mountains with you.

Isn't it amazing to see the tiny towns? Thank you for reminding me that these places do still exist. Surely at some point during each week that parking lot near the remarkable bakery must be full of cars.

Lovely photographs of those adorable grandchildren, too. xo

Reader Wil said...

Quelle poste intéressante.Les petits-enfants sont si mignons!
Merci de votre visite!
Wil, ABCW Team

Valerie-Jael said...

What an interesting journey you had, so many wonderful places and experiences, looks so exciting. Your grandkids look lovely, too. Thanks for visiting my blog today, nice to meet you! Hugs from Rhineland, Valerie

Christine said...

Thanks for telling us about your lovely interesting trip! You have beautiful grandkids. That bakery is amazing. And your breakfasts look so delicious. My husband would've had what your husband had, and I think your breakfast looks good for me!

Jenn Jilks said...

What a time you had! I love the kids! Grandkids are the best!
(ツ) from Cottage Country Ontario , ON, Canada!

Nadezda said...

You had very long drive Vagabonde! It was difficult, wasn't it? I love the pictures of Appalachian hills and mountains, the map shows well your zig-zag route! Your grandchildren grown up very, I remember your post of little girl was new born.
Glad you love and use the mugs for drinking morning coffee, sure the brownies are very delicious!

Carola Bartz said...

All that food makes me hungry... bakeries are always high on my list, mainly due to my search for delicious bread (which is most often disappointed). But I also love good hearty food - those grits look very yummy. Thank you for this interesting post!

Amanda said...

I wonder why I feel like taking a road trip suddenly? Thank you for the history, geography and culinary part of this region. The grandkids are growing fast and are really cute!

claude said...

Encore un beau post bien alléchant d'ailleurs. Tu as de beaux petits enfants. Suis contente de mieux faire physiquement la connaissance de ton Mari. C'est lui qui a un beau maillot Tour de France ?
(Je viens de lire ce que tu as dit sur le tricheur LA)
Normalement, si tout va bien et surtout si notre cher Président ne nous pique pas tout nos sous, ce qui est moins sûr, nous irons goute à nouveau à la cuisine américaine. Nous irons certainement manger un hamburger au Mom'sCafé à Salina et boire une mousse bien fraîche au No Name Saloon à Park City, entre autres.

Jeanie said...

I'm looking at this first thing in the morning -- before breakfast! So I'm very hungry! It looks like a great trip. Again, I love how your posts are filled with information. And great photos. My only question? When will you write a book that compiles some of these?

Perpetua said...

Awe-inspiring scenery and mouth-watering food - what a post! I too had no idea the Appalachian range stretches so far and your description and images make me want to visit.

Bev White said...

hello, was looking at your trip, and noticed something of great interest....the picture you have of the moonshiners in Grundy Co., TN....well...that is a picture of my Grandpa, his father, and most likely his brother....
L > R: my grandpa, Chas. Barrett, his father Thos. Barrett and my uncle, Thos. Jr. Barrett. I have a copy of another one of his still without them in it, also another photo with the same guns and dogs "gun playing"

just thought you'd want to know!
Bev White

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