Holidays in Appalachia

Apple Pies and Love

apple pie

Grandma lived at a time when a juicy, crisp crusted homemade apple pie broke down a man’s resistance to matrimony a heap sight easier than a pretty face or a pretty dress.

She always said it was her apple pie and not her looks that led Grandpa into popping the question and getting hitched up. “We’d been keepin’ company for close to a year,” she once told my mother, “and Rufus hadn’t so much as hinted marriage when he come to the house one Sunday for dinner and I brought an apple pie to the table and Ma told him I had baked it. He told Ma he was mighty fond of apple pie, I remember he ate two pieces and said it was the best apple pie he ever ate. That evenin’ he asked me to marry him. Said seein’ as how I could make a good apple pie, he reckoned I was the girl for him.”

Grandpa never had occasion to rue the day. For grandma kept him happy for 60 years. She kept him happy with her cooking. Especially with her homemade apple pies—fresh apple pies and dried-apple pies.

When Grandpa passed on in 1926 at the age of 83, Grandma never made another apple pie. She took to her bed the day he died. Three weeks later she went to meet him.

—John Parris – Excerpt from “How an Apple Pie Assisted Cupid”

When I read “How an Apple Pie Assisted Cupid” I thought it was the perfect love story for Valentine’s Day.


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  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    February 13, 2021 at 11:42 pm

    If Jim Casada were to publish a book (or books) of John Parris columns I would be first in line to buy it. It seems like Jim would be the perfect person to do it.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    February 13, 2021 at 8:46 pm

    Tipper–After giving the information in response to Paula’s question, I did what I should have done at the outset; namely, I checked (you have to have a subscription). The coverage they offer of the Asheville Citizen-Times has now been expanded and you can access all or almost all of his “Roaming the Mountains” columns.

    Also, as a sort of sidelight, his personal papers are at Western Carolina’s Hunter Library. Judging by the find aid, they are fairly extensive but don’t included clippings of his articles. There was a fellow at WCU named Reed who was, at one time, going to write a biography of Parris, but I don’t think anything came of that.

    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    February 13, 2021 at 8:34 pm

    Tipper–I can answer Paula’s question to at least some extent. I’m sure that the Asheville Citizen-Times has a complete run of the newspapers from the decades during which Parris wrote in their morgue (clippings files) or archives. It’s likely there’s also all the back issues at Pack Memorial Library in Asheville and quite possibly at Western Carolina University and/or Appalachian State University. The last time I checked, most of the years of his work for the newspaper were not covered in, which might seem the most logical starting point.

    One thing I can say definitively is that if the current powers that be at the Asheville Citizen-Times are interested in any aspect of Parris’ legacy, they sure don’t show it. I’ve made multiple attempts to contact them by mail, e-mail, and phone and never once received a response. It’s strange, because the point I made in every instance was that they were sitting on a potential pile of money (if they hold the copyright to John’s writings, which I assume is the case). There are enough columns, literally thousands of them, which appeared ONLY in the newspaper, to make the material for multiple books. It would only take an experienced editor with some research experience, along with knowledge of the subject matter and region, to bring such works together. I’ll be honest in saying that I was personally interested in such an undertaking and would like to think, having edited and compiled more than a dozen books of this type, that I had the necessary background.

    My guess, and it’s only a guess, is that the folks at the newspaper, as is the case in daily newspapers across the country, are struggling to keep their heads above water and have zero interest. Still, you would think the potential for significant income would appeal, and I have to believe there are still a lot of folks who remember Parris with great fondness and would buy a collection or collections of his writings which had never appeared in book form.

    That’s pretty long winded, but obviously it’s something I’ve given considerable thought.

    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    February 13, 2021 at 1:41 pm

    I must agree with Jim Casada that you could easily be the next John Parris. Many great people are not recognized very much until after they have gone. You do so much to bring the true essence of Appalachian life to us each and every day. Nothing too small for you to show its importance in everyday life.
    Apples were so important, especially during the Great Depression. Mom always told us about never getting a good apple. They were only allowed to eat what fell on the ground, which was usually a very bruised and sometimes yellow jacket covered fruit. Much was stored in the root cellar, canned, or made into apple sauce to get them through the long hard Winters. These stores would last until my grandmother was able to get out in the Springtime to hunt for branch lettuce and other wild greens. They had to eat the worst of the stored first cutting off the bad spots. She did not ever remember going hungry, and spoke of her brother having to carry large sacks of flour on his back. I tell this story too often, remembering how my Mom would laugh as she recalled the many struggles. Oddly enough she often spoke of her wonderful childhood and what wonderful parents she had.

  • Reply
    February 13, 2021 at 1:25 pm

    I don’t think there is any thing special about me or my wife’s marriage. We are two plain and simple country people that have known each other our entire lives. One Sunday night at church my eyes locked on her and have stayed that way for 48 years now, we dated 2 years and have been married for 46 years. She came out of church not out of a night club. Church has always been an important part of our lives. She was 19 and I was 20. Most of the members of my church grew up together and 2 to 3 generations of our families were members. A lot of us married someone in the church and have been married for at least 40 years or longer. We did not shack up, have a baby or sex until we married. We took our marriage vows to each other seriously. I think ever marriage will have some rough spots but instead of heading for a divorce lawyer, we stayed together and overcame these spots. I fully agree with Miss Cindy and Margie, today marriage don’t mean what it once meant to a lot of couples.

    I am thinking about buying my wife a sympathy card instead of a valentine card and candy. She needs sympathy more than candy for putting up with me all of these years!

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    February 13, 2021 at 12:27 pm

    Tipper, after reading Jim Casada’s post, I wondered where the papers of John Parris are kept? I have all of his published books of columns, but I would be interested in reading the rest. It seems like it would be a worthy endeavor to publish more of his work. Over the years I have found a few columns he didn’t include in his books while reading old newspapers. I have saved them, but have often wondered where the others could be found. Do you know where I could look?

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      February 13, 2021 at 7:47 pm has digitized most of Asheville Citizen times where John Parris’s columns appeared. A search of that newspaper reveals over 22,000 mentions of the man. Not are articles are his columns, some are articles about him. The website counts the pages on which the word John and Parris appear together so there are some that are not him but the vast majority are. I daresay all his columns are there.
      It costs about $120 a year to access the website but to genealogist or anyone interested in researching a particular subject it is well worth it. The downside is it’s hard to read some of it.

  • Reply
    February 13, 2021 at 12:26 pm

    That was a beautiful story. That fit for Valentine’s. That made me remember when my husband and I met. He said he prayed for a little country girl that could cook. I had gotten Saved and started going to church. I had to walk a few miles and drive the little ole lady’s car. She didnt wa t to drive at night, so I did. I didn’t have one. Thats where we met in church. He a d his dad work in South Carolina. They would come in on the wk ends. So when he came to church, he said he took one look at me and said , thats the one. God sent to him. Still gives me chills . Thank God did bring us together. We been married 37 yrs.

  • Reply
    February 13, 2021 at 12:18 pm

    What a sweet story for Valentine’s Day! My husband makes an awesome apple pie, but I did teach him how to make the crust. Since he’s been retired, he has gotten into baking.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    February 13, 2021 at 11:27 am

    Great love story. Too late we learn that it is not money that makes us rich. Love and friends are the true test of wealth. I feel truly rich.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    February 13, 2021 at 10:37 am

    We speak today with fondest of thoughts of apples and love. But not too long ago the two words were not so sweet. Spoken in reverse those two words, Love Apple, were the forbidden fruit. Perhaps the biblical forbidden fruit wasn’t a Malus sieversii as we are let to believe but a Solanum lycopersicum.

    The Solanum lycopersicum was not allowed to be in my grandfather’s presence much less on the table. “Them things are poison! Get them out of my house! Pigs won’t eat ’em and neither will I!” he would say, according to my mother. I, myself, was not witness to his exclamations being as he was deceased prior to my birth but Mommy didn’t lie. I, myself, have heard the Solanum lycopersicum being called a Love Apple but have never seen its ouster from a dwelling.

    What, you might wonder, is the Solanum lycopersicum, the Love Apple? It’s a common fruit on the table in this instant, including my own. Sliced, laid on a piece of bread, sprinkled with salt and black pepper and capped with another mayonnaise ladened piece of bread or inserted into a split biscuit, it finds its way into the bellies of millions of people every day. It’s in your catsup, in your soup, in your juice, in your sauces, on your pizza and spaghetti, on your barbeque and myriad other consumables. In case you don’t know a’ready a Love Apple is a Tomato.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    February 13, 2021 at 10:04 am

    John Parris had an incredible way of capturing the essence of Appalachian life and I’ve often wondered why he hasn’t garnered more acclaim. It’s possibly because he never wrote an original full-length book, although he produced a number of them (all with the word “mountain” in the title) which collected together some of his columns. Yet three times a week, for over forty years, he gave folks like me some little tidbit of mountain wisdom, some tale like this one, to brighten our day. Then, to cap it off, he and his wife left an impressive sum of money to endow a chair at Western Carolina University. It is held by Ron Rash and I have to reckon old John would be pleased at what Ron has produced and continues to produce.

    On a slightly sad note, what few realize is that only a small portion of his columns, what my Grandma Minnie might have described as “jist a smidgen,” made it into his books. Most languish, richly deserving of resurrection, as long- forgotten columns for the “Asheville Citizen-Times.”

    Tipper, thanks for digging out this piece, and as you well know, there’s Parris material for pretty much any aspect of mountain life. Of course, if you keep going, you may be the next John Parris, just functioning in a different media, a different age, and through different ways of communication.

    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    February 13, 2021 at 8:57 am

    Amen Ms. Dona! Poverty of spirit is far worse than having no money. Folk wisdom backs that up. One that comes to mind is, “No man is poor who has friends.” Or a quote I read once, ” We’re already rich. Someday we may even have money.”

    So, is an apple pie man bait, as in ‘ the way to a man’s heart is . . ‘? Remember that old song about, “Can she bake a cherry (apple) pie Billy boy, Billy boy? Can she bake a cherry (aople) pie charming Billy?” And the answer, ” She can bake a cherry (apple) pie, quicker than a cat can wink its eye. ” then something, something, “She’s a young thing and cannot leave her mother.” Had not thought of that in years and years. I never applied an apple pie test myself.

    About Valentines Day, I brought in some twigs of what I grew up calling “burning bush” the other day. They begin to bloom about this time of year. Outdoors they are deep red. Indoors they vary from medium red to light pink to very light pink to pure white. I’m wondering if the difference is sunlight.

  • Reply
    Margie Goldstein
    February 13, 2021 at 7:55 am

    Today marriage decisions are made quickly and based on looks, attraction, and getting along. Back in the day, one had many more considerations like is she a good cook, does she garden and mend clothes, is she kind to children- not to mention does she mind her parents? A man had to be smart, work hard, be in good health, kind to children and beasts and a good hunter. The rest as the saying goes “came naturally after marriage.” Today’s sexual revolution and emotions have ruined the sanctity of marriage. Children have no stability and we are living too fast and too uncertainly. Love is the greatest advantage we have in life. Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you in the love of Jesus who first loved each of us….

  • Reply
    Dona DiBernardo Silver
    February 13, 2021 at 7:43 am

    What a beautiful story. My parents created an atmosphere of love for their six children growing up in Brooklyn NY from the 1940’s through the 1970’s when a fire took our home. They never had much money but we surly never felt poor. People today can never comprehend the thought that having no money and being poor are two different things. We certainly were not poor.
    Mom and dad canned goods, they baked breads, made jams and even managed to grow vegetables from the concrete in the tiny back yard. Our home was always filled with smells of cooking and warmth. Our clothing was sewn on moms old machine and our neighbors were often given a hand when needed. Today as I look back I truly realize how rich we were indeed. Love can never be replaced by a home in the Hamptons or a fancy city address. Yet a simple Apple pie can fill your life with security and yes love for eternity.
    Thanks again Tipper for a wonderful story.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 13, 2021 at 7:15 am

    What a beautiful story! Married 60 years is a long time. It sounds like a lifetime of love and devotion…something we rarely see these days!
    I think the most devoted married couple I’ve seen is you and the Deer Hunter. I remember some years ago, before I moved here and you were in the hospital. The deer hunter went to the hospital with you and he didn’t come home till you did!

  • Reply
    February 13, 2021 at 6:46 am

    How strange emotions can affect one. Our community has witnessed 2 such events this year where the spouse dies within days or hours of the other. Both couples where married more than 50 years. I can’t think of a finer aphrodisiac than apple pie.

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