Appalachian Food

Butterbread & Coffee


“When I was very small, back in the 1930’s, my daddy used to feed me what he called simply “butterbread and coffee.” He always put sugar and milk or cream in his coffee, plenty of it, and then he would spread butter on a slice of white bread, fold it, and dip it in the coffee, like you would a doughnut. I loved it. I would sit on his knee while he dipped the butterbread in the coffee and I blissfully sucked the soaked edge off of that bread. Other grownups were critical about this– they said it would give me black knees. But that never stopped my Daddy from feeding me this heavenly treat.  And I did get black knees, but not from coffee. It was pure old dirt.”

—Frances Jackson

To read more about the tradition of bread and coffee go here.


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  • Reply
    Tammy Scott
    June 20, 2021 at 8:46 pm

    Untoasted bread! Doggone spellchecker!

  • Reply
    Tammy Scott
    June 20, 2021 at 8:45 pm

    Well, now I have to try it. I love butter on plain, untested bread anyway. I never considered dunking it in my coffee. Coffee IS a precious commodity in my household. It’s the elixir of life that jolts my brain awake like Frankenstein’s monster. LOLI drink it black while hot, but enjoy an iced, creamy coffee later in the day with what’s left over.

  • Reply
    June 14, 2021 at 5:27 pm

    I know alot of people would dip a biscuit in their coffee and eat it. Shew, not me. Now I have done it with Oreos when I was a kid and teen .

  • Reply
    Catherine Spence
    June 14, 2021 at 11:32 am

    My dad was born in west-central Pennsylvania in 1935 and was raised by his paternal. He remembers, but not fondly, eating what his grandmother called coffee soup: torn up pieces of bread in a bowl of coffee. Their family was dirt poor and many times that was all the food they had in the house.

  • Reply
    Barbara Parker
    June 13, 2021 at 7:45 pm

    A delicious delicacy that I enjoyed as a kid at Grandpa Nix’s home was what we called soakey. We would crumble up the biscuit in our milky coffee and eat it with a spoon. So good!

  • Reply
    June 12, 2021 at 9:13 pm

    Now I most likely woulda liked buttered bread dunked in coffee …. but all I ever dunked in my coffee was a glazed doughnut ( or 2)….soooooo good :), do enjoy buttered bread though. My sister and I ate spaghetti that away as younguns . Just butter and salt.

  • Reply
    Garland Davis
    June 12, 2021 at 12:29 pm

    In the sailing Navy, it was customary to “dump’ the Galley fires when going into action and no hot foods would be available until secured from General Quarters (Battle Stations). In 1898 as the U.S. Fleet approached the Spanish at Manila Bay, Admiral Deweyordered that galley fires be kept lit and coffee provided to the sailors throughout the action.
    In 1913 Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels (A prominent Raleigh publisher) outlawed the drinking of alcoholic beverages aboard Navy ships and stations.
    Coffee became the strongest drink approved. Today coffee is available to ship’s crew twenty-four hours a day.
    While on active duty it was not unusual for me to drink fifteen to twenty cups a day.

  • Reply
    Kat Swanson
    June 12, 2021 at 12:18 pm

    I, from the age of 5, carried a big cup of strong coffee to my Daddy every weekday to greet him when he got home from the mine in Wise Co.Va. He liked a saucer under the cup, would pour a bit of coffee over the edge of the cup into the saucer, take off one boot, take a sip from the saucer, pour some more into the saucer, take off his other boot, sip some more, then drink the rest from the cup. I watched this ritual day after day. He always said…that’s some good coffee, girl….I never drank a sip cause he wanted it real hot. He said it had to be hot to cut the coal dust he had swallowed all day . I am an old woman now almost 70…I have a big strong cup of coffee every morning. Daddy used to say he liked coffee strong enough to float an iron wedge . I don’t use a saucer but cool mine with milk….and never dip nothing in it. If my old husband makes it too strong, we always call it….too wedgey…and we smile and think of Daddy.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    June 12, 2021 at 11:53 am

    Just remembered Mama telling us about a relative with the unfortunate name of “Horace Cuddy”. She said he would put butter in his coffee.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    June 12, 2021 at 11:47 am

    My husband’s granny dipped biscuits in her coffee. She was a wonderful person. When I first met her she told me, “Call me mamaw, just like Barry does.” It was a sweet bridge over that awkward time of meeting the family.

    Bought saltine crackers were a treat to us as children. My oldest brother & I still love them dipped in our coffee. I can easily eat a whole sleeve of crackers and I bet he can, too.

  • Reply
    June 12, 2021 at 11:19 am

    My mom gave my kids coffee once they turned one, they now love it and want mine (they’re now 3 & 6). I’m guessing this is retribution.

  • Reply
    Jenny Young
    June 12, 2021 at 10:50 am

    My daddy used to do this with my sister….she was the only one who liked it. My daddy was born in 1905 & I was his last baby born in 1966. So he raised me in southern WV with a lot of Depression era culture.

  • Reply
    Yvette H Ridenour
    June 12, 2021 at 10:42 am

    My great-aunt used to finish her breakfast by breaking up a biscuit in a bowl of coffee with cream and sugar in it. As a little girl, I though it looked so good, and I wanted to try it. I thought it was going to taste like chocolate. Imagine my surprise when she let me taste the coffee! It certainly didn’t taste like chocolate! First time I ever tasted coffee. I didn’t like it then, but I love it now, and just the smell of it in the morning brings back sweet memories of the smell of my Granny’s morning cup and my love for her.

  • Reply
    June 12, 2021 at 10:06 am

    Daddy would have dunked his biscuit with his coffee and I can see the smile on his face as he crumbled cornbread into a tall glass of cold milk. You could actually see how happy he was to have it. I have slept might good on a pallet along side a lot of my cousins. Sweet memories of good times with family can’t be beat.

  • Reply
    June 12, 2021 at 9:29 am

    We were never allowed to drink coffee until we were around 12. I always poured a lot of coffee for my Dad and took it to him. Many times I would sneak and drink as much as possible of the scalding black coffee from the perculator. I love coffee still today. Dad never knew, and I never shared that secret with him after I got older. Only one time were we allowed to drink coffee. I had an aunt with a huge long table and lots of chidren. If we spent the night there, she would set a steaming cup of coffee at every plate. The visit was complete with pallets on the floor at night and lots of wonderful ghost stories told by my cousin Bertha. We would shudder and sink down into the heavy quilts and say,”Tell us another one.”That was a wonderful magical time, and maybe just one of the reasons I have to have that daily “fix” of coffee early morning. Thanks to Frances for the sharing of her story. I am right there with Margie G for Green Eggs, and one day hope to see all those glorious people that made my childhood such a special time in life.

    • Reply
      Wanda Devers
      June 12, 2021 at 11:49 am

      Wonder if your dad really did know you were sneaking his coffee and maybe got a chuckle out of it.

    • Reply
      Tammy Scott
      June 20, 2021 at 8:50 pm

      When I was little, 3, I think, I’d cry for some of my parents’ coffee in the mornings. They got up super-early for their jobs, and many times I’d fall asleep while they were feeding me breakfast. Finally, one day my Daddy told Momma to give me some coffee, just to lace it with plenty of milk and cream. I’ve been addicted ever since. I recall being the ONLY teenager in my class that drank coffee. That was before it was as popular with the public and young people as it is now. I could be a coffee snob. I rarely meet a cup I don’t love, but Community Coffee is still my personal favorite brand.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 12, 2021 at 9:27 am

    I am a coffee purest. Nothing goes in my coffee and my coffee goes in nothing but a cup. Pure dee old coffee for me! Do you say pure dee?

    • Reply
      June 13, 2021 at 4:44 pm

      I do like cream in my coffee and sometimes a little Kentucky Bourbon goes right nice!

  • Reply
    June 12, 2021 at 8:39 am

    I knew several people who sopped up coffee with their light bread or biscuit, but I’ve never heard of black knees.

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      June 12, 2021 at 9:28 am

      Have you heard of rusty knees? Same thing.

      • Reply
        Wanda Devers
        June 12, 2021 at 11:51 am

        Haven’t heard pure dee in a while! We always played outside & in the woods so we had rusty knees and elbows especially. I have to have cream in my coffee to enjoy it. I’ve got a secret stash of Kroger brand heavy cream. Theirs is the best–sometimes it’s so thick it almost won’t pour.

  • Reply
    June 12, 2021 at 8:33 am

    Never have done this. Do remember my cousin visiting and he would put dip a chunk of cheese in coffee. This is for Miss Cindy, I will eat cornbread and milk just as soon as the cornbread comes out of the oven, it don’t have to be hard. Anytime my wife made cornbread to have at a meal, I would always eat a bowl of cornbread and milk no matter what else was on the table. I love it, As for the old people wasting nothing, my granddaddy (1888-1971) would even save bent or old nails and straighten them out to reuse. I have a habit of saving scrap lumber and a lot of other things, many times these things will come in handy latter on. He raised a family of seven by farming 40 acres of land with 1 or 2 mules. I don’t think most of us can truly understand what it was like during the depression for a lot of people.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    June 12, 2021 at 8:23 am

    Never heard the one about black knees before. I get those crawling around in the dirt but not from coffee.

    I reckon that whole idea of ‘dunkin’ has been around a very long time. Guess the particular thing dunked and what it is dunked in varies a lot. I just remembered something I had long forgotten – we used to dunk baked sweet potato in buttermilk. Sounds odd I suppose but it was good. As far as that goes, dunkin is a short remove from the dipping and the sop mentioned at the Last Supper and the modern breadsticks and tomato sauce.

    Isn’t it something to think about that some of our fondest memories are about the simplest things? We all know there is a lesson in there. But somehow in the press of daily it is hard to make intentional memories. Perhaps that means the unstrained, unstudied things are part of what makes the best memories. We cast bread on the waters and some stick and some don’t and we don’t kbow which is which.

  • Reply
    Margie G for green eggs
    June 12, 2021 at 8:17 am

    I never drank sopped coffee bread as a youngun, but I got a story here. When I was little, my grandfather who was also the person I loved more than anyone because he was good to me, used to eat pork and beans with vinegar and would give me bites. I can’t remember the taste at all. He also woke at 4 each morning and I’d see lights in the kitchen so there I’d toddle. And he would be eating eggs with Texas Pete. So he would make me eggs and put ketchup on mine (because I wanted so to imitate everything he did) declaring Texas Pete was a bit hot and ketchup was better for little girls. I believed him and those were the best eggs I ever ate!!! Tears are welling up in my eyes as I speak because I miss my Bobby at age 52… still…. and those eggs? I suppose I’d pay all I got to share a plate with my granddaddy. One day y’all… one day I will!!!

  • Reply
    Patricia Price
    June 12, 2021 at 8:06 am

    Dad and I liked to dunk “light bread” in a glass of sweet milk when I was little. Mom called it “sop.” The only thing we dunked in coffee was cake doughnuts. We all ate cornbread crumbled up in a glass of sweet milk, the “pone” fresh out of the oven. Not just old people, and not just when the cornbread was getting stale. (It never lasted long enough to get stale!)

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    June 12, 2021 at 7:35 am

    I’ve known to old people to put biscuits in their coffee and cornbread in their milk. I have assumed they it was to make edible biscuits and cornbread that were dried out a little and the milk and coffee softened them. The older people did not waste anything and this was a way to not waste bread just because it’s a little dry.
    The older people that I knew had lived through hard/war times when money, corn meal and flour were scarce and prescious things… not to be wasted!

  • Reply
    Janet Smart
    June 12, 2021 at 7:34 am

    I never had butter bread and coffee, but when I was young, Mom would fold up a slice of light bread and dunk it in her coffee and let me eat it.

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