Appalachian Food

Foods that Take You Back to Childhood

chocolate milk and toast

It’s funny how certain foods take us right back to childhood. The dishes are usually high on our list of comfort foods too.

A table full of soup beans, fruit, cornbread, side-meat, and cornmeal gravy makes me feel like I’m about ten years old being called to Granny and Pap’s supper table.

When I’m sick I always want cinnamon toast and chocolate milk. I’m one of those people who get an upset stomach really easily. So whether I had a sore throat, an earache, or bronchitis as a child my stomach was upset too. Granny’s go to sick meal for me was cinnamon toast and chocolate milk.

I once read an article by a lady who said her family lived through some hard dark times when she was a child. She said they often didn’t have nothing to eat but cornbread and milk. As a child she longed for the day she could eat whatever she wanted, but when she reached adulthood and could better afford a variety of food, she found herself wanting to have cornbread and milk at least once a week.

I asked Granny what food took her back to childhood. “Oh chocolate gravy and biscuits and just every thing mother cooked. She was a good cook.”

Granny continued “We lived at the old Burger Place when my brother Jr. got out of the service. He got off the train in Culberson and walked across the mountain to home. We knew he was coming so we were all watching out the window for him. Oh the happiness we felt when we saw him come out of the woods into the pasture. I still remember the meal mother made for him. It was the best we’d ever eaten. She had big bowls of cream style corn, fried chicken, biscuits, and all manner of other stuff.”


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  • Reply
    Auther Ray
    November 25, 2019 at 7:16 pm

    Has anyone heard of Skillet Fried Candied Sweet Potatoes ?
    My mom used to fry sweet potatoes in a skillet kind of like Irish potato’s. You melt about half a stick of butter in a skillet dump in sweet potatoes that have been sliced into peace’s and stir them around until covered well. Then turn the fire down and put a lid on the skillet and sort of let them steam in their on juices until tender, then pour either white Karo syrup or Sorghum over and stir until coated well and let kind of candy. We just called them fried sweet potatoes, I like sorghum the best seems like it brings out the sweet potatoes taste.

  • Reply
    Alice Kreitzer
    November 5, 2019 at 12:38 pm

    My mother would cook
    Shanty styled potatoes or otherwise called soupy potatoes. She fried them in an iron skillet with lard and water until they were soft and soupy like.

    • Reply
      October 5, 2020 at 11:54 pm

      We love soupy potatoes with grandmas bbq pork chops (vinegar, mustard, sugar, Worcestershire sauce and water)

  • Reply
    October 14, 2019 at 5:56 pm

    Sometimes I make coffee grits. Use coffee instead of water when you start cooking them. Then finish them off with some half and half and butter, salt and pepper. Real good!

  • Reply
    Yecedrah Higman
    October 8, 2019 at 5:41 pm

    I am with Granny!!!! Love those biscuits, chocolate gravy and sausage patties!!!!

  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKillip
    October 8, 2019 at 5:40 pm

    Tipper I love your post on childhood memory food . Boy I loved Miss julie’s Chocolate gravy and biscuits and Old field corn cut off the cob and fried with a pan of biscuits and ripe tomato. Miss Julie made me ginger bread boys I have the cookie cutter yet but can make homemade ginger bread liked she did.seems like tomatoes taste better then too. We had our neighbor doing some work with Truman so I fixed lunch(or dinner as we used to call it) I just fixed everything for a good lunch reminded me how Miss Julie would do , Marry ate like it was all good but I wish I could cook like Miss Julie my mother.

  • Reply
    October 8, 2019 at 3:49 pm

    My mothers biscuits and gravy and country ham. Also my cousin’s so call sticky buns. Us kids would fuss over em. Soooooo good!

  • Reply
    June Jolley
    October 7, 2019 at 8:06 pm

    My Mama was a great cook, but my all time favorite comfort food sounds really simple. It was her canned peaches with Saltine crackers.
    To this day it is one of my favorites. I wish I had some of her canned peaches.

  • Reply
    October 7, 2019 at 5:13 pm

    When we were home sick from school, there’d be “eggnog” – milk, an egg, a little vanilla extract, and sugar, mixed with the eggbeater. It was quite a shock the first time I tasted thick, storebought, holiday eggnog at a Christmas party!

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    October 7, 2019 at 4:34 pm

    My Dad Always said creamed corn was dessert – he would set it aside and eat it after everything else.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    October 7, 2019 at 3:42 pm

    My favorite food from my childhood in the one that most people turn up their noses at. BUTTERMILK! I love that stuff! I can’t have it like when I was a child. The NC Dept of Agriculture says that raw milk is unsafe, so I can’t make it. The closest I can come to it is Sealtest Fat Free Buttermilk. It pales in comparison to the real thing but far surpasses its nearest store bought rival.
    Welfare cheese is another childhood memory. We didn’t get it but the neighbors did. They called it Commodities. It was surplus food that the government gathered up and gave to people in need. I will admit I looked down on the people who received these handouts. But I knew the day they went to get their commodities and would be there when they came home. They had bags of generic rice, beans, cornmeal, flour. They had boxes of powdered milk and jars of peanut butter. I wanted none of that although it was offered. “Did you get any cheese?”
    It came in a block wrapped in plastic inside a cardboard box. It was the best cheese I ever ate. Maybe the best food I ever ate (buttermilk is a drink). I never took any home. I stood there and ate whatever the mama would portion out. She knew how I loved it and would cut me a great big chunk.
    What does that say about me? I looked down on someone but coveted what they had. I had broken one of the ten commandments, maybe two. But as I grew I learned a lot about myself and a lot about humanity. I try to look up to everybody now except people who look down on me. It’s hard but I pray for them too.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    October 7, 2019 at 1:34 pm

    Breakfast during the week usually consisted of Oatmeal or sausage gravy with biscuits, Sunday we would sometimes have pancakes with homemade sausage, or sometimes slices of hickory smoked pork shoulder since the smoked hams were a cash crop we sold, (we never got pancakes during the week because my dad said they wouldn’t stick to your ribs with the work we did). Dinner or Lunch to you city folks often consisted of a pot of boiled potatoes with homemade better and a glass of sweetmilk. Supper usually was Pinto Beans cooked on low all day with streaked pork, milk and mashed potatoes made from any left over from dinner with home churned better, and onions and other fresh veggies in the summer. In the spring we could look forward to Kilt Water Cresses and Ramps which Dad and I would gather on our fishing trips to the Nantahala River along with the fresh Trout we caught. This was great then though we didn’t realize it like I do now.

  • Reply
    Debra faun
    October 7, 2019 at 12:42 pm

    My childhood memories are my mama getting up with the chickens and firing up the wood cookstove that set in our kitchen and fixing her cathead biscuits with sausage gravy, fried taters, fresh eggs with a slice or 2 of her fresh homegrown tomatoes plus her homemade applebutter. My mothrr was I very resourceful woman, she was always out picking watercress poke salad even making dandelion salad. And her scalded lettuce and onions with cornbread… Oh my God to die for…

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    October 7, 2019 at 12:22 pm

    I just love the way you tell stories of your Mama and her Mama cooking. I’ve had Chocolate Gravy and hot biscuits many times when I was a kid. Mama always said “that stuff will stick to your ribs.” She was right, it kept us from getting the collet until dinnertime. ( My spell check isn’t working. )

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    October 7, 2019 at 9:22 am

    We were tired of the same food as children–beans and cornbread, potatoes and gravy & biscuits were pretty much daily food. We did have garden vegetables canned and later on frozen when mama got an old chest freezer. Always thought I’d never eat that way again whenever I didn’t have to but now a meal like that is what we love to eat.

    I remember the “sugar pies” Mama sometimes made for breakfast–just a little crust like for fruit pies filled with butter & sugar and sometimes cocoa. She baked them and we loved them. I have tried to make them but not very successful at it.

  • Reply
    October 7, 2019 at 9:20 am

    I don’t think I will ever get fried chicken, biscuits and milk gravy as delicious as my Mother and grandmother made. If I get sick in the winter time, I long for my Mother’s homemade tomato vegetable soup with okra. I just can’t seem to get it to taste as delicious as Mother’s.

  • Reply
    Melissa P. (Misplaced Southerner)
    October 7, 2019 at 9:20 am

    Funny chocolate gravy should come up. One of my friends (a Michigander) recently posted something to Facebook about the “NEW” dish…biscuits and chocolate gravy. Almost split a gut! Bless her heart, I had to (very sweetly) set her straight that we southerners have been eating that for generations. The one meal that I just about lived on as a kid was grilled cheese sandwiches. Would hardly touch anything else unless it was cold and then I’d eat tomato soup with my grilled cheese. No one could explain to my mother why I had such an odd propensity.

  • Reply
    October 7, 2019 at 9:17 am

    The food we ate when I was young was mostly vegetables from the garden served with pork or chicken. I don’t recall ever eating any beef until I was a teenager. Maybe that is why I don’t like it now. It’s been years since I have eaten ground beef in any shape or form. Everything was fried when I was growing up and is still my favorite way to prepare taters and most meats. I would have to say killed lettuce, soup beans and a big pone of cornbread takes me back to the good old days.
    Mom was a big fan of cushaw. She dried and sweetened it in a way that made it almost as chewy as gum candy. I wish I had paid more attention to the way she preserved food. Rhubarb dumplings is another dessert that is delicious and never heard of these days.

  • Reply
    Pamela Danner
    October 7, 2019 at 9:09 am

    I can remember one meal my mom would make every single Sunday. Roast beef with potatoes, carrots and onions and dark rich roast beef gravy and homemade biscuits and a nice big cake. YUM

  • Reply
    Sandra Johnson
    October 7, 2019 at 8:56 am

    My Great Grandmother’s homemade biscuits, with homemade butter mixed with homemade molasses. Spread the mixture on the hot biscuits and that was a childhood treat.

  • Reply
    October 7, 2019 at 8:42 am

    For long stretches in Winter we had cornbread and pintos one day and pintos and cornbread the next. We switched them up for variety – to avoid boredom. It was always oatmeal for breakfast. In Summer we had all sorts of things from the garden to accompany the cornbread and usually we had enough eggs for breakfast. Meat was mostly reserved for Sunday.

  • Reply
    Don Byers
    October 7, 2019 at 8:01 am

    Pickled corn and cornbread.

  • Reply
    Sanford McKinney Jr
    October 7, 2019 at 7:40 am

    I asked Granny what food took her back to childhood. “Oh chocolate gravy and biscuits and just every thing mother cooked. She was a good cook.”
    I am with Granny on the chocolate gravy and biscuits. Mom used to make it once in a great while. It filled the “sweet tooth” early in the morning. Some might say it was chocolate syrup, but it wasn’t.
    Mom was a good cook and it could have been because of her experience of having to cook for seven (7) children plus she and Dad. Seems like there was usually at least one or more there that wasn’t family during meal time. During the time I was growing up, sharing food with others was showing hospitality.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    October 7, 2019 at 7:21 am

    I remember fried pork tenderloin and biscuits for breakfast. Homegrown, very white and very firm, not like store-bought. Have not had that in over fifty years and don’t expect to again. Different days abd different ways.

    • Reply
      Wanda Devers
      October 7, 2019 at 9:14 am

      Ron, I remember that tenderloin from childhood, too. When pigs were slaughtered in the fall, we always had fried tenderloin. It sure wasn’t like store bought today. We had very little meat usually & it was a wonderful treat.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    October 7, 2019 at 7:14 am

    My memories include fried chicken and mashed potaties, my gramna made chocilate syrup and pancakes for us whenever we stayed with her. My grampa we called Dady Kurt drank postum, he would fix it for me with lots of milk and of course sugar

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    October 7, 2019 at 7:01 am

    As a child my favorite foods were mashed potatoes and spinach. Any time I went to my grandmothers house she always made mashed potatoes and spinach for me and I always ate it. I still love both but especially the spinach! I was also crazy about pinto beans and cornbread. Cook the pinto’s till they are soupy with some fat meat in then and dip the beans over crumbled cornbread and you had a feast!
    I still eat lots of spinach but not so much mashed potatoes and beans.

  • Reply
    October 7, 2019 at 6:18 am

    Good times and Good Food seem inseparable, I can remember cramming everyone in Mamaw and Papaws house and that potbelly stove red hot and the food was so good, I go by the Old place between Wilson Mountain and Oden Ridge during the week just passing through and can still hear Mamaw getting on to us boys for playing to rough, she thought.

  • Reply
    October 7, 2019 at 4:35 am

    Those childhood foods will always be remembered. Mom gave us something called Ovaltine. As a child I loved it, so bought some after I grew up and wondered why I had liked it. We drank hot tea a great deal when sick with colds. Something I miss and might try is loaf bread with big slices of cheese and placed under broiler. It was a fast filling snack/meal.
    Sunday was usually visiting or being visited with large extended family on both sides. I can recall the best chicken n’ dumplings on my Aunt Dolras’ table with lots of fresh from the cow milk and butter with biscuits. There were so many at the table it required a long bench just for the children. Aunt Minnie always had a big bowl of home canned peaches for dessert. Now, there were some good cooks back in those days.

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