Appalachia Profiles of Mountain People

Katherine Sudderth Interview 1982 – Part II


Katherine Sudderth Interview June 29, 1982

“I always loved to cook and I still do like to cook. I learned to cook as a little girl. My older brother always had chickens. I was never allowed to go inside the chicken house. But somehow, I was always a tomboy and I’d crawl over the fence, go into the chicken house and get eggs. Go back and make a cake. When my brother came home and found that I’d been into the chicken house and got his eggs, we would get in a big fight. Then when my mother came home, we would both get a whipping. But I always loved to cook. That is how I got started cooking, by stealing eggs from brother’s chickens. Occasionally I would get a chicken and fry it. I would always get in trouble doing it, but I would still do it.

As a little girl, I would have to wash dishes. My mother would turn a chair around to the table. I would have two dish pans. I would wash dishes out of one and put them over to the other. When I got if full my mother would come and scald the dishes good with boiling water. I would dry them and she would put them away. Sometimes I would have as many as three dish pans of dirty dishes to wash. A lot of those dishes would be from where I had made cakes. To this day, I might say that I still make cakes. I think that about everybody in Cherokee County knows that I am a good cook. I owe my mother credit for that because she taught me to cook. I can’t eat as much as I used to could, because I am not as well as I used to be. But I still enjoy cooking.

I cooked on the wood stove. My daddy made a wood box that stayed behind the wood stove and would always be full of wood. We had the wood stove and we’d have a warmer at the top to keep your food warm. We also had an old ice box. The ice man used to come around twice a week to bring ice and put it this ice box. We loved to see the ice man coming because he would always give us ice, when he chipped the ice off. We loved to go out and get those tiny pieces of ice and eat it. The ice box is the way that we kept our food then.

We had our own cow. We churned our own butter too. I didn’t ever learn to milk a cow. My mother would get the milk ready in the churn. It had what they called a dash. My mother would set the churn down into a dishpan of warm water. I would sit there and churn. Sometimes it would seem like it would be an hour before that butter would come. When the butter was made, it would come to the top. I would call to my mother. She would come and bring a bowl then get all the butter off the top. She would put it in to a mold. Then she would turn it out of that mold. It would be beautiful yellow butter with a design on the top of it. It would be most delicious with hot cornbread or hot biscuits. In the mornings for breakfast, we would always have hot biscuits and butter and syrup. My daddy would make his own syrup. That would be our breakfast in the mornings. We would have hot cornbread for dinner (what most people now call lunch be we called dinner). Then at night we would have it again for supper. We would have corn bread twice a day. Then on Sunday morning, it was a great treat, because we would have fried chicken, gravy, and rice for breakfast. That was a great treat!”

—Excerpt from “The Heritage of Cherokee County, NC, Volume II”


I hope you enjoyed the second part of Katherine’s interview. There’s one more part left, so be on the lookout for  it.


Appalachian Cooking Class details

Come cook with me!

Location: John C. Campbell Folk School – Brasstown, NC
Date: Sunday, June 23 – Saturday, June 29, 2019
Instructors: Carolyn Anderson, Tipper Pressley

Experience the traditional Appalachian method of cooking, putting up, and preserving the bounty from nature’s garden. Receive hands-on training to make and process a variety of jellies, jams, and pickles for winter eating. You’ll also learn the importance of dessert in Appalachian culture and discover how to easily make the fanciest of traditional cakes. Completing this week of cultural foods, a day of bread making will produce biscuits and cornbread. All levels welcome.

Along with all that goodness Carolyn and I have planned a couple of field trips to allow students to see how local folks produce food for their families. The Folk School offers scholarships you can go here to find out more about them. For the rest of the class details go here.

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  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKillip
    March 28, 2019 at 7:54 am

    Tipper reading some of they great comments about one being a great cook age 90 and being reared in Andrews Until 21 . Wouldn’t it be nice for others to come forth being reared in these blessed Mountains . Tipper you publishing so many great stories and articles that prick so many ears. Thank you for all the info you bring us expectly to those of us that have move away from the mountains. ( when I depart this earth I want my bones to lie beneath the soil of the Mountains of North Carolina )

  • Reply
    March 22, 2019 at 10:43 pm

    Enjoyed reading her story, can relate to the tomboy, imagine she was a great cook…. Oh, hot biscuits, butter ,,,,,yummy, cornbread the same, lots of butter till it drips out :). My Granddaddy liked to mash butter into karo syrup, and sop his biscuit in it…that’s yummy too, a whole plate of it.

  • Reply
    Frances Page
    March 22, 2019 at 4:30 pm

    Loved reading both these delightful stories of growing up in Andrews. This was my hometown for first 21 years of my life. I was not allowed to be in the kitchen when growing up. When I married and had to cook it was struggle. I became a great Cook by age 90. I use many mountain recipes that I livedvas a child in my beloved Andrews

  • Reply
    March 22, 2019 at 1:30 pm

    Miss Cindy, I often think ‘it wasn’t THAT long ago,” too! Change has come so much faster than it used to, I think.

  • Reply
    March 22, 2019 at 1:28 pm

    I suppose her brother was so mad about the eggs that he didn’t have any of the cake? 😉

  • Reply
    March 22, 2019 at 11:20 am

    Where is Part I? Some how I missed it.

    I love reading about this. Most of this is exactly the way my grandparents on my momma’s side did things until they died in the 1960s. My uncle bought an electric stove for grandma but she never used it. Grandma taught me to cook and bake on her wood burning kitchen stove. I washed dishes just the way it is described, the washing pan would be put on the stove so the water could heat, AKA get “het up”.

    Not many people of my age learned to cook on a wood-burning cook stove. I still have recipes that say to “take food off the fire” instead of remove from heat. I like take of the fire better.

    Also I did everything possible to avoid a whipping. A. Whipping most likely was a bit worse than a spanking.

  • Reply
    March 22, 2019 at 11:04 am

    Katherine didn’t say how many children there were in the family but it must have been quite a few. Love the old stories and it brings back a lot of good memories. Both my grandmothers were wonderful cooks and they must have been strong as a bull to do all the work they did. Boggles my mind how my grandmother cooked, washed clothes, cleaned, made all the clothes for 11 children and even with help from a few can you imagine the stack of dishes from 13 people – morning – noon – and supper. My other grandmother had bee hives by her garden and I never heard of her getting stung. I can see her in my mind’s eye heading out to the garden in her early 80’s with a huge brim hat to keep the sun out of her eyes.

  • Reply
    March 22, 2019 at 10:08 am

    There’s nothing like ypur own churned butter. Milk,biscuits. Love it all. Reminds me when i was a kid. God Bless

  • Reply
    March 22, 2019 at 9:24 am

    If I could have interviewed Katherine, I would have had a thousand questions for her. We had fried chicken for breakfast too. Those girls from Katherine’s era sure could cook. Mom would ‘knock up’ a cake in a heartbeat and frost it with either meringue or a homemade chocolate candy-like frosting.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    March 22, 2019 at 9:15 am

    Lots of memories packed in there; having chickens, doing dishes in a dishpan, the wood box and the wood stove with a warmer, hand churning and cornbread twice a day. I thought when I saw the picture of those hands that they had made a lot of biscuits. I should have added cornbread and cakes.

  • Reply
    Joe Mode
    March 22, 2019 at 9:10 am

    I love reading about how people grew up in the country way back when, such a different time. I interviewed my great grandmother, born in 1898, about living with her grandparents up in Big Springs, Union County Tennessee. I loved hearing her tell stories about my 3rd great grandparents, personal stories. One thing for sure, it was hard work. Her grandfather, Grandpaw Walker, was a farmer and circuit riding preacher. Grandmaw Walker’s daddy was killed at the Battle of Missionary Ridge in 1863. She said cutting wood for cooking, washing, and heating the home was a full time job for a man. We don’t really know what hard work is today, or how hard is was to survive and thrive back then. Thanks for the story. Will be glad to share those stories as well.

  • Reply
    March 22, 2019 at 8:56 am

    Everything was so different back in the day. We had a cow for awhile, but many people had cows when I was a small girl. Even after my mother no longer had a cow, she bought milk and butter from an old lady who lived on another mountain. Some had molds, and others just made butter in blocks. I remember the churns full of “Clabbered” milk, and kids helped churn. I loved dealing with the chickens, but the garden was always my favorite.
    We were rarely spanked for fighting, but Dad liked to come up with unique ways to show it was not to be tolerated. This punishment varied from making us hug each other to taking whatever we were fighting over. Katherine Sudderth’s memories not unlike mine. Thanks Tipper for another good read.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    March 22, 2019 at 7:43 am

    That’s like going to my Grandmothers. They always had milk cows and pigs. She churned and made butter. It was a really different life! They grew what they ate and spent a lot of time outside as you can see from that beautiful picture. No cell phones and computers. It’s hard to grasp how different life was back then and it really wasn’t THAT long ago, was it?

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    March 22, 2019 at 7:34 am

    Amazing how much she loves to cook with all the work that went into it when she was younger. Love the story of her stealing her brothers eggs.

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