Appalachia Appalachian Food

Make Do Recipes

making do in appalachia

In 2009 I wrote a series of posts about the economic downturn and the effect it was having on folks in my area-and beyond. If you missed them you can go back and read them:

In the 2 years since I wrote those posts-I’m saddened to say not much has changed in my neck of the woods. I read in last weeks local paper, Cherokee County has the 6th highest unemployment rate in NC and Graham County-which joins us-has the highest in the entire state.

Less than 10 years ago, our county was in an uproar over the unmanageable growth in our school system-now the student population is dropping fast. The decrease in enrollment is a direct result of parents having to leave the area to look for work else where.

I’m still noticing some of the same things I did 2 years ago; more folks having gardens, more people learning to can/preserve what they grow, more folks looking for cheap or better yet free entertainment.

making do recipes

One other thing I’ve noticed is a lot of folks who never cooked much before are cooking meals for their family instead of going out or picking something up on the way home.

We never have eaten out much so that isn’t something that has changed for the Blind Pig family-but as grocery prices have increased I have taken a second look at the staples I usually buy and tried to find some cheaper options for our meals.

As I looked anew at my weekly grocery list I began to think of make do recipes-the sort of cheap stand by we all have in our cooking repertoire. I remember cheap meals Granny cooked when I was little-like pinto beans and cornbread or salmon patties. Things that I was too picky to eat as a small child-but somewhere along the way I come to love them.

A few months ago I read a post on somebody’s blog (wish I could remember who it was if you know please tell me). The post was about the food the writer and her family had to eat when she was a child and they were broke. I can’t even remember what the food was-something I wasn’t familiar with-but the gist of the post was how could a food that represented sadness and struggle when she was a child-be something she craved as an adult who was financially stable.

My best friend’s father likes to eat cornbread and honey for supper. His wife says she sometimes feels guilty when she fixes him something so simple-but he loves it and says it’s what his family often had for supper when he was a child.

So begins my series of make do recipes. Is there something you had to eat as a child-that you now like to eat?



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  • Reply
    January 24, 2011 at 8:17 am

    Has anyone tried the make do Macaroni cooked in tomatoes? A friend of mine from Eastern NC used to throw cheese on top and place in oven until it melts. Good either sweetened or salted.

  • Reply
    January 20, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    Bill-thank you for the comment! I wish I had some of that fresh sausage right now : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk
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  • Reply
    January 19, 2011 at 8:10 pm

    Tipper, don’t have any make-do recipes but I know Mom had lots of them. I do remember she used to put potatoes in with ground beef to make it go farther. We didn’t know we were poor because we always had food a plenty, we grew most everything we ate, we always had our own hogs, Dad always managed to have a hog for every member of the family plus he always had a frost pig, because by that time of the year he was always getting hungry for some fresh pork. When we would kill our 7 hogs we we would have over 200 pounds of sausage which he dearly loved.

  • Reply
    January 18, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    You knew when money was tight at our house when mama would make gravy with butter instead of meat grease. She also added, I don’t remember what it is called, but it came in a small jar. It was very thin slices of cooked beef. Mama would chop it up and put it in the gravy. I remember it tasted good on light bread or biscuits.

  • Reply
    bonnie pence
    January 18, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    Somebody mentioned hamburger gravy…I’ve heard it called “S.O.S.” or *@#% on a shingle?
    My Mother was a great cook, and had a garden with all the usual stuff, but she also made creamed chipped beef, eggs ala goldenrod, creamed tuna, creamed tomato gravy and probably other creamed things that I’ve forgotten! I loved it all.

  • Reply
    January 18, 2011 at 9:11 am

    Growing up pinto beans and cornbread were always on the table. And fried taters. I wasn’t fond of the beans and cornbread, but I loved those fried taters. And an occasional bowl of cornbread and milk for a snack. My Mom also made creamed tomatoes and batter bread quite often, too.

  • Reply
    Dee from Tennessee
    January 18, 2011 at 4:11 am

    Well, it’s been fun reading everyone’s comments. We had a lot of the same as everyone mentioned, but I don’t think I considered it “making do.” It was just what we had. (I just now remembered this about meals — my daddy was in the hospital a lot when I was growing up and we would have tv dinners when he was in the hospital and oh my brother and I just loved them — how funny! We thought those were a treat – can you believe that?) And cornbread– we had it all the time and I thought — and I guess I still do — that was just “normal.” I would love to have cornbread every night still! And that’s cornbread with no sugar, thank you very much…LOL. When we go to Cracker Barrell, I almost always order the pinto beans, greens, slaw and cornbread AND biscuits — and ask for blackberry jelly! Husband LOVES to order from the breakfast menu. We never ate “high on the hog,” but we never, never went hungry – thanks be unto God.
    Oh, I just thought about my mother’s frozen creamed corn – she would “put up” as many freezer bags as she could – how we loved that. Thanks Tipper for another trip down memory lane!

  • Reply
    January 17, 2011 at 9:26 pm

    Hi Tipper, Just sat down to read your posts for today and laughed out loud. We had salmon patties for supper tonight along with peas and rice. I make them just like my mom did when I was growing up and my husband and I have them at least a couple of times a month, not because it’s not expensive but because we both love it. Still a great meal. Glynda

  • Reply
    kenneth o. hoffman
    January 17, 2011 at 9:23 pm

    Tipper: Our favorite was make do dessert ,pie crust with cinnamon, butter, and sugar. boy did we devour that ,instead of cake,s and candy.also potato soup,when no meat was on hand. not like depression time,s or so i have been told. but we never missed a meal.blessing,s k.o.h

  • Reply
    Chef E
    January 17, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    Mine ate corn bread and buttermilk, or pinto beans with onion chopped. I loved them then and now, but I have to watch out, my tummy sends loud messages when I do! LOL
    I remember when we would hit mamaw’s house we would watch her open green beans and grand dad would go get a bucket of fried chicken! Good ole Colonial! Ha!

  • Reply
    January 17, 2011 at 6:21 pm

    I am going to enjoy these posts, Tipper and I think they’ll help a lot of people. I’m starting to look at my grocery buying, too. I can’t believe how much some things have gone up.
    We ate a lot of pinto beans and cornbread when I was a kid. We also had a lot of tuna fish casseroles. I guess tuna was cheap back then, LOL! I never make tuna casserole, but I still love beans and cornbread.

  • Reply
    Mel H.
    January 17, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    We still live in a great country, don’t we? I’d bet that even despite current (& other) hardships that 99.9% if us still have to make an effort to actually lose weight!

  • Reply
    Betty Lance Pacher
    January 17, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    From Calif. Still miss “Suthren cooking”. Whenever a friend travels to the Mt.s I ask them to bring me back a jar of real molasses. Nothing like it on fresh hot bread [corn or biscuits] stirred into a dab of butter .

  • Reply
    January 17, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    Eating cornbread and pinto beans was a way of life at out house.Homemade biscuits,gravy and potatoes too. Mom cooked simple food and we loved it.Never knew anything about cooking fancy and certainly not the word cholestrol.Did know that slicing off a hunk of homemade butter and putting between bread of any kind was a treat.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    January 17, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    I ask my son when he’s on his way to pick up the kids at day care, “Whats’ for Supper?”…
    He replies with a laugh…
    “Looks like white bread and potted meat tonight!”….
    He’s kidding of course, meaning money’s tight! He’s heard my tales of potted meat n’ white bread sandwichs.LOL
    Many a time when I was growing up we had canned Deviled Ham (or potted meat) and scrambled egg sandwichs on white bread.. either for lunch or supper! LOL
    No Mayonaise either..if moistened it was always a salad dressing product…ewwww!
    Would kids stand for this today…
    Weiners sliced in half length ways…fried in a pan till dark..
    One half weiner was put on one slice of white bread with mustard…
    As a special splurge of happiness Mom would buy one large bottle 15 cents of soda. She gave us a small glass of Strawberry or Cherry soda filled with (aluminum tray) large ice cubes and on the side those little hot dog shaped cheese Tid-Bit crackers…what a treat of a meal in the summer…LOL I wonder if they still make those???
    Spam..fried n’ sliced thin, thin..with a side of beans n’ greens n’ onions…
    Dad’s favorite..fried Streaked meat and beans, and cornbread..
    Lordy, how often times have I eaten canned Pork n’ beans with a side of meat and greens…most of the time just opened and poured in the bowl not heated..ewww..
    I can go on forever here!

  • Reply
    January 17, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    We had a hard time in the mid-70’s when the steel mills went down in this area and my dad lost his job. We had lots of homemade soup, which I always loved, and lots of pasta with homemade tomato sauce from homegrown tomatoes. Mom is half italian, and everyone raves over her spaghetti sauce, but I ate so much of it I still can’t look a red sauce in the eye!

  • Reply
    January 17, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    Don’t have any receipes, but we sure ate a lot of cornbread. My brother and I were laughing the other day when he came by and I was at home alone that day and I had baked some cornbread. He said that if it hadn’t been for cornbread we would have starved back when we were little.
    It was terrible when the old cow got into a patch of wild onions during the day and ruined supper ( at least for us). Those wild onions sure took all the joy out of a cornbread and milk supper!

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    January 17, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    We eat lots of soup in the winter time — such a good way of using up odds and ends.

  • Reply
    January 17, 2011 at 10:52 am

    Mom was a genius at feeding us on a limited budget. Dad was really proud of her. A friend gave her a book “365 Ways to Cook Hamburger” and she tried most of the recipes. Lots of hamburger casserole, meatballs, meatloaf. We never had Brussels sprouts (Dad hated them) or cornbread (both parents disliked it). After I moved away from home, I tried these foods-and love them.

  • Reply
    Pat in east TN
    January 17, 2011 at 10:44 am

    Cornbread and milk .. I learned that from my husband and we now enjoy it quite a bit. Pinto beans/onions with the cornbread too.
    Oatmeal was something I couldn’t stand as a child either, but I love it now with lots of fruit mixed in.
    Salmon patties is just something I cannot get used to and I’ve tried several recipes.

  • Reply
    January 17, 2011 at 10:44 am

    Tipper- I don’t think that my post on my blog was the one you’ve referred to but I did write one about the Apple Kuchen that my grandma and ma made when we were kids and we still love the stuff.
    I’m looking forward to your upcoming recipes and making do ideas.

  • Reply
    Just Jackie
    January 17, 2011 at 10:39 am

    I had forgotten all about salmon patties. I can remember my mom mixing them in a bowl with saltines and an egg. She always served peas with them. I hate peas and was not that fond of salmon but if it’s all you have…it’s ALL you have. My favorite make do meal was what my neighbor had. I would try to find a way to have dinner at his house when they had pole beans, potatoes and cornbread. Still one of my favorite meals. My mom told me later that she always felt bad that she would let me eat there because they were poorer than us. I had no idea we were poor. LOL)

  • Reply
    January 17, 2011 at 10:27 am

    we ate alot of cooked elbow macaroni with home canned tomatoes stired together. payday added cooked hamburger to the mix.
    ALOT of beans and cornbread, payday again brought fried taters to it. lots of milk & cornbread.ohhhh, and balonie. To this day, I wont eat balonie. Everything else is a comfort food for me now. My MIL who is 95 made alot of salmon patties (which we were never “rich” enough to have)

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    January 17, 2011 at 10:07 am

    Brother Jim and I are obviously going to have some of the same recollections. Before I read any of the comments, I was already thinking hamburger meat (with some sausage mixed in) on top of either cornbread or just plain Sunbeam loaf bread.
    In those days, Sunbeam bread came from Waldensian Bakeries in Valdese. It probably has something to do with a boy’s appetite, but white bread sure tasted better back then than it does now. (Stuff from Sara Lee, which I think bought out that bakery, is pretty much inedible to me)
    One of the meals we would get served about once every week or two for school lunch was pinto beans, greens (turnip/mustard) and cornbread – without any meat. Now school food, being prepared in large quantities, wasn’t like home cooking, but the ladies who did the cooking in Swain County were good, and had enough seasoning in the beans and greens to do them right. I have good memories of that particular meal (and especially good memories of the yeast rolls they made – they were outstanding by any measure).
    It would be interesting to compare school food from the 50’s and 60’s with what is served today.
    For supper tonight, I’m thinking of hamburger meat with gravy…

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    January 17, 2011 at 9:38 am

    Tipper, I’ve never considered cornbread and beans, pinto beans, a make do food, I guess because I’ve always loved them. As a child I loved them and I still do!
    Knew someone once who spooned her pinto beans out on a plate and mashed them up with a fork. She said she was masking the gas out of them so they wouldn’t bother her stomach. I thought that was kind of silly then and I still! I won’t say who she was but…..I will say she was the fifth girl born in the family and named after her again!
    My aunt, who had four kids and a husband to feed, cooked canned meat sometimes for Sunday dinner. It was Spam or Treet, one of those meats in a one pound can that required a key to open. She sprinkled brown sugar on it and baked it just like a fine ham and served the appropriate vegetables. It looked like a feast to me.
    I didn’t cook salmon patties much but I did make a salmon loaf that was very good. Used to be able to buy canned salmon pretty cheap but like everything else, it’s not cheap any more.
    One of my current meals is half cup lintels, half cup rice, a chopped onion( medium or larger) cook with water, salt, pepper, butter, and curry powder. It’s good and it rewarms well. I put some fresh spinach ( if I have it) or steamed cabbage in it when I am ready to eat it.
    Another make do is Wacky Cake. It’s a small, 8 X 8, that is mixed in the same pan it’s cooked it. The ingredients were somethings I always had on hand. I’ll see if I can find the recipe for you.
    Good post, thanks.

  • Reply
    Canned Quilter
    January 17, 2011 at 9:25 am

    Tipper when I was growing up we ate whatever we could produce. Corn bread and biscuits were always available. We always had milk and butter from the house cow. Eggs and meat from the chickens, a big garden that mama and 5 kids worked all summer at canning. Lots of fish from the river our farm bordered. And blackberries, dewberries, mayhaw
    and muscadines for jelly. To this day I still love just a glass of crumbled cornbread and cold milk!

  • Reply
    January 17, 2011 at 9:20 am

    I was just thinking about salmon patties the other day. I LOVED them! I wonder if I still would? That was a major staple at my house. Others were milk and corn bread, and kidney beans right out of the can (heated, of course.) My grandmother would fry either hot dogs or bologna, make a gravy & serve it with biscuits. If it was during the summer, we would slice a tomato to go with it. I crave that all of the time. If someone has a good salmon patty recipe, please send it to me! [email protected]

  • Reply
    Sheila Bergeron
    January 17, 2011 at 9:19 am

    Good Morning! We always had pinto beans & cornbread or buttermilk & cornbread. I can remember my Mamaw making bean cakes. What ever you had, you sure didn’t waste none of it

  • Reply
    January 17, 2011 at 9:13 am

    I’ve really thought about this & my mom was such an amazing cook it didn’t really seem like we were doing without when it came to meals. She planned ahead & put things back so she’d have them to make meals better when money was tight.
    We grew a huge garden & she canned everything so I would get very tired of green beans – we never ran out out of them. The only thing I remember really hating & I still don’t like, is powdered milk. When we didn’t have money for milk she mixed up powdered milk. I use it for cooking some but I can’t drink now & I couldn’t drink it then. :o)

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    January 17, 2011 at 8:59 am

    Tipper–We ate a lot of cornbread when I was a boy. Milk and cornbread was a staple for supper at the homes of both of my sets of grandparents. Of course dinner (the mid-day meal) was the big meal of the day for all of us all the time.
    Mom could make a pound of hamburger (with plenty of suet ground in–would probably have been a 70-30 blend) go a mighty long way by turning it into hambruger gravy–lots of gravy. We ate that over hamburger or biscuits.
    Beyond that, canning, lots and lots of it, was the way my parents addressed tought economic conditions.
    I will share a story which Dad, at 101 years of age, still brings up from time to time. When I was in the first grade the class was collecting money for some project or other. Most of the kids in the class pledged a dime or a quarter. In a fit of misplaced grandiosity I popped up and said “My Dad will give five dollars!” Daddy lived up to my commitment but made it quite clear to me that we didn’t have that kind of money and that henceforth I was to consult with higher authority before making any such pledges. Even today he says “Five dollars was a whole lot of money in those days.”
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    January 17, 2011 at 8:57 am

    I loved cornbread and pintos when a child and still do. i had never heard of it until we moved to KY and there it was a staple and mother learned to use it and we still do. daddy always made what he called hoe cake, like cornbread but made with flour and cooked in a cast iron skillet on top of the stove. i loved it and sometimes i make it for myself now. we lived on what daddy grew and we canned and anything mother could make to stretch food. lost of rice and potatos. the only thing i eat now that i did not eat as a child is oatmeal. i hated it and refused it, now i love it.

  • Reply
    Gary Powell
    January 17, 2011 at 8:35 am

    Spent as much time as possible growing up on Granny’s farm in Pulaski co. Ky. Everything was raised or grown on the farm. Supplemented with rabbits and squirrels. All cooking and canning was done on a wood stove. Ate a lot of beans and biscuits and sorghum. Gary in KY

  • Reply
    Wanda in NoAla
    January 17, 2011 at 8:34 am

    Tipper, my mom talked about having to eat cornbread with molasses several times a day during the depression. She never made it for us…guess she ate all she could stand then. Her family grew the corn and had it ground for meal. My Grandpa worked in the woods for a gallon of molasses a day. It kept them going, but didn’t leave any fond memories! Thanks for your blog.

  • Reply
    January 17, 2011 at 7:58 am

    We eat out some but its not a regular thing at our house. We like to cook our own food.
    As a child we ate a lot of pintos and cornbread, oyster stew, salmon patties, and liver and onions. Lots of cornbread. My grandfather had a huge garden and they canned all summer so we also ate from the pantry—its something I’m working on for us.

  • Reply
    January 17, 2011 at 7:52 am

    My, my that cornbread looks so good! Now I’ll have to bake a cake
    for supper. I don’t have any make
    do recipes to share, but years ago
    when my parents and several brothers were alive, my favorite
    breakfast food was mama’s canned
    cream-style corn and biscuits. We
    also had lots of chickens and I
    got to help wring those pullets
    necks, mama would fry ’em and make
    gravy and set the table. It was a
    King’s meal! Being the youngest
    one at the table, I just hoped the
    lights didn’t go out…Ken

  • Reply
    Donna W
    January 17, 2011 at 6:41 am

    My favorite things as a kid were bread-and-gravy and my mom’s fried chicken (home-grown chickens, of course). Mother would sometimes fix a big meal, but if there was gravy, all I ate was bread and gravy.

  • Reply
    Dee from Tennessee
    January 17, 2011 at 4:11 am

    I am going to try to learn to like salmon patties….I don’t truly remember having them, but I know I don’t care for them. Trying to eat all the salmon I can….we’ll see. That crust looks sooooo good on the cornbread. (Can’t sleep tonight and your post popped up on fb — thanks for good reading!)

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