Appalachian Food

Starting to Cook

“I was married before I started cooking. I didn’t have to cook till then. I didn’t know how to boil water. Nothing about cooking. It just comes to me. I don’t go by a cookbook or anything. Just make up my own recipes. Of course, everything (I serve at the cafe) is just plain cooking anyway. I try to change the menu everyday and have a balanced meal. I think food is better eating when it’s slow-cooked on a wood-stove.”

—Mrs. Effie Lord, Proprietor, Lord’s Cafe, Clayton Georgia “Foxfire’s Book of Wood Stove Cookery”

Unlike Mrs. Effie Lord I like to have a recipe to go by. I’m sure over the years I’ve picked up skills from following recipes while cooking, but I still like to go by them. The Deer Hunter never uses a recipe. He has a general idea of what he wants to fix and starts attempting to make it work out, most of the time it does.

The more you cook the better you are at cooking, after all practice makes perfect or at least close to perfect 🙂 I remember a friend telling me she thought her mother n law was such a good cook that she could boil water and make it taste good. We both agreed her expertise in the kitchen probably came from cooking for her large family for well over 50 years.


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  • Reply
    Gina Huwe
    March 18, 2022 at 10:55 pm

    I have been cooking since I was 8 and was taught by my grandmother and she didn’t use recipes and so I don’t either unless it’s a cake or breads! I love to cook especially for company lol. Not much on baking sweets but I will every great once in awhile lol. Thanks again for sharing your life!!!

  • Reply
    Hazel B Jones
    March 16, 2022 at 5:07 pm

    Tipper, I just turned 80 in February. I learned to cook (at home) beginning at 11 years of age. I used to use recipes but rarely do so now. I love cooking and seeing people enjoy whatever I have made. My goal this year is to can more food for later in the year. I love your blog and videos.

  • Reply
    Kathy Patterson
    March 16, 2022 at 2:02 am

    I am trying my best to find Katie’s jewelry online. Help!
    Cooking is a pain and I have to get in the mood. I make a really good
    green beans, mashed potatoes, and fruit cobbler (what ever I have handy)
    Charles makes great cornbread.

  • Reply
    Barbara Parker
    March 15, 2022 at 10:05 pm

    I’ve been cooking a long time and I really do enjoy it. I got my start watching and helping my dear Grandma cook on her big wood stove. She was a marvelous cook and as sweet as sugar to me. Home cooking is one of the ways that I show love for my family. They seem to appreciate my efforts too. When I was in 8th grade I had a best friend that was responsible for cooking supper for her family too, since both sets of our parents worked public jobs and got home later than we did. She and I would plan our menus over the phone and share each others successes or sometimes failures the next day at school Here’s a fun quote that I heard a long time ago: ” The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” Mama always told me that I could make a good meal out of what seemed to be nothing. God always supplied our needs and multiplied it so we’ve not had to go hungry. We all like to eat and most of the best times have been spent around the “eatin’ table”! I sure did enjoy hearing about cooking today. I’m still smiling about Corie’s and Austin’s wedding too. I just LOVED IT!!!

  • Reply
    March 15, 2022 at 9:44 pm

    Tipper you look so confident when your cooking and at peace i am a good 10 years older than you and wonder if I give that impression I’ve been cooking since I was 10 years old for 3 brothers and a dad then for my own large family I do love to cook and it’s the best thing I do I sure would like to pull up a chair to one of your meals they look so good

  • Reply
    March 15, 2022 at 8:43 pm

    I love to cook. I also love to try new things, simple of course. So glad my mom and dad taught me alot. My husband can cook to. His special is steak of course. I Don’t like it cause I can’t eat it no more. I have to go with chicken

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    March 15, 2022 at 2:41 pm

    I’ll bet you a nickel if you think about all you cook you’ll realize that you don’t use a recipe as much as you think you do. For instance your biscuits, cornbread, green beans, dry beans, grits, ham, gravy, etc. You might have a recipe in writing somewhere but you don’t bother to look at it. Eggs-fried, scrambled or boiled nobody uses a recipe. Coddled or poached maybe but who cooks them that way.
    Forget the nickel, let’s make it a quarter!

  • Reply
    Shelia Nelson
    March 15, 2022 at 1:53 pm

    I mostly made cakes and cookies when I was a young girl at living at home with Daddy, Mama and my two little brothers. The closest I ever made to a main dish was a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich. Mama did most of the cooking (she was a stay-at-home Mama). When Chuck and I married in 1976 I wanted to learn to cook more than cakes and cookies and the first thing I wanted to make was my Mama’s Potato Salad (still the best I’ve ever eaten). We didn’t have a phone so I couldn’t call her for the recipe, so I winged it….potatoes, boiled eggs, onion, pickles with a little pickle juice, mayonnaise, mustard, salt and pepper. I prepared it as a side dish for our supper one evening. Chuck loves my Mama’s Tater Salad!!! He was happy to see it on the table and couldn’t wait to get a forkful. I sat in my chair, happy, a new bride of one month, proud of my Tater Salad! He chewed, looked thoughtful. More chewing, more thoughtful looks. He placed his fork on the plate and asked “Shelia, ahhh, did you boil the potatoes?” “No” said I. “It’s kinda crunchy.” he said. I got the ingredients right, but didn’t know I was supposed to cook the potatoes. I told him I thought the mayonnaise and mustard made the potatoes soft. Thankfully, 46 years later I’m a pretty good cook and I’ve mastered My Sweet Little Mama’s Tater Salad.

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      March 15, 2022 at 9:49 pm

      Now that’s a story! I love it!

    • Reply
      Karen Toler
      March 15, 2022 at 10:29 pm

      I love this!!! My grandma got married back in 1929… One of her first dinners..was a chicken. Dinner…she cooked the chicken and they sat down to eat..she didn’t know she was supposed to clean out all the inners…she became a excellent cook!!! Lol

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    March 15, 2022 at 1:33 pm

    I learned basic cooking from seeing other people cook. I do sometimes use a recipe if it’s something new and always do for canning. I have memorized some recipes I make a lot–breakfast breads or cobblers. I always have to find a recipe for toppings for sweet potatoes & such–can’t ever get it right by myself.

  • Reply
    March 15, 2022 at 12:47 pm

    My mom came from a family of girls and always hated anything in the house. She preferred being in the fields or the barn. Her next oldest sister was the one who cooked, cleaned and sewed. Mama got married at aged 16 and could do nothing.. I am told that the first year or two was a bit tense at times. Eventually she learned and became an excellent and adventurous cook. She loved to eat and try making new foods. She’s been gone almost 30 years now, but I still miss her cooking.

  • Reply
    March 15, 2022 at 11:47 am

    I LOVE this post!

  • Reply
    March 15, 2022 at 10:57 am

    I always loved watching my mom cook. She cooked everyday three meals a day and always had homemade snacks for a family of seven, five were us kids. Plus she never turned any of our other family or friends away without offering them something to drink or eat. She let us kids help her so we would learn as we helped. All of us kids, 2 boys and 3 girls all learned to cook from our mom. She even let us fix a few meals when we asked. I think I’ve been cooking since I was very young, but didn’t actually make a meal on my own until I was around 11 years old. I remember getting a recipe card in the mail from Betty Crocker for Chili Spaghetti. That company use to send out recipes to advertise the Recipe Box, which if you ordered you got a pack of recipes once a month for a low price for one year. Mom let me make that Chili Spaghetti along with other recipes she had. When I was around 14 years old I started earning money on my own. When I had enough money saved I ordered the Betty Crocker Recipe Box and was able each month to buy the recipe cards until I had all the recipes to fill up the red recipe box they sent to keep them all in. I made so many of those recipes throughout my years. I also had a big collection of cookbooks that were either given to me or I bought myself and they were all well used. Some cookbook pages are stained so bad from all the use it’s almost embarrassing, but anyone looking at them can tell which recipes are my favorite. In my forties I started just making my own recipes or just made recipes from memory. About five years ago I decided to downsize and minimize items in my house. After asking my daughter if there was something she wanted to keep so I could put back for her, I then loaded up all the rest of the things I no longer used or wanted and donated them to our local Christian thrift store. My very large cookbooks collection is now down to just a few of my most favorite well used cookbooks. I did part with my Betty Crocker Recipe Box. It served me well for way over half my life cooking, but hopefully someone else is cherishing those beloved recipes cards in the red box.

  • Reply
    March 15, 2022 at 9:45 am

    Mom and Dad both worked and my sister was to have supper ready when they got home. I was to have milking and livestock feeding done. I did not like milking and my sister didn’t like cooking so we traded jobs. Mom would brag on my sister’s cooking and we would just smile at each other. They are both gone now and I don’t think either one ever found out. I made all the girls at school mad when I was in the 6th grade by entering their biscuit baking contest and winning. Now most of my cooking is done on a charcoal grill or a crockpot. I have a crockpot of pintos going now.

  • Reply
    Gene Smith
    March 15, 2022 at 9:44 am

    someone gave my mother a little basic cookbook as a newlywed, in 1929. She kept it through the years, and now it belongs to her granddaughter, my daughter. It will pass to one of my two granddaughters, I guess. The stories that cookbook could tell!

  • Reply
    Angelyn McLain
    March 15, 2022 at 9:32 am

    My Mother was a wonderful cook. She could put a meal on the table in a flash too. Her cornbread was tasty and beautifully brown as she cooked it in cast iron of course. I come close once in a while but I am never quite there. I could never fry chicken like hers either. I guess cooking for me is more something that I have to do more than fun. I would rather garden or sew quilts.
    Now having said that I do enjoy cooking over a fire. My Michael gave me an iron swing arm set up for Christmas and it is in our fireplace. I have cooked deer stew twice, so far, and really had fun with that. I love learning things the way it was done by the pioneers. There is also something so peaceful about the old ways. I know generally it was much harder work but I still like it better.
    I have enjoyed all your recipe posts and made the Russian tea during the holidays and everyone liked it. I have also found several of the cook books that you used.
    I used to have the Telephone Company cook books. I donated them years ago and that has been a regret for sure. Maybe I will find them at an antique shop or something and can get them again. They are like the church cookbooks where all the recipes are tried and true.

  • Reply
    March 15, 2022 at 9:31 am

    I taught myself to cook at a young age because I wanted pancakes! I enjoy cooking with recipes or without. I taught both my children how to cook and they are both very good cooks, better than I ever was for sure. I hope I sparked that love of cooking in them. I feel that cooking and feeding people is a true act of love. It’s loving to provide for and nourish another.

  • Reply
    March 15, 2022 at 9:18 am

    In the late 1900,s my great-grandmother was a cook for the railroad. She lived in Washington, Indiana. That’s how she met my great-grandfather. They moved to Pa and as far back as I can remember she was an excellent cook. The only problem was she never used recipes. Every thing was “a pinch of this and a handful of that”. My mother, grandmother and I tried over the years after she passed on to reproduce some of her dishes. From recollection, trial and error over the years we managed to come up with some of her dishes. Oyster bread filling was a challenge. To get it to taste like hers. I never considered myself a “cook”. I have to follow a recipe for most things I make. My husband, on the other hand wanted to be a cook when he went in the Navy in 1967. However they had other plans and he wound up in Viet Nam. He has become the chef in our family, which suites me just fine. He makes all the holiday meals and it was actually he that perfected my great grandmothers oyster filling recipe. Now that he’s retired he does most of the cooking every day.

  • Reply
    donna sue
    March 15, 2022 at 9:11 am

    I am like you, Tipper. I have to have a recipe when I make something new. After awhile, I can then wing it without one, and adapt the recipe to my likes and needs. Growing up, i was not too interested in being the kitchen. My sister, Lyn, would help our Mom all the time. From the time she was a teenager, she can throw anything in a pot and it tastes good. I was in my early thirties before I graduated from pre packaged, heavily processed food (lots of hamburger helper meals, etc), to making a huge variety of recipes. I love home cooking now, and I will try any recipe from very simple to hugely complicated and fancy. I have loved all your recipes on your blog and you tube channel. You give me so many ideas, and motivation!

    Donna. : )

  • Reply
    March 15, 2022 at 8:56 am

    I sure wish I could have eaten at Miss Effie’s cafe.

    My first memory of cooking was when I was 10. I was helping my grandma in the kitchen and she asked me to pour a flour/water mixture into the pan to thicken up whatever she was cooking. I poured it in without stirring – instant lumps. She saved the meal and my first cooking memory by whisking those lumps thin like it never happened.

    That day was also the first time I had hand-copied a recipe, it was grandma’s, a yeasted pineapple cheesecake. I still have that recipe all of these years later.

  • Reply
    March 15, 2022 at 8:56 am

    This has been something I have puzzled over. My mother never used a recipe unless it was for cakes. I just seemed to fall naturally into guessing at ingredients, and surprisingly in most instances it has worked out well. My granddaughter wanted a compilation of my recipes, so I had to carefully measure, and it was very time consuming. Then a cousin wanted my meatloaf recipe which I spice up with chili powder and cumin. I had to measure and get it just right, but finally was able to write down exactly and send to him. My dash of this and that worked except when baking bread or cakes. There has to be a recipe, as baking is very unforgiving. This was learned at a young age when my chess pie tasted like cornbread. 🙂

  • Reply
    March 15, 2022 at 8:56 am

    Sounds familiar. When we married, the lady’s at the factory I worked at gave us a crock pot (saved us from a year of sandwiches and TV dinners). My wife’s first attempt at cooking a chicken is remembered by many because everyone had told her to thourhly wash it before cooking. When her cousin stopped by she found the chicken soaped up in the sink with Dawn dish detergent.

  • Reply
    March 15, 2022 at 8:56 am

    Mom probably never used a recipe in her life while cooking the simple meals she fixed for her family. I have cabinet space designated for my cookbooks and the recipes I copy from the internet that I seldom use.
    The girls at work used to get a kick out of me saying I had to go home and fix supper. To them, I should have said I had to go cook dinner. It’s good to hear you say the Deer Hunter knows what he wants to fix.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    March 15, 2022 at 8:44 am

    I have to smile a bit at this post. I’ve posted to the same effect before but I marvel at the art of cooking. I think of it as art because it is a “sense” of what goes together and in what proportions and what that is varies widely by taste, available ingredients, purpose and so on. I am not a cook but I think that sense is what makes it so hard for experienced cooks to write “the” recipe. The art side can’t be written down. It is one of those “you just know” kind of things. I admire that in anybody, whatever their skill is. Skill plus the ability to not boast about it and the willingness to teach are very admirable traits. I’m A pretty fair hand at digging but I haven’t run across anybody wanting to learn how.

  • Reply
    Margie G
    March 15, 2022 at 8:38 am

    YOU, TIPPER, SHOWED ME HOW TO MAKE GOOD CORNBREAD AND I THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART! I’m still working on the gravy thing -although it looks easy- it’s NOT. I am a pretty good cook and an excellent baker. My cooking will get you by without going hungry or having to go to a store to eat. Let’s call it utilitarian cuisine. I know Corie will be cooking now and she may need some help from you and granny. Thank God she has two fine lady cooks right close by!!!! I remember an apple pie I made Murray while we were in the Army. The shortening wasn’t “cut in” and there were literal lumps and clumps of shortening in the pie. Murray choked down that pie and said it was really good. I know it was anything but good, but in his bragging, a Fire was lit in the cooking part of my brain and I wanted to do better. So after 36 years of marriage and at 54, I hope I have…

  • Reply
    Larry Paul Eddings
    March 15, 2022 at 8:30 am

    A good cook is a great treasure.

  • Reply
    Martha Justice
    March 15, 2022 at 8:30 am

    Cooking is one of my greatest joys in life ! Watching my family and friends enjoy my food is a blessing . I thank God that he has always supplied us with the food we need , not what we wanted sometimes, but we have never gone hungry. ❤

  • Reply
    March 15, 2022 at 8:22 am

    When I was knee-high to a bull frog, my paternal grandma would get me in the kitchen to help her cook. She said it was very important that young boys know how to take care of themselves and if they got them a woman later on, it should be because they loved her and not because they needed a maid. I could cook scratch biscuits, fried chicken, meat loaf and most any garden vegetable by the time I graduated high school. You have no idea how much she were still here just so I could tell her THANK YOU! Eating and mealtime in the south is so much a part of who we are and she gave me “the best” lifelong gift ever! Thank you Grandma (Harris)!

  • Reply
    March 15, 2022 at 8:13 am

    I don’t always use a recipe but when I do I usually don’t follow it exactly; I like to add my own touch. Hubby says I do a good job and he has never passed up a meal 🙂 I don’t particularly like to spend a lot of time in the kitchen but I MUCH rather make home made meals than go out to a restaurant – the flavor, nutrition, etc is so much better with home made.

  • Reply
    Catherine Spence
    March 15, 2022 at 8:08 am

    Mostly I have to stick to a recipe; I love to experiment, but my efforts don’t often turn out well!

  • Reply
    Denise R
    March 15, 2022 at 7:52 am

    I’ve been cooking since I was 13 years old. I wanted to learn how to help my dad out since he was a single parent, so my grandma taught me the basics and dad agreed to let me try. Thankfully I never burned the house down! My interest in cooking really took off when I was working at IU in the resident halls where the students lived. 90% of everything made was from scratch, so some of the recipes we used was really off in the proportions of spices/herbs to the quantity made. I always wanted those items I made to taste good, so there was fudging on the spices/herbs, which was frowned upon by upper management. Anyways my direct manager was gracious and very complimentary on those foods I was responsible for. To give you an idea, we were cooking on a daily basis for up to 1500 students per meal. A lot of those items I cooked did not result in leftovers! While I would have loved a career in the food service industry, the hours and working weekends and holidays was something I didn’t enjoy. So eventually I moved into the printing industry which is where I met my wonderful husband!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    March 15, 2022 at 7:35 am

    For many things I cook I do not use a recipe, I’ve cooked them so long that I just don’t need to. I do use recipes for things I haven’t cooked before or have not cooked for a long time.
    I also don’t always follow a recipe when I have one, I get an idea to do something different and I follow my instincts. It usually turns out good!
    I consider a recipe as an outline for me to follow and fill in the blank spaces as I will!

    • Reply
      March 15, 2022 at 10:36 am

      I have been collecting recipes since I was 10 years old. At that time you would send into the address on a box or can or bag of some grocery item and they would send you recipes. I made my first cherry pie around 12 years old , picked the cherries from our tree, and left the seeds in the pie filling. I don’t think I had a recipe. Loved making elderberry pie when we kids would go out into the woods to pick them.

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