But once or twice a year we get a cookbook that has dozens of good recipes, and if we’re really lucky, the tales that go along with the formulae are just as compelling.
Enter Ronni Lundy. In 2016 The Corbin, Kentucky native published (via Clarkson Potter) ‘Victuals’ which has quickly become one of our most prized possessions. Over the course of some 300 pages, Ms Lundy speaks eloquently on her life as a writer and adventurer with deep Appalachian roots.
If you hail from Corbin your hillbilly bonafides are as authentic as they get.
But we’re mainly in it for the recipes. While we love a good tale or backstory, the reason we routinely hit flea markets, book stores, and garage sales is to add to our absurdly big recipe collection.
Without good recipes a cookbook is a naked fraud.
We hit the ground running for our range when we saw that Lundy had included Colcannon in her repertoire. We know this dish as stamppot but the gist is the same: creamy, rich potatoes are enlivened with fresh, sauteed greens. We’ve crisscrossed Amsterdam for 20+ years looking for the best version of stamppot, and this recipe is a fine take.
We have a big sack of ‘leather britches’ or dried, shuck beans sitting on our kitchen table right now. They were a final gift from RL Reeves Jr’s mom before she left this firmament. Lundy’s recipe is as easy as pie once the hard work of drying the beans is done. Back in Knox County, Kentucky we routinely ate our body weight in this classic mountain dish.
You couldn’t hire us to eat pickled baloney when we were kids. Fried baloney or no baloney was our cri du coeur. Anything else would have just been so much phonus balonus. But as adults our tastebuds have tempered somewhat. We haven’t tackled Lundy’s Pickled Baloney with Peppers recipe just yet but we are casting an eye toward doing so in 2017.
Pluperfect fried chicken is every self-respecting Kentuckian’s birthright. More chicken is fried up each year in the state of Kentucky than all other southern states combined. Kentucky produces 1.6 billion pounds of broiler chickens each year which lands them one notch below Texas (which is nearly 7 times larger in landmass) We laud Ms Lundy for contributing her fried chicken recipe to this volume, and it’s a good one. We’ve never tried ‘lid-on’ fried chicken so we’re looking forward to learning a new technique in 2017.
To be great a cookbook has to be more than just a compendium of good recipes. It has to have stories woven into the receipts. And this is truly where Lundy shines. While her formulae are sound it’s her narrative tales that drive the book.
While reading ‘Victuals’ it’s as though Miss Ronni is sitting on the other end of the couch with a stiff drink chatting excitedly about bootleggers, corn growers, chili buns, and tattooed ruffians who have most likely taken up the cooking trade to stay out of the pen.
Once we picked this book up we weren’t able to put it down til suppertime, and starvation finally wrenched us off the sofa. We expect another avalanche of cookbooks to arrive in the post in 2017 but it will take one hell of an author to knock Ronni Lundy off her perch as queen.