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Shuck Beans, Stack Cakes, and Honest Fried Chicken
by Ronni Lundy

Chat with Author Ronni Lundy

Session Start: Tue Nov 09 19:52:30 1999
<sunni> Hello!
<RonniLundy> Hello!
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<me> Hi Ronni
<barren> Hi Ronni, this is barren
<RonniLundy> Rhonda Moberly, a KET staff member, is going to type for Ronni who is in Florida and talking by phone.
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<tulula> Welcome to our chat this evening. Ronni Lundy author of Shuck Beans, Stack Cakes, and Honest Fried Chicken is now on line and ready for your questions.
<me> Ronni, out of all of wonderful recipes in this book, do you have a favorite?
<RonniLundy> me: Oh, gee -- that's such a hard question. My favorite recipe depends upon the season and what I am in the mood for. The Shuck Beans recipe is very special to me because of where I was born and from the family I am from. So when I taste it - it's like being home.
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<zephyr> Hello!
<barren> Ronni, this weekend my daughter made Stack was yummy and not too difficult...but the Stake Cake looks impossible. Is it?
<me> I understand, how about your favorite "southern" comfort food?
<RonniLundy> And the Stack is important to me for the same kind of reason.
<RonniLundy> If I were to teach a recipe out of the book -- I would teach them cornbread--because a person can live on cornbread and a glass of milk.
<tulula> With the holidays coming up, would you recommend a Thanksgiving dinner with all recipes from the book?
<me> I've already committed to Yammy Pudding for our dinner this year.
<RonniLundy> barren --No, it's actually very easy -- it's a very forgiving recipe -- you don't have to be exact. It's time consuming. Because you bake each of the layers individually. So that they are warm when you put the filling between them. And one thing I learned when this book came out -- you use sorghum for the molasses in it -- folk use blackstrap molasses and it's terrible. It does take time to do but it's worth it.
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<RonniLundy> tulula: This is hard -- the book isn't in front of me. There is turkey with cornbread dressing and yammy pudding -- definitely.
<danceswithcats> Did you get a lot of that kind of response from the book -- people telling you the only way to make such-and-such is the way *my* mother did?
<RonniLundy> The winter corn pudding. I'm trying to remember. There's a green bean recipe with a brown sauce. It's not your classic long cooked green bean -- it's really delicious. A great dessert would be Rebbis spice cake -- a chocolate cake with spice in it -- you might want to double it.
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<RonniLundy> Oh, --actually you want to make the spice cake and the meal pie -- like a chess pie. And also the Lone Oak squash casserole. Day after the Hot Brown recipe.
<barren> Were any of the country music stars you talked with hesitant to tell you about their favorite foods? Who was your favorite country or folk star?
<RonniLundy> My southern comfort food -- the first thing that popped into my head was the boiled custard. Since it's the holiday season -- it's a tradition in our family. In the summertime it is homemade ice cream. Now those are desserts -- we're talking comfort. Now when it's cold outside - there's nothing like a bowl of soup beans and cornbread.
<me> Have you ever had shuck beans for New Year's instead of black-eye peas?
<RonniLundy> Dances: Yes -- people feel strongly about the foods they grew up eating but in the South it's almost a religious thing -- the ways we make cornbread and chicken -- certain veggies. We tend to truly love what a family member made.
<RonniLundy> When I asked the performers in the book what their favorite foods are -- hoping they would tell me restaurants -- but inevitably it was something their grandma or mother made -- and they were willing to share their recipe.
<RonniLundy> barren: No one was unwilling to talk to me about food. In fact, the performers were real excited -- they understood that food in our culture was more than just eating. It's an expression of our lifestyle in our community. A lot of the people in the book I had already interviewed for stories about music.
<RonniLundy> And in those interviews we often talked about food. It seems to be a real natural thing that happens when you get Southerners together.
<barren> I haven't bought your new cookbook (yet)...How is it different from "Shuck Beans"?
<RonniLundy> My favorite is hard because different people where so special in different ways. And in fact I grew as close to the parents of the stars as to the performers. Emmylou's parents were incredibly generous.
<RonniLundy> Her mom actually sent me half a cake to taste it. John Prine and his mother were both hilarious -- loads of fun to interview.
<RonniLundy> Dwight Yoakam and his mom are both from the same part of KY that my family is from - a little farther east -- it was like family.
<RonniLundy> Polly Rideout -- Naomi Judd's mother was as vibrant as her daughter- and another incredibly generous person.
<tulula> Have you ever heard of Maypops (passion fruit)? And anything made with them? A friend is growing them and trying to find something in addition to Maypop jelly.
<RonniLundy> Yes I have had shucky beans instead of black-eyed peas. In fact when I was in New Mexico my cousin sent me shuck beans and I made them for a New Years' party and that's when my husband fell in love with me. They definitely bring good luck or at least good men!
<RonniLundy> My new cookbook -- It explores the whole South and Shuck beans - dealt with mountain cooking. Butter Beans to Blackberries is the name of the new book -- is all about the amazing variety of veggies and fruits and all kinds of good things from the garden. It also has mail order sources to order things and a list of farm markets around the South and food festivals and restaurants -- and lots and lots of stories.
<RonniLundy> Maypop -- yes I've heard of them but only Maypop jelly. But you can ask at farm markets to find anyone else. I'm just hearing people start to talk about Maypops and Paw Paws. Does anyone on this chat have any recipes for Maypops?
<me> Haven't heard of them, only Paw Paws. Bet my Mom would know.
<RonniLundy> Bet your mom would too? Everyone should go home and ask their mom for a recipe they don't know. Or your grandmother or aunt!
<barren> On the bookclub@KET program, someone mentioned you were not writing cookbooks any longer and had turned to fiction and non-fiction. Can you tell us about that?
<RonniLundy> barren: Yes, I am trying to write non cookbook things because I don't normally think in recipes. One I'm working on is a nonfiction book about Southerners who left the South intending never to return but then later had a great urge to come back to their roots.
<RonniLundy> We're talking about why they left and why they returned and in the process creating a picture of the New South. And also trying to write piece of fiction that is a sort of girls road story -- kind of on the road about young women in the 60's. I'm not very good at that yet but it's fun. It will end better than Thelma and Louise.
<barren> Who are your favorite Kentucky authors?
<RonniLundy> barren: My favorite Egerton, who wrote the beautiful book Southern Food, but also written several volumes about race and culture in the South. He's very articulate and very passionate in his writing.
<me> Do you believe that southern cooking has a different effect than other foods on a person - almost spiritual? Maybe that's a bit strong, but it does seem to be quite powerful?
<RonniLundy> And then Barbara Kingsolver is a writer that I feel a great affinity to. I think the Poisonwood Bible is one of the greatest book I've read in contemporary literature and the book by KY author that most affected my life is Night comes to the Cumberlands by Harry Caudill. And that's followed closely by The Dollmaker.
<RonniLundy> me: I think that the whole ritual of food in the South has an importance for our spirit and our sense of who we are -- that is greater than it is in a lot of other cultures. I think it's also the expression of what we can be when we are at our best. It's welcoming, nurturing -- it's not pretentious -- it's something we can be incredibly creative - whether rich or poor. I do think it's a real sacrament in Southern culture and that's why it's given me so much joy and fulfillment to write about it.
<tulula> We're caught up with answers. Any other questions for Ronni?
<tulula> Ronni, What are you working on now?
<me> I struggle with southern taste buds and a desire to maintain my weight. Is there any way to reconcile?
<RonniLundy> tulula: Check back up a little -- we've answered this question.
<RonniLundy> me: (laughing) Yes -- um, Actually when I was working on the new Book Butterbeans - there are a lot of recipes in Southern cooking similar to Mediterranean cooking. that don't have tons of fat. I also realized that a little bit of bacon grease can go a really long way.
<danceswithcats> You were pretty harsh on take-out chicken in the book. But do you have any secret fast-food vices you're willing to admit to? ;-)
<RonniLundy> Our mothers and grandmas often seasoned with what was handy and didn't think about it too much. But we can use less bacon grease or a smaller piece of salt pork with strong flavor.
<RonniLundy> Mostly it's the gravy that will kill you. In the old days -- people were more active than we are now --As long as you're active you can indulge more.
<RonniLundy> dances: Yes (laughing) That's funny! I actually get cravings from Taco Bell and I do really love Steak and Shake. I like the steak burgers and Chocolate shakes and Cherry Cokes. I've never found chicken through a drive through that was worth the drive. Oh, yes, I do have a weakness for White Castles.
<tulula> What do you look for in a restaurant and what are some of your favorites?
<RonniLundy> tulula: In a restaurant I like honesty in the ingredients.
<RonniLundy> Foods that are prepared with the taste foremost. And service that makes you feel comfortable. There are so many good restaurants in Louisville -- it's hard for me to list the ones I like. I will say a few --Jack Fries, Lynn's Paradise Cafe -- always fun!, My favorite chef is Joe Castro at the English Grill who would complain I called him a Chef since he calls himmself a Cook and proudly! An there are so many others -- I can't name them all.
<me> Do you think Cracker Barrel is true southern cooking?
<RonniLundy> me: I think there are a lot of good things on the menu at Cracker Barrel.
<RonniLundy> I haven't eaten at one in several years. So I don't feel comfortable saying how accurately or how well they do southern food now.
<tulula> Who is the best cooking teacher around?
<me> Are folks from this generation developing their own recipes, or are they sticking with handing down tradition?
<RonniLundy> tulula: I don't know! Probably your mother. I don't know enough about cooking teachers in the area to tell you.
<RonniLundy> me: Both. which is a really good sign because it means that traditional cooking is alive and well. For any kind of art form to survive (and I do think cooking is an art form) it has to have a healthy respect for the past and a passion for new things that are of value. What I've seen among this generation of southern chefs and home cooks is an abundance of these qualities.
<tulula> We have a few more minutes if anyone wants to ask more questions
<me> Did you make all of the dishes in "Shuck Beans" with the people that gave you the recipes?
<RonniLundy> me: No sometimes I actually got the recipes over the phone from the people and had some hilarious conversations to how much was enough. And some from my family were from people no longer with us. But I did make all the recipes in the book to test them at least once.
<danceswithcats> How did the idea for Shuck Beans first come about? And how long did you spend actually writing it?
<RonniLundy> dances: There was actually an agent in NY who met with an editor and they decided it was a really good time for a book that combined country music and country food. They first contacted Vince Staten because of his book Real Barbecue. But lucky for me he was already on another project. I was a music writer at the Courier Journal and also wrote about food. So he sent them to me. And it took about two years from the time the idea was presented and the book actually was in print.
<RonniLundy> But a lot of the recipes -- some of the interviews were from work I had done before.
<me> Thank you Ronni, for giving me the warm experience of remembering these dishes from my childhood, and for the recipes to pass them on.
<RonniLundy> me: You're very welcome!
<barren> What about a lot of young people who are growing up as non-cooks, always eating out....Does your daughter cook?
<RonniLundy> barren: My daughter worked this fall as a cook for the Outward Bound program in North Carolina! It's a job she fell into but really enjoyed. A lot of her friends whose families didn't cook that much at home because they were busy -- were testers for recipes in my 3 cookbooks. And were really interested in the cooking.
<RonniLundy> I actually think we're going to see a generation of kids who are very interested in cooking food and having meals at home because they didn't have that much growing up -- or at least I hope so!
<tulula> Ronni, thanks from all of us, especially for all the wonderful stories and recipes. I can't wait to try that holiday meal. If there are no more questions we'll sign off for now.
<me> I'm hungry - - I will sign off now, but It was great to get to talk to you. Wish me luck on my Yammy Pudding.
<RonniLundy> That sounds good. Thanks to everyone who shared questions with us. This was really fun!
<danceswithcats> Yeah, I knew I should have eaten before chatting! I really enjoyed the book. Thanks!
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<barren> Thanks-Your books will make wonderful Christmas presents!
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Session Close: Tue Nov 09 21:04:34 1999

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