Food Ways

Roasting' Sweet Potatoes

Candied Sweetpotatoes.jpg


GraciousRoots: John Parris lived just down the road from my childhood home and sat behind me with his wife Dorothy in church each Sunday. A lovely couple in every way.  Beloved by many for his columns in the Asheville Citizen-Times "Roaming the Mountains". He wrote with the crispness of Hemingway and the grace of Thomas Wolfe. Indeed, he was a war correspondent like Hemingway and a decorated hero for his work with the Belgian underground during World War II. 

Posted by The Blind Pig and the Acorn, March 3, 2018

Murphy, North Carolina / written by John Parris

Sitting around a hearth fire of a winter night roasting sweet potatoes in the ashes is one of Aunt Tennie Cloer’s fondest memories.

“Back when I was a girl,” she said, “folks got a heap of pleasure in the simple things. And roastin’ potatoes in the fireplace was one of them. They were all the go back then.”

“Folks would drop in of a night and gather around the fireplace and we’d take sweet potatoes and cover them with ashes and embers and sit around and talk and tell stories while they roasted.”

“When the potatoes were done, we’d rake them out of the fireplace and knock off the ashes and blow on ’em until we could hold ’em without burning our hands. Then we’d have a good time eating ’em.”

“Unless you’ve had sweet potatoes roasted in ashes, you can’t begin to know how good they taste. Especially on a cold night before the fire.”

Aunt Tennie, who is 92 years old, grew up on Sugar Fork River over in Macon County back in the days when the hearth was the center of the home-the source of warmth, sometimes light, and always food.


We’ve been on a sweet potato kick around the Blind Pig house. We’ve been baking ours in the oven instead of roastin' them in the ashes, but they’re still good.

Granny once told me she could barely remember her Grandpa taking her to see an old woman that lived in a log cabin somewhere along Highway 141. She said the lady was old as the hills and she cooked them something to eat right there on the hearth.


Blind Pig and the Acorn: Applepeel Pie

November 06, 2017

Apple peeling.jpg

"Apples was scarce one year. Real scarce. My grandmother had a half bushel of apples. She canned the apples, and then she taken the peelings and canned those. Washed 'em real clean and canned 'em. My mother said, at the time, "I'll never eat those." But then later on, she was down in the hayfield, and when she came in, my grandmother had baked two wonderful pies from those peelings. And my mother ate three pieces. They used so many things that we throw away. I remember Grandmother peeled the potatoes real deep and planted the peelings. Raised our potatoes that way!"

Winnie Biggerstaff, 1904 McDowell County - Snowbird Gravy and Dishpan Pie by Patsy Moore Ginns.

‘The Eateries of Madison County, North Carolina’

D.G. Martin

Origional publication August 14, 2017

Some people fall in love with bridges, as in the late Robert James Waller’s “The Bridges of Madison County,” the best-selling romance novel from 1992.

Others, like me, fall in love with eateries. So here goes with “The Eateries of Madison County, North Carolina” and some information about three restaurants that could be included in a follow up volume to my book, “North Carolina’s Roadside Eateries: A Traveler’s Guide to Local Restaurants, Diners, and Barbecue Joints.” 

I found these Madison County eateries while attending the Laughing Heart Literary Festival at the iconic Laughing Heart Lodge in Hot Springs.

Smoky Mountain Diner in Hot Springs

Terry Roberts’ people have lived in Madison County for generations, and his debut novel, “A Short Time to Stay Here,” is set in Hot Springs during the First World War when German interns were housed in the old resort hotel.

Roberts waxes eloquently about the Smoky Mountain Diner, family-owned for years, he says. “Once when we were eating there during the Christmas season,” he remembers, “the staff emptied out of the restaurant suddenly. They were leaving to man the diner’s float in the Hot Springs Christmas parade. On the way out, they told everybody to put the money on the counter when they finished eating.”

Roberts says the diner serves the "best pie in Madison County.”

Appalachian Trail hikers meet up with locals and tourists at the diner to feast on mountain-sized dishes like the Hungry Hiker double-decker Black Angus beef sandwich.

Owner Genia Hayes Peterson, her daughter Casey, Casey’s husband, William Franklin, the main cook, and their son Zach keep the restaurant open seven days a week and on holidays. They have the help of staff members like Cindy Wood, who has been working there for 19 years.

After eating take in the wonderful downtown Hot Springs where you can see tired trail hikers passing through. Stop at Gentry Hardware and if you have time, visit Hot Springs Resort where the springs that made the town famous are still steaming. Bring your bathing suit.

Zuma Coffee in Marshall

Although Terry Roberts recommends Zuma’s for breakfast, lunch or dinner, he likes it best on Thursday evenings when mountain music reigns. He heard a rumor that well-heeled music fans would pay up to $1,000 per season for a front-row table on Thursday nights. Don’t let that scare you away. The rest of the time Zuma’s is primarily a coffee shop. But its “Zuma Food Menu” headlines “Creative, Healthy, Comfort Food.” That is shorthand for “It’s a great place to get a sandwich.”


Because the old courthouse is right across the street, Roberts says a good place to sit is outside in front of Zuma’s “to enjoy the action and drama on court day.”

Most of the time there is a parade of tourists, locals, and farmers in overalls who pass by and often come inside to enjoy treats from the coffee bar, cookies and sweets, and a good sandwich meal.

After eating, walk down Main Street. Still Mayberry-like, it is quickly becoming a trendy Asheville suburb with shops and more upscale restaurants. Go inside the courthouse and you will be reminded of the trial scene in the movie “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Momma’s Kitchen in Marshall

Since 1987, Momma’s Kitchen has been the proud domain of its owner, Sherry Robinson. She tells how her husband, James, sawed down trees and milled the lumber he used to build the restaurant’s building. Those rough natural wood planks help create a cozy atmosphere and make for an intimate place to enjoy its country cooking. On the day I visited, patrons raved about the fried squash and juicy hamburgers.


D.G. is a Davidson College graduate, retired attorney and a long time friend of the Haire (Editor) family. DG knows a good thing when he sees it Bon Appetite!

D.G. is a Davidson College graduate, retired attorney and a long time friend of the Haire (Editor) family. DG knows a good thing when he sees it Bon Appetite!

D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV. Preview the upcoming program on Preview the upcoming program on UNC-TV’s North Carolina digital channel(Spectrum #1276) on Fridays at 8 p.m.

Blind Pig and the Acorn: Corncob Jelly



Corncob Jelly - Mountain Cooking by John Parris 1978


Elizabeth Edwards, who operates a business with a strictly mountain flavor, has discovered a delectable use for the lowly corncob. She's come up with corncob jelly.

"I got the idea from a story I ran across last fall," Mrs. Edwards explained one day last week. "It was about a man remembering a visit to an old-time country fair. He mentioned that he had tasted corncob jelly. I decided I would give it a try."

She had to start with only the idea. She didn't have a recipe. But being a master hand at the art of canning and preserving, she set out to do a bit of experimenting in her kitchen.

"I had my husband get me a bushel of fresh corncobs," she said. "They were white corncobs. I boiled them, poured off the juice. Then I worked the juice up into a jelly. It was clear, almost pure white, but tasty. I figured it ought to have some color, so next I tried it with red corncobs. They worked out best."

She tried it on some of her friends without telling them what it was, and they went wild about it.

"It has a taste similar to apple jelly," Mrs. Edwards explained. "But a little more delicate. Those who tasted it wanted to know what kind of apples I used. When I told them it was made out of corncobs they wouldn't believe me."


I've never even tasted corncob jelly. I've seen it at few fairs and festivals. And a quick google will turn up all kinds of recipes for corncob jelly. It doesn't sound all that appealing to me, but as I said I've seen it around and about enough to know there must be quite a few folks who like it. 


p.s. The Pressley Girls will be performing Saturday September 9, 2017 @ 11:45 a.m. at the Cherokee Indian Festival in Marble, NC and on Friday September 22, 2017 @ 7:00 p.m. at the Historic Courthouse in Blairsville, GA.