I truly love finding old and regional recipes and dishes. At my grandmother's Thanksgiving table, she always served oyster stuffing and sauerkraut. Living in Baltimore, I understand why she made the oyster stuffing, as many family get-togethers involved crowding the family around her tiny kitchen table and taking hammers to the wonderful, fresh crab just pulled from the bay. But I figured the sauerkraut came from her Southern heritage (and if you haven't had sauerkraut cooked with a chunk of fatback over a simmering flame, you're really missing a treat.) Turns out, the sauerkraut comes from the German immigrants in Baltimore, as Molly Wizenberg wrote in her November 2010 Bon Appetit article. She updated the recipe by adding gin and caraway and will most certainly be on our table again this Thanksgiving.
Several years ago, my aunt gave me a book about the Spruce Pine area called Cabins in the Laurel by Muriel Earley Sheppard. Ms. Sheppard moved to Mitchell County with her mining engineer husband in 1927 and went on to write what John Ehle's forward describes as "the most friendly, easily read, vigorous, zestful portrait of the Appalachians we have from the past." When my aunt showed this book to my grandfather, he could turn through the pages and recognize people by name in the photographs.
The book only spends a few paragraphs on the food in this region, but what it does depict is a region with more Pennsylvania Dutch influences than Southern. But one section in particular stood out to me:
"...The pastry of a mountain woman's pie is more important than the filling. Fruit pies are spread especially thin, but there is a reason for making them that way. At church gatherings and reunions the pies from the different homes will be stacked one upon another and cut like a layer cake. The effect is a real pastry, something like a giant Napoleon."
The whole idea sounded absolutely fabulous to me, and my husband and I went on to create our own version, a lemon and strawberry blueberry stack pie, which we highlighted on our food blog, The Pêche. We used Sassy Radish's recipe for Blueberry Strawberry Pie and placed it on top of Melissa Clark's Lemon Tart. The result did not disappoint.
Now fast forward about two years when we had the great fortune and honor of being interviewed by Melissa Clark for The New York Times about the history of stack pie.
Melissa also went on The Today Show to talk about stack pies. Even Carson daily got into the spirit of it!
These recipes and traditions are treasures begging to be brought into the present. I hope I find more masterpieces along the way.