Cultivating the Wilds: Culinary Reform in Appalachia

UNCA Author/Contributor (non-UNCA co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Jessica Lewis, Student (Creator)
University of North Carolina Asheville (UNCA )
Web Site:
Erica Abrams Locklear

Abstract: Examination of Appalachian foodways reform initiatives from the early 1900s reveals the persistence of an Appalachian myth that casts mountaineers as Anglo-Saxons ignorant in the cultivation and preparation of food, yet analysis of archival materials reveals a diverse population with extensive culinary know-how. At the turn of the twentieth century, missionaries and industrialists approached Appalachia with the mindset that the land and people were a wilderness in need of proper cultivation that once reformed, would yield a pure Anglo-Saxon American ideal. This mindset contributed to the formation and execution of cultural reforms which disregarded diverse expressions of mountain culture. Cultural reform efforts targeted Appalachian foodways in particular, and tracing the social dynamics at play in these initiatives reveals startling misconceptions about the region and its people. Drawing on research of Appalachian studies and foodways scholars, this research delves into underutilized areas in new strands of scholarship. Comparing archival resources reveals a staggering discrepancy between missionaries’ perceptions of Appalachians’ knowledge and Appalachians’ actual knowledge. This essay considers how this damagingdiscrepancy limits the ways in which both multi-ethnic and Caucasian Appalachian people represent their own foodways.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2013
Appalachia, foodways, culinary reform, Appalachian Studies,

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