Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Appalachian Word of the Week -- APPALACHIA

This week's word is not a word few people outside of Appalachia recognize. It's about a word few non-Appalachians know how to pronounce correctly.

This week, I was honored to record an interview for Speak UP! radio, a division of Christian Devotions Ministry. The interviewer, a Yankee, mispronounced APPALACHIA. I gave him a trick to pronouncing it correctly. Hopefully, he will never forget.

Now, most of us from the mountains know how it's pronounced. Just in case, I'll give you the trick.

APPALACHIA is pronounced as if you were telling someone, "Say it right or I'll throw an APPLE AT CHA.

Chun Li, street fighter
Now, isn't that easy? Of course, if you're saying APPALACHIAN, all you have to think is APPLE AT CHUN. I don't know who CHUN is, but if it's Chun Li in this photo, it might take more than one apple to stop her. The walls look like more than apples have been thrown at her already.





Is this how you say APPALACHIA?

If not, how do you say it? And who told you that was the way to pronounce it?

I mentioned above that I did an interview. If you'd like to hear a bit about my rearing and my struggles with chronic illness, I put the link for the radio show below. You can listen anytime.



Tune in to Speak UP! radio for an interview with Karen Bell


If you listen, I'd love to have your feedback. Tell me about your adventures and challenges growing up in APPALACHIA.

Or, tell me about the joys you remember.

I love hearing from you.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Appalachian Word of the Week -- ROAS'N'EARS

Yesterday, as I sat thinking about what I could fix for supper, ROAS'N'EARS came to mind. How I'd love to have a couple right now.

Do you know what ROAS'N'EARS are? How about if I spell them out instead of how we pronounced them? ROASTING EARS.

Now do you know?

Some people boil their corn and stick little handles in each end to hold them without getting their hands dirty--or to keep the oozing butter from sliding down to their elbows.

These days, most people stick them in the microwave to cook, husk and all.

ROAS'N'EARS - roasted corn
But, back in the day, we removed the silk and stuck our ROAS'N'EARS on an open flame to roast them. Sometimes, we'd removed the shucks and roast them right on the grate over the fire. Either way, it was necessary to rub butter all over the ROAS'N'EARS and sprinkle some salt before we dug into them.

One of the best places to get ROAS'N'EARS was at the Poke Sallet Festival in Harlan, Kentucky. They grilled them on coals outside, wrapped in their husks. To eat them, you peeled back the husks and use them as a handle. Oh, my. Scrumptious. And you could smell them roasting all down the street.

Roasting on the grill
I'm getting hungry just thinking about it.

My mom hated fixing ROAS'N'EARS. Why, you may ask? She was terrified of shucking the corn and finding a worm or packsaddle inside. She made us do the shucking ourselves and swear there were no varmints inside.

Come to think of it, she had trouble enjoying eating them, too. I guess she thought we'd leave a worm in her corn just to terrorize her. No way! She was little, but she was fierce.

How do you prepare your ROAS'N'EARS? Do you boil, microwave, or roast?

I'd love to hear your ROAS'N'EARS stories.



Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Appalachian Words of the Week -- Mountain Medicine

Since before Christmas, I have been one of the many victims of the flu. I imagine a lot of you have suffered right along with me.

As I struggled to find anything to rush the healing process -- and survive -- I willingly tried a pharmacy of products. Nothing really helped. I found myself going back to the days of my childhood in the mountains and trying some of the MOUNTAIN MEDICINE my parents gave me when I got sick.

Instead of running out to the doctor for penicillin, about the only thing they prescribed back then, my parents utilized the MOUNTAIN MEDICINES they grew up receiving from their parents.

Do you remember these?

SALTWATER GARGLES for a sore throat -- As soon as a tickle appeared in my throat, Mom grabbed a glass of warm water and added some salt for me to gargle. I suppose it helped. It taught me how to gargle without swallowing, at least.

VICKS SALVE for coughing, sneezing, and sniffling -- Oh, how I remember getting that stuff plastered all over my chest, back, neck, and into my nose. Bleh! I hated it. But I do remember being able to sleep some after using it. I used it every night when my flu was its worst.

Cola Syrup for upset stomach
COLA SYRUP for upset stomach -- Daddy crushed some ice, put it in a big spoon, and poured pure cola syrup over it. I then swallowed it. At least it was sweet and felt good going down. Not sure if it kept me from writhing in pain from a stomach ache or stopped me from throwing up.

SWEET OIL -- Remember earaches and the cure? Warmed sweet oil, poured into your ear and topped off with a wad of cotton stuck in your ear to keep it inside. That stuff felt really weird as Mom poured it in. It felt like a bug in my ear. I usually fought her off -- briefly. She always won.

Slippery Elm Bark Tea
SLIPPERY ELM BARK TEA -- Daddy went into the mountains and collected some slippery elm bark. The inside of the bark was rather slimy. He cut up the strips of bark with his Case pocket knife and made a tea out of the bark, strained it, and added honey. It tasted a bit earthy, but it did soothe the throat. Unfortunately, you can't drink it 24 hours a day.

I have since learned you can purchase slippery elm bark tea bags at the grocery store or health food store. The one I use is called Throat Coat. I keep some on hand for those times when my throat starts to tickle. It is used regularly by a lot of professional singers.

Potato Soup-Mountain Penicillin
POTATO SOUP FOR ALL THAT AILS YOU -- Any time I felt a bit off, Mom brought out a big pot and started peeling potatoes and onions. When I couldn't keep anything else down, I could usually eat potato soup. It was gentle on an irritated tummy. I suppose it's the Mountain version of the Jewish Penicillin (chicken soup).

Still today, when I don't feel quite right, I yearn for a pot of potato soup.

And yes, I made a bit pot while I was sick. I even had a bowl for lunch today, with a bit of cheese and bacon added. Guess that means I'm getting better.

Special Brew Mountain Medicine
SPECIAL BREW -- When nothing else has worked, it's time for the special brew. Yep. White Lightnin' medicine will heal anything. Of course, even if it doesn't heal you, you won't care after you take a few doses!

What MOUNTAIN MEDICINE did your parents use to heal you when you were fellin' poorly?

I hope you're fit as a fiddle now and I'd love to hear your stories.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Appalachian Words of the Week - AND ONE TO GROW ON!

This week I'm sharing the words that brought a sense of dread to my life every year at this time. AND ONE TO GROW ON!

Do you know what they mean?

Tomorrow is my birthday. Every year on my birthday, it seemed the entire world showed up to torture and assault me in the false sentiment of wishing me a happy birthday. No! They were looking for an excuse to bully, hurt, and demoralize me in public.

And one to grow on!
For those of you who never heard of this annual practice of assaulting the birthday kid, I'll tell you what happened.

From the moment you woke on your birthday, everyone you knew, and some you didn't know, took turns spanking you. My brother was always the first and most severe.

You got one smack on the rear for each year old you were. Of course, the older you were, the more smacks.

But the one that really hurt more than the others was the final AND ONE TO GROW ON!

It stung to sit at my desk the entire day. Lunchtime and recess were the most dangerous times. I usually tried to find a place to hide out.

The best birthday I can remember is the one where we "outgrew" getting spanked. It was more likely that it became an offense where retribution would be delved out on our behalf by the Principal. Thank goodness for puberty.

Having my birthday so near Christmas meant my mom didn't give me a birthday gift. She always told me that one of my Christmas gifts was my birthday gift.

That was doubly sad because I knew that she never gave me any Christmas gifts either. Santa brought all my gifts. Talk about feeling unimportant. That's why I always made sure the best gift on my son's Christmas list came wrapped with a tag "From: Mom and Dad," not Santa.

Coconut birthday cake
I did get one thing for my birthday that I didn't get any other time of the year. Birthday cake. I LOVE coconut and coconut cake is the best thing in the world. My mom gave me coconut cake every year. I know it was a sacrifice for her -- since she thought the only cake worth eating was chocolate.

At least Mom and Dad never initiated the AND ONE TO GROW ON! torture for my birthday.

These days I celebrate my birthday with just one slice of coconut cake. Being diabetic limits my pleasure. But the cake I eat is the best coconut cake I have ever eaten. I buy one slice from Marietta Diner. It is so huge, it takes me a week to eat the one slice.

I am now anxious and excited when my birthday arrives. Not only for the coconut cake but because it means I've lived one more year!

Did you get ONE TO GROW ON! when you were a kid? How did you handle it? I'd love to hear your story.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Appalachian Word of the Week -- SHAKER

You may call it something else, but in my house we called it the SHAKER.

What's a SHAKER? It's a piece of metal (usually iron) that came with whichever stove your family used to heat your house. We had one that fit the pot-bellied stove when we first moved to Loyall in 1957. In about 1962, Daddy bought a Stokermatic and got rid of the pot-bellied style. The Stoker, as we called it, had it own special SHAKER.

When you build a coal fire in a stove, you naturally have ashes as the coal burns. The ashes don't start out as ashes--they start out as chunks of glowing ash. You have to get rid of the burned up coal, so the fire can continue to burn and keep the area around the stove warm.

Notice I said the area around the stove. We had one stove in our house and believe me, the warmth did not spread out to fill the other rooms. The only fairly toasty spot was the sofa the was placed directly in front of the stove with a pathway of about five feet between them. We huddled on that sofa most of the winter.

Clothesline in the living room for winter
We also had a clothesline hung in that room. That's where we dried the laundry (worsh) in the winter. Or when it rained on washday (worshday) any time of the year.

When the ash gathered in the firebox, Mom got the SHAKER and opened the bottom door to the stove. She'd hook the SHAKER into a special slot and shake that SHAKER back and forth until ash came through the grate and landed in the bottom of the ash box. Her face turned red and she grunted like those wrestlers on the TV. When sparks started dropping, she knew it was time to stop.

I guess that's why they call it a grate. You grate the ash like you would grate cheese or nutmeg.

I think my mom enjoyed using that SHAKER. It was a way to work out all her frustrations. We all have to have some way to de-stress, I guess. Later in life, when she worked in Receiving at Belks, she would take all the burnt-out fluorescent bulbs to the burn box and throw them inside, smashing them to smithereens.

Diamonds in my coal bucket
After she used the SHAKER, she got her little shovel and shoveled the ashes into a coal bucket. I don't have ashes in my coal bucket. I have coal and diamonds in my coal bucket (wink). Then Mom took the bucket of steaming ash outside, down the steps, and into the driveway to dump them. Did I tell you my mom was a mere five-foot tall and petite? She was strong.

Those ashes helped to keep our gravel driveway from developing deep mudholes. It was a lot cheaper than buying gravel.

I loved watching her dump the ash when there was snow on the ground. They mixed with the cold snow and made steam rise up from the driveway.

Did you grow up with a coal stove? Who had to use the SHAKER in your house? Did you call it a SHAKER or something else?

I'd love to hear your stories.


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Appalachian Word of the Week -- FOUNDERED

Have you ever gotten FOUNDERED on something? Don't know what that is? I'll explain.

On New Year's Day, I indulged in the long-standing tradition in my family of eating black-eyed peas. They were delicious. And since I was the only one here to partake of their tastiness, I ate to my heart's content. For dinner and supper. Two bowlfuls for each meal.

I determined that I would get as much money out of those peas as possible for the coming new year by eating as many as possible.

The next day, I ate them again. Just because I like them and they were already cooked.

Late in the day, as I patted my tummy, I remembered the word -- FOUNDERED.

FOUNDERED means you have eaten so much of one food that you decide, maybe, you never want to eat that food again as long as you live.

Ever foundered on cheesecake?
I FOUNDERED on cheesecake once when I was younger and diabetes wasn't an issue yet. Thankfully, I have gotten over it and can appreciate a few bites of cheesecake again.

One Christmas, my mom gave me a canned ham for my stocking. Remember those? You had to use a key to get it open.

I loved the taste of ham, but we had never eaten it in our house. My dad couldn't tolerate it. So, the only time I could get any was when I was away from home. The reason my mom gave me a ham.

Have you foundered on ham?
Knowing that ham only stays safe to eat for a limited number of days, I ate ham for every meal, every day, until it was gone. By the time I ate the last bite, I had FOUNDERED on ham.

I felt green. Whether it was because of the ham or due to a virus, I ended up with vertigo and nausea. I threw up ham for two days. Sorry ... I know that's disgusting.

After that experience, it took years for me to be able to smell, let alone eat, ham.

My mom once FOUNDERED on cinnamon candy. She scarfed down those rolls of Reed's cinnamon candies and cube-shaped cinnamon suckers. I rarely saw her without cinnamon in her mouth.

Then, one day, no more cinnamon. She snarled if you said the word. She had finally FOUNDERED.

I could never founder on ice cream or chocolate!


I've often wondered if it's possible to FOUNDER on chocolate, prime rib, crab, or ice cream. I certainly hope not. Just in case, I think I will eat them in moderation.

Have you ever FOUNDERED on a food? Tell me about it. Have you ever eaten it again?




Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Appalachian Word of the Week - Traditions

Traditions. New Year’s Day seems to be filled with them. When asked why people repeat family traditions on the eve or day of a new year, most of my friends tell me it’s because “that’s what my family did.”

But why? Is it because we feel all warm and fuzzy about memories of our childhood and simpler times? Is it because we feel closer to those we love merely because we repeat a tradition? Or do we believe there is some hidden truth in those traditions that compels us to repeat them “just in case” they are relevant to the success or failure of the coming year?

I’ll look at my traditions and see if I can figure it out.

Sunday night, I plan to stay up until the ball drops in Times Square. It's a tradition. I even attended those "dropping of the ball zoos" when I lived in New York City.  I stood in the massive crowd of loud, drugged, drunk, revelers in freezing weather (sometimes in snow) just to watch a giant apple drop in Times Square. Yes, I lived there before the gorgeous high-tech Waterford crystal ball made its first appearance. As an introvert, the crowd was not an easy challenge for me. The pick-pockets and gropers didn’t make it any easier. But, it was a tradition. I admit I can't remember any time when staying up to watch the ball drop added anything to my new year--except that I woke up later the next morning.

Apparently, it is not an important tradition for everyone. Several of my friends admit they go to bed long before the excitement of a ball dropping and people screaming begins. Since I live alone, I sit by myself at midnight, cheering in the new year alone while thousands of New Yorkers scream and kiss beneath the Waterford ball, freezing their tails off. At least I'm warm as I toast my glass of non-alcoholic grape juice.

But there are more traditions than fighting to stay awake long enough to see a ball (or apple) drop at midnight.

Black-eyed peas for New Year's Day
The food. My mother told me from childhood that we must eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day. When I complained that I hated them, she pointed out that the more you eat, the more money you’ll have during the year. Then she told me it was up to me to eat as many as possible so that the family wouldn’t end up in the Poor House. How’s that for incentive? It was good enough to guilt me into forcing beans down my throat until I thought I might puke them up.

Being from the mountains of southeastern Kentucky, at least we didn’t have to eat sauerkraut (yuck!) or collard greens swimming in vinegar (double yuck!) like some of my Southern friends. I guess I should feel fortunate I only had to eat black-eyed peas. Of course, my favorite part of it was the fatback used for seasoning.

These days, I still find myself cooking black-eyed peas every New Year's Day. Instead of fatback, though, I use the ham bone from Christmas dinner. I have developed a taste for the peas now. It helped when I turned from the dried peas to fresh ones. So, I spend the day cooking them. 

These days, though, I tend to add a couple of potential traditions (it's never too late to start a new one, is it?) to my New Year's Day meal.

Fried frog legs--a new tradition?
One year, I thought it would be good to JUMP INTO THE NEW YEAR with frog legs. Dad used to go frog gigging often when I was a child. I loved watching my mom fry them in the old black skillet as they jumped around in the skillet. You know they taste like chicken, don't you? Well, I think it's a good tradition to encourage us to jump into the new year full of excitement, expectation, and hope.


Fried green tomatoes



My next new tradition is my favorite vegetable--fried green tomatoes. Okay, so they are technically a fruit. They are green and I will consider them a vegetable for the sake of tradition. They will take the place of the greens most southerners have on January 1st. 


So, why do I celebrate traditions? Perhaps there is something inside me that believes we must continue traditions as our way of not giving up on the promises of our youth. Perhaps it is because the traditions connect me with family members who have already passed. Maybe it’s because traditions are what make me feel connected with my family--past and present. Or, perhaps, traditions are what give us hope that the unknown future of the coming year doesn’t matter as much as the unity, support, and love of our families. Just maybe, traditions solidify hope. 

Whatever the reason, it gives me an excuse to make a big deal out of tradition and eat food I don't usually eat. That makes it special.

Some of you may think you must repeat traditions because your dead relatives will haunt you for the whole year if you don't. I rather doubt that one, but it needed to be said. And some of you may believe you will have bad luck if you don't eat certain foods on a certain day. You are the same people who cringe when you step on a crack (break your mother's back), break a mirror, or panic when a black cat walks across your path. Enough said about that ...

No matter why we honor tradition, there's no harm in it. And it might, just might, draw us closer together with our family, even if only for one day of the year. One thing you can be sure about--tradition will outlive those resolutions you make.


Happy New Year to you and your family. May you enjoy your traditions, old and new, as you celebrate the hope and promises the new year offers.
What traditions did you grow up following? Do you know why? Do you have any new ones you've added to your own family's menu? I'd love to hear your stories.