Dining Traditions
11:24 am
Wed April 30, 2014

Learn More About Buttermilk, Bible Burgers and Other Appalachian Food

Food often provides a universal connection across cultures. Think: President Obama taking part in a meal at a famous sushi restaurant on his recent trip to Japan.

Author Fred Sauceman discusses his newest book, "Buttermilk and Bible Burgers" during an appearance in Virginia.
Author Fred Sauceman discusses his newest book, "Buttermilk and Bible Burgers" during an appearance in Virginia.
Credit Washington County Public Library, Abingdon, Virginia

For about 30 years now Greenville, Tennessee, native Fred Sauceman has been documenting Appalachian food culture through a class he teaches at East Tennessee State University as well as journalistic endeavors on television, radio and in print.

Sauceman’s newest book is Buttermilk and Bible Burgers: more stories from the kitchens of Appalachia.

The book covers traditions surrounding a variety of Appalachian dishes such as barbeque, burgers, biscuits, sausage and gravy, peanut soup and that spring favorite, fresh wild ramps.

Sauceman is always surprised by how popular the pungent wild leeks and other mountain staples have become, and finds it interesting that some dishes which have traditionally been poor folks’ food are now prized by fine dining chefs.

“Ramps started out as an emblem of poverty and now they are an emblem of creativity and they are highly valued by chefs who are educated at places like the Culinary Institute of America who just pay these high prices for things that we would go out in the forest and forage for," Sauceman said. "Same thing for morel mushrooms."

“It’s almost humorous to watch that trajectory now and see how they are valued at white table cloth restaurants,” he said. “The chefs in New York City go wild for ramps this time of year.”

Sauceman’s newest book provides a vicarious tour of the region’s most traditional and unusual foods. The book includes an essay about a West Virginia produced salsa that includes ramps. It also features chapters on two West Virginia restaurants: Minnards Spaghetti Inn in Clarksburg and Mario's Fishbowl in Morgantown.