Sydney Saylor Farr is a woman who knows Appalachia well. Born on Stoney Fork in southeastern Kentucky, she has lived much of her life close to the mountains, among people whose roots are deep in the soil and who pass on to their children a love for the land, a strong sense of belonging and of place. Mountain food and how it is cooked is very much a part of this sense of place. Ask any displaced Appalachians what they miss most and they will probably talk about soup beans, country ham, and homemade buscuits. They may also remember the kitchens at home, the warmth from the wood-burning stove, the smell of coffee, and the family gathered around the kitchen table to eat and talk. More than Moonshine is both a cookbook and a narrative that recounts the way of life of southern Appalachia from the 1940s to 1983. The women of Stoney Fork rarely had cash to spend, so they depended upon the free products of nature – their cookery used every nutritious, edible thing they could scour from the gardens and hillsides. These survival skills are recounted in the pages of More than Moonshine, with instructions for making moonshine whiskey, for fixing baked groundhog with sweet potatoes, for making turnip kraut, craklin’ bread, egg pie, apple stackcake, and other traditional dishes. More than Moonshine is more than a cookbook. It evokes a way of life in the mid-twentieth century not unlike that of pioneer days.
Sidney Saylor Farr makes a major contribution to the lore of Appalachia. She captures some of the rich culture and, thereby, preserves on the printed page a world destined to disappear with the passing of time. Both her recipies and recollections make for fine fare.
The cookery buff will be pleased with many recipies that are as authentic as the stories. Here is an enduring contribution to an important aspect of Appalachian cultural history.
Sidney Saylor Farr is a special collections librarian at Berea College in Kentucky, and also the editor of Appalachian Heritage. Her writing has appeared in Mountain Life & Work, Appalachian Journal, Organic Gardening, and other publications.