The 11:00 a.m. session at this year’s Southern Kentucky Bookfest featured cookbook authors Wes Berry, Bobbie Smith Bryant and Deirdre Scaggs.
Wes Berry, a native of Horse Cave, Kentucky grew up in Barren County where he recalled that his uncle was an entrepreneur who would “flip meat all day” and rewarded him for chores with smoked meat, thus beginning his fascination with barbecue or “meat cooked with smoke”. After graduating from WKU he received his MA and PhD from the University of Mississippi where he cultivated an interest in literature and the environment and published essays and short stories in a variety of journals. After a teaching stint at Rockford College in Illinois, he returned to his alma mater where he is presently an Associate Professor and coordinator of the Robert Penn Warren Center. Three years ago he began a quest which involved visiting 160 of the state’s barbecue shacks, joints, restaurants and festivals and culminated in his recent book KY BBQ published by the University Press of KY. Wes talked about the regional differences in Kentucky barbecue, the mutton line and the eighteen establishments which serve barbecued mutton, his several visits to the annual Fancy Farm picnic and the history of barbecues and politics in Kentucky.
Bobbie Smith Bryant is a native of Calloway County, Kentucky where she grew up on her family’s farm in the “Black Patch” of Kentucky—an area named for the unique tobacco curing process used only in that region. Her first book Forty Acres & A Red Belly Ford: The Smith Family of Calloway County published in 2011 described how for ten generations, the Smiths have made a life farming tobacco on land settled by their ancestors in the 1820s. This was the basis for a documentary film Farming in the Black Patch narrated by Peter Thomas from NOVA. In her newest book Passions of the Black Patch: Cooking and Quilting in Western Kentucky she contrasts 200 family recipes with stories and photographs of hand-crafted heirloom quilts. Her recipe for “Snow Cream” rekindled some of my wife’s childhood memories. She’s a community development advisor for the Kentucky League of Cities. She talked about when Calloway County was once the “banana capital “of America, explained how to find poke for your next “poke salad” and talked about the decline of tobacco farming as a way of life in Western Kentucky.
Deirdre Scaggs is the Associate Dean of Special Collections and Co-Director of the Wendell H. Ford Public Policy Research Center in the University of Kentucky Libraries in Lexington. A native of Vanceburg, Kentucky, where her family have lived since the early 1900s, she grew up in Lewis County where she was inspired by her grandmother, who was a hardworking, independent woman, active in her community and a great cook. She graduated from the University of Louisville where she majored in studio art with a specialty in photography. She received her MFA from the Ohio State University and an MLIS from the University of Pittsburgh where she worked on the Historic Pittsburgh project. After working at Ohio State University’s cartoon research library she moved to Lexington to become a project archivist for the Lexington Herald Leader’s photograph collection before becoming Director of Archives for the University of Kentucky. Her first book “Women In Lexington” in the Images of America series was published by Arcadia Press in 2006. In her newest book “The Historic Kentucky Kitchen”, which she co-authored with Chef Andrew McGraw for the University Press of Kentucky in 2013, she presents more than 100 recipes, mostly handwritten, found in UK’s Special Collections, each one of which has been tested. She explained how stumbling on a recipe which involved zucchini, tomatoes, anchovies and eggs started her and her coauthor on a quest to find other interesting recipes in the archives. More than 200 were selected for kitchen testing, some of which she confessed were cooking disasters. Some of those included are drawn from prominent Kentucky families like the Clays and Breckenridges while others came from Frances Jewell McVey, wife of a President of UK. The oldest date to the 1850s.