Sunday, March 12, 2006

Randolph County Cooking, ~1895

Here's another excerpt from Homer Riggleman's memoir of his 1890's childhood home on Point Mountain in Randolph County, West Virginia. Here in Pocahontas County, stone fireplaces are uncommon. This may be because most of the log cabins have been torn down for salvage. Chestnut logs bring a good price, and people remove log cabins and reassemble them elsewhere. My house, of sawmill lumber, is dated 1911. In any case, I found the description of cooking with a fireplace quite interesting.

Our little log cabin stood in a four-acre clearing in the virgin forest. The little one-room log house was twenty by twenty-two feet with nine foot walls, and an A-shaped shingled roof. The main room was a combination kitchen, living room, and bedroom for father and mother. A tiny bedroom was boarded off in one corner for my sisters; we boys slept in the attic. There was a huge stone fireplace at one end, the opening of which was four feet wide by four feet high, and three or four feet to the back wall. A very old woodburning cookstove sat in one corner. The name of it was "Indiansla." But much of the cooking was done in the fireplace, especially in the winter.

Mother baked cornbread and roasted potatoes and other root vegetables in the hot coals of the fireplace. She cooked dried soup beans and bacon in a heavy iron pot that hung in the fireplace. She baked the bread in a heavy iron pan we called a "baker" or "Dutch oven" which had three short legs and a rimmed lid. First, mother raked hot coals out on the hearth and sat the baker in the coals. Then she poured sweetened cornpone dough in the greased oven, put the lid on, and raked more coals around and over the baker, replacing the coals as necessary until the bread was done. The smell of that food cooking nearly dove us kids crazy.

When everything was ready, Mother put the cornbread, the pot of beans, and the roasted potatoes on the table, and called everyone in. Father said grace, and we dug in. Now that was really living high on the hog.

A West Virginia Mountaineer Remembers by Homer F. Riggleman. 1980. McClain Printing Company, Parsons, WV. 140 pp.

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