There are many who speak of their childhood with fondness, and tell stories of their coming up, but rarely do you find someone who writes down their memories. Jean Benfield, influenced by her father’s love of history, set out to record her memories of the rich Appalachian sayings, “vittles”, and country life of her childhood, preserving the deep connection between her family’s way of life and the customs and traditions that harken back to their ancestors in Britain.
Jean is an absolute delight, and an incredibly gracious and warm lady, which comes out fully in her insightful book, Mountain Born. She writes, “I inherited from my father a love of our history. He lived the traditional ways and delighted in using the old country expressions, I think not only because he enjoyed them, but also because he wanted to keep them alive. He was a real mountain man, proud of his people and living the traditions of his ancestors.”
I had the utter pleasure to sit with Jean for a while to hear about the food of her childhood and her life in the country, and I hope you enjoy some of these pithy excerpts from our chat.
Click on the links below to listen to excerpts of Jean’s interview:
Bill Best is director of the Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center in Berea, Kentucky. Best saves seeds grown and cherished by Appalachian families, helping to preserve mountain culture and biodiversity. He
The Appalachian Food Storybank seeks to acknowledge, honor, and archive Appalachian heritage food stories in order to preserve diverse local traditions, natural resources, heirloom varieties and breeds.