Have you ever tried an Arvil Burger, or sipped a cup of the Hotel Roanoke’s peanut soup? Probably not, but you’d better believe that Fred Sauceman has. The roaming journalist, filmmaker, and professor at East Tennessee State University has left nary a small town or holler untouched in his lifelong quest to catalog the foods of the Southern mountains.
Sauceman’s four-year-old Place Setting series, a three-volume collection of stories and recipes culled from years of on-the-ground research, is already required reading for students of Southern cuisine. Now, the author is back with a new release, Buttermilk and Bible Burgers: More Stories from the Kitchens of Appalachia, an exploration of mountain traditions that range from trout caviar to broccoli casserole to the chili-soaked fried bologna sandwich at the Northgate Soda Shop in Greenville, South Carolina. Some entries come with recipes; others are simply stories about the folks who feed Appalachia every day—at dairies and drive-thrus, white-tablecloth joints and gas stations, homes and historic hotels. Sauceman is an unabashed populist with a democratic and enthusiastic appetite.
Oh, and by the way: If you ever do find yourself near Bristol, Tennessee, be sure to swing by Tootie’s. As you’ll read in Sauceman’s book, that Arvil Burger really is worth a try.
One taste and Glodine Davis’s life was transformed. She had grown up in Covington, Tennessee, with a broccoli bias. She even married a man, Ralph Davis, who shared her childhood distaste for the cruciferous vegetable. But after her first spoonful of her family’s broccoli casserole, she was a changed person. “Oh, my goodness,” she remembers saying. “I’ve got to have that recipe.” Dozens of people have said likewise over the years—so many, in fact, that Glodine now packs copies of her broccoli casserole recipe into her pocketbook anytime she brings the dish to a homecoming at Johnson City’s Thankful Baptist Church, to a working lunch at Eastman Chemical Company in Kingsport, or to a meeting of the local NAACP chapter, such as the one I attended in December 2003, when I, too, fell under her casserole spell.