Fishing for Chickens: A Smokies Food Memoir

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Softcover, 317 pages.

Fishing for Chickens is a well-seasoned blend of memoir and cookbook. It offers the perspective of a Bryson City, North Carolina, native on a particular portion of southern Appalachia―the Smokies. Casada serves up a detailed description of the folkways of food as they existed in the Smokies over a span of three generations, beginning early in the twentieth century. Fancy-dancy food magazines and self-ordained cuisine cognoscenti regularly rave about gustatory delights reflecting the Appalachian cooking tradition. Yet they focus on restaurants in regional cities such as Asheville and Nashville, Chattanooga and Cleveland, or even the bustling metropolis of Atlanta. Simply put, they are missing the boat, at least in Casada’s eyes. Peppered with ample anecdotes, personal memories and experiences, the wisdom of wonderful cooks, and recipes reflective of the overall high-country culinary experience, Casada’s book brings these culinary tales to life.

Fishing for Chickens includes dishes that Casada has cooked and eaten, recipes handed down through family or close friends, food memories of an intensely personal nature, and an abiding love for a fast-fading way of life. In addition to twenty-four chapters focusing on such diverse topics as “Yard Bird,” Nuts,” and “New Year’s Fare,” the author includes nearly two hundred family recipes. With his story, Casada guides readers through a fast-vanishing culinary world that merits not only recollection but preservation.

Don’t think for one second that Fishing for Chickens: A Smokies Food Memoiris just another printed collection of questionable recipes, far from it. In this fun to read book, Jim Casada uses his award-winning descriptive writing skills to invite the reader to sit at the Casada table in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains of the 1940s and '50s. Here you will meet wonderful characters such as Grandma Minnie, Grandpa Joe, Momma Casada, Aunt Mag, Beulah and Jim’s beloved wife Ann. As you turn the pages of this book you will get to know these mountain folk and learn how they raised, gathered, and preserved downhome food and turned it into mouthwatering table fare. From yard chickens to mountain trout, from apples to ramps, Jim shares four generations of food preparation lore. Each chapter is sprinkled with scrumptious recipes that will cause the reader to turn down the corner of the page and search for grandma’s cast iron skillet and some lard. This book records Great Smoky Mountains culinary traditions at their best, and Casada has made it not only an informative but an entertaining read as well. -- J. Wayne Fears ― author of The Lodge Book of Dutch Oven Cooking

Fishing for Chickens is a comprehensive, and loving, guide to the grown and gathered foods that form the staples of cooking in the Great Smoky Mountains region, their preparation, and the cultural practices and customs behind each. In this work, Jim Casada aptly displays his talents as perhaps the foremost modern chronicler of Smoky Mountain life. Dig in and enjoy this literary feast that is so good it’ll 'make you slap your granny.' -- Dan Pierce ― author of The Great Smokies from Habitat to National Park

To read Jim Casada is to sit on the porch or in front of the fireplace immersed in great conversation with a truly knowledgeable friend. Some of his books let you roam the woods, fields, and waters of his native Smoky Mountains. Others put you squarely in mountain kitchens as sure, comfortable hands prepare staples that eat like delicacies. Fishing for Chickens is rooted in the latter approach, but as is always the case with Casada, there is much more. The prose is rich and inviting, and there seems to be no aspect of mountain life, natural or man-made, he doesn’t touch on. The book promises an overview of mountain food and drink but wanders effortlessly into all the cultural and historical riches of a region and a time whose ways are unknown to too many of us. Casada brings us the realities of a life that has little of the monetary but boasts uncounted riches in the form of natural bounty combined with the ability to turn food preparation and dining into a truly enviable culture. -- Rob Simbeck ― author of The Southern Wildlife Watcher

Jim Casada’s Fishing for Chickens is a superbly entertaining story-telling account of a boy’s mid-twentieth century childhood in the Great Smoky Mountains as seen from the perspective of the daily culinary activities and food production practices of the Smoky mountaineers. Casada’s deft interspersing of mountaineer foodways and folkways with lighthearted self-deprecating anecdotes captures the ethos of the domestic life of this distinctive subregion of the Southern Appalachians like no other book of its kind. Solidly authentic, Fishing for Chickens affords a rare glimpse into a bygone era of Smoky Mountain life. -- Ken Wise ― author of Terra Incognita: An Annotated Bibliography of the Great Smoky Mountains, 1544–1934

Fishing for Chickens sagely, entertainingly, and deliciously reveals that our region is far broader and much more diverse in its stories and experiences than we have yet recorded. By delving deeply into a specific region and using compelling personal narrative and detail, he gives a rich picture that expands, and occasionally challenges, what we think we know about this much storied part of the southern mountains. With a voice inflected with expressions, words, and cadences that are regionally specific, Casada writes with an intimate, conversational feeling that makes this book a pleasure to read. -- Ronni Lundy ― James Beard Award-winning author of Victuals: An Appalachian Journey, with Recipes

I have dedicated thirteen years of my life to celebrating and preserving Appalachian culture and heritage in the online sphere. Traditional foodways of the region are what binds the culture together. Jim Casada is a fountain of knowledge when it comes to mountain food and anyone who reads Fishing for Chickens: A Smokies Food Memoir will most certainly agree. The book weaves two of the most important features of Appalachian culture together: family and food. Jim’s latest work will stand the test of time and become not only a source of great entertainment but a historical reference for students of Appalachian Studies. -- Tipper Pressley, culinary instructor at the John C. Campbell Folk School

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