Southern Appalachian Foodways

Written by Jillian MacKinnon, Senior Honors student at Western Carolina University

The following is an abstract of a longer research paper written for Robert Ferguson’s History class. If you would like more information please email him at rhferguson@email.wcu.edu.


Two of the most important aspects of defining a community is how and what it eats over time. Throughout history, Southern Appalachia has been viewed by many as a largely isolated and culturally distinct region of the United States. While this may be true in some regards, the food and foodways of Southern Appalachia show that the region became increasingly integrated in the larger nation during the mid-twentieth century. Additionally, the Appalachian women who crafted and followed these foodways were largely responsible for this positive cultural integration overtime. By utilizing Jackson County, North Carolina as a case study, it is possible to see how southern Appalachian foodways mirrored those of the nation and aided in integrating the region with the United States. From the 1930s to the 1970s, the citizens of Jackson County, Southern Appalachia, and the entire United States all experienced many of the same culinary trends and foodways. Poverty caused by the Great Depression, federally mandated rationing in World War II, and an increase in processed, name-brand convenience foods effected women across all these regions in very similar ways, providing evidence that southern Appalachia was not always as isolated as previously thought.

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