Jason Vance’s Sounds, Stories & Suppers of Appalachia
A selection of the songs, recipes, stories are included here, along with a fun lesson in playing the spoons so that you can take yourself and your guests on this immersive cultural journey tonight!
The amazing art in the header was created by the one and only Andrew Benincasa.
We were also educated. Jason provided a brief history of how misconceptions and divisions arose, a classic divide-and-conquer in our own backyard that has devastating repercussions even today.
“When you grow up in Appalachia, long, long, long ago, at the Southern aristocratic urgings, Southern poor whites and mountain whites became “white” in this ;divide and conquer strategy.’ And then you become white.So then, the force is you have your own culture that is pure and beautiful as it is, but your culture is a lesser version of this culture that is ‘uber’ white and this forced assimilation is always present.” – Jason Vance
It’s your lucky day: a two-for-one special for this Cultures Capsule!
This first, free Spotify playlist captures the essence of that cold night in March. It includes some of the songs he played that night, plus some extra songs to continue the grooves. He chose to end the evening in the same way the Vance Family reunions do: with all attendees in a circle, singing lively versions of “Amazing Grace” and “Will the Circle be Unbroken.” Not included are some very moving original songs that you will have to experience the next time we host this show.
Following “Will the Circle be Unbroken” are some songs he recommended to keep the vibe going for your recreation of this experience. Generally, he also recommends these albums for further listening pleasure: Genuine Negro Jig and Leaving Eden, and Dona got a Ramblin’ Mind, all by the Carolina Chocolate Drops; The Cold Mountain Soundtrack; and O.C.M.S. by Old Crow Medicine Show.
Next up is the playlist Jason provided to accompany the cooking for our recipe testing cooking. I hadn’t had these dishes before, never mind tasted his family’s versions, so he and I, and some lucky friends of his got to enjoy the fruits of our delicious testing, with this playlist on, helping to give the flavor of Appalachia all the while, of course.
“Will the circle be unbroken
By and by, lord, by and by
There’s a better home a-waiting
In the sky, lord, in the sky.*”
- Appetizers: Cheeseball, Salami & Crackers, and Ma-Maw’s punch
- Entrees: Potato Soup, Cornbread Salad
- Desserts: Banana Pudding, Dirt Pudding
No gathering of Jason’s family is complete without a cheesball
- 2 packs of 8 oz cream cheese
- 1/4 cup creamy Italian dressing
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
- 2 boxes crackers, to serve
- 1-2 dried sausage varieties, sliced
- Soften cheese. Mix with dressing and return to fridge to harden.
- Shape into “ball” (or 1/2 a sphere on a plate) and roll in the chopped pecans to coat the ball.
- Return to fridge until ready to serve, alongside crackers and salami.
Dale Vance’s Potato Soup
Dale Vance’s Potato Soup
- 9 cups russet potatoes, peeled* & diced (~4 lbs potatoes)
- 3 cups diced yellow onion (~1 large one)
- water, to cover (~8 cups)
- 2 tsp salt
- ground pepper, to taste
- 1 12 oz can evaporated milk
- 1 stick of butter
- optional: celery, or cream of celery soup
- 2, 12 oz packages of bacon (traditionally it was Bacon Bits, but we cooked/crumbled our own for the recipe testings and event)
- 18 oz grated cheddar cheese
- 1 1 lb box Saltine crackers**
- Cook bacon until crispy and allow to cool on a paper towel.
- Wash, peel and dice vegetables.
- Toss into a large pot and just barely cover with water. Put temp to high, add salt and a bit of pepper and cook until potatoes are cooked thru (potatoes easily prick with a fork; ~15 minutes), being careful to stir often so that potatoes don’t stick to the bottom. Reduce heat slightly if it begins boiling over.
- Meanwhile, crumble or chop the cooled bacon, and grate the cheddar (if necessary), putting each in separate serving bowls and keep aside.
- Once potatoes are fully cooked, reduce heat to medium and add condensed milk and butter, and continue to cook, stirring frequently to combine, being careful that it doesn’t boil over. Taste for salt and adjust accordingly.
- Serve with Saltines, bits of bacon and grated cheddar cheese, and imagine yourself on a rocking chair.
Here’s a video of the potato soup as it’s being made, and you can hear not only the food cooking but the music that helped it along, from the second playlist here. If only you could smell it, too. So simple, and so delicious.
Banana Pudding is yet another staple of Vance family gatherings. Here, we’ll treat you to a sneak peak of the recipe straight from the Vance family book of recipes!
Fun fact: when testing recipes, we happened to eat this still warm, and Jason’s mind was a bit blown. He’d only ever eaten it cold! He hadn’t said as much so I had just left it on the counter while we all ate our cornbread salad. I’ve now had both ways, and both are great, but Jason is likely to want to eat his warm from now on (and I wouldn’t disagree).
One final note on the Banana Pudding: the recipe in the Vance Cookbook calls for making a meringue to top it with, but per Jason’s memory and taste, he requested canned whipped cream, so you may want to grab some of that.
Learn to Play the Spoons!
Grab your wooden spoons if ya got ’em! Otherwise, get two matching metal spoons (preferably with wider ends on the handle side), which will help you control them.
And if you tried this one at home, we want to hear about it! If you listened to the music provided, tasted the food, learned a bit about life on Bradshaw Mountain, tell us what you think! And please tag us at #culturescapsules and @culturescapsules so that Jason, and the rest of us can see and get inspired ourselves!