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I am a simple country girl who loves life and lives it to the fullest. I cook for one of the greatest families ever. Cooking is my passion and I consider it as well to be my gift.

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Monday, December 14, 2009


Mama Joe was my maternal grandmother. Born, Effie Susan Wright, on November 19th, 1898, to Joe E. Wright and Nora Clark Wright. She married my grandfather, Paul Madison Vance, on December 7th, 1924.
She iwas a registered nurse, (rode all over these mountains on horseback with the Sloops of Crossnore), carpenter's wife, and everybodys friend; especially mine, as I was raised in her home and the youngest of all her grandchildren. From her I learned that a grandparent-grandchild bond is one of life's greatest gifts, an unconditional love, free from the conflicts and pressures of the parent-child relationship. From her I also learned the friendship rituals of all-day Sunday cookings. People came from far, near, and wide to sample the bounty of wonderful food that was prepared in Mama Joe's kitchen. It was a happy home, full of love, laughter, family, and friends.
I've often wondered how I came into the world so lucky. Surely the Almighty must have looked at the situation with a great deal of compassion. Mama Joe always looked for the good in everything and everybody. She gave me roots and then opened my eyes to visions of the possible and always encouraged my attempts to attain them. She taught me how to laugh at myself and and at times encouraged me to cry. In times of need, her arms were always open. Her inate wisdom was always a breath of fresh air in my life. Yet it was her heart that I loved the most, for it was like no other I have ever known. For through her heart she affected all who came in contact with her. Through her love she gave me confidence and wings to fly. I will always love her. My cookbook, "In Mama Joe's Shadow", and this blog are my tribute toi her.
When she died, I inherited an extensive recipe collection, full of words of wit and wisdom. To Mama Joe, the world of food was a world of friendships. She knew which dishes would console a grieving family, or be the asked-for recipe at church suppers. The recipes were written on paper bags, old stationary, greeting cards, backs of envelopes, and in old-timey lined notebooks, which I hold as my most prized possessions. One such notebook dates back to 1916 when she was a nursing student at Lees McCrae College in Banner Elk. It was her pasion even before she had a family of her own. In one of her cookbooks which was passed down to me, "The White House Cookbook", copyright 1924, she even listed the birth of each calf that she owned, beginning with Blue, born March 29th, 1928, and on and on. She loved each and everyone and talked of them often through the years.
She had written notes on most all of her recipes, particularly her favorite ones. Notes such as "This is Buddy's (my grandfather) favorite", or, "Given to me by So and So", aalong with the date. These recipes and their edible counterparts were communications between people, friendships remembered and shared. I now know that it was not the instructions and baking ingredinets which were ultimately important, but the lesons of love and friendship that may now be passed along the way.
As Forrest Carter in "The Education of Little Tree", copyright 1976, states: "Grandma said when you come up on something good, first thing to do is to share it with whoever you can find; that way, the good spreads out where no telling it will go. Which is right."

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