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Quick Q&A With Lauren McDuffie

We recently spoke with this Indy-based food blogger and author of Smoke, Roots, Mountain, Harvest: Recipes and Stories Inspired by My Appalachian Home.

Indianapolis Monthly: Is this your first cookbook?
Lauren McDuffie: It’s my first published cookbook. About 10 years ago, I self-published one. I was in grad school and was so bored—or maybe I just wanted to procrastinate a little bit. So I wrote this five-ingredient cookbook that is still floating around on Amazon.

IM: Your inspiration for this cookbook was your background in Appalachian cooking?
LM
: The book is an extension of my food blog, Harvest and Honey. The blog has really been a storytelling space, where I combine writing, provocative photography, and food. I have always enjoyed the creative process of those things together, so the book is an extension of that. The difference is that I gave the book a sense of place. It has a setting. It is a fusion cookbook inspired by the recipes of the place where I am from, the mountain South.

IM: What is your food background?
LM: Honestly, I have just been a lifelong lover of cooking and food. It is been the one consistent passion of mine, and I think I have chased that passion in every possible way just short of going to cooking school. I worked as a freelance writer for about 10 years, and really I have steered it more toward food in the last five years.

IM: What was your original career path in grad school?
LM: I got my Masters in public administration, and I was interested in pursuing local government or maybe higher education. That was my original idea, but we moved a lot with my husband’s job, so I had to take a different route. But it worked out. I don’t think I would’ve ever started a blog or figured out that I love photography if I hadn’t been forced into something else.

IM: Do you have a favorite recipe in the book?
LM: It would have to be the fried chicken. Both of my grandmothers made it all the time, and my Mom’s mom grew up next door to Colonel Sanders in Kentucky.

IM: Wait … the actual person, Colonel Sanders?
LM: Yes, they were neighbors. I don’t know if they made the same kind of fried chicken, but they are from the same place in Kentucky.

IM: Tell us about some of the characteristics of Appalachian cooking.
LM: It is a very resourceful and, in a way, scrappy way of cooking. My grandmother used the words “waste not, want not.” It is very much a style of cooking that uses every bit of the ingredients at hand, which I really appreciate. It is also a food that is very grounded in stories. You could have a recipe that might come across totally different from one family to the next, and I love that there is a very communal element to Appalachian cooking.

IM: Do you have some good suggestions for home cooks who want to live by the “waste not, want not” rule?
LM: I think a savory bread pudding is a really nice canvas for showing off some good seasonal ingredients while making something great from bread that is a little past it prime. I have a recipe in my book that uses chanterelle mushrooms.

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