The Historic Foodie 

Letters From Alabama

By The Historic Foodie

The Historic Foodie calls southcentral Alabama home. She intends to focus on historic foods and cooking techniques along with homesteading skills, living the good life, and skills for a self-sufficient lifestyle.

Currently, The Historic Foodie is working on finishing two books, The Evolution of Salads in America and The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Self-Sufficiency: Or Life as Grandma Knew It. Both are encyclopedic in format and cover the basic to the rare and little known, from ancient times to present.

She and her husband moved to the country for the simplicity, peace and quiet, and room for raising their own food. "Martin grew up in McSherrystown, Pennsylvania, where everyone knew each other and family values were standard. I grew up in rural south-central Tennessee where raising farm animals, gardening, food preservation, picking cotton, etc., were a matter of course."

Her garden was planted after researching what is really in processed foods, and she says, "I want to avoid the chemicals and preservatives. I want food as fresh as possible that has been grown and handled in a clean environment, farm to table, and the best way of doing that is to grow it myself. I also want heirloom vegetables that aren’t available in the stores."

Her gardens hold three kinds of apples (Ginger gold, Granny Smith and Fuji), Ranger peaches, nectarines, pears, grapes, muscadines, two kinds of plums, three kinds of blueberries, pomegranates, figs, heirloom tomatoes, zucchini, herbs (oregano, mint, basil, thyme, sage, lemon balm, rosemary, saffron (crocus sativus), parsley, beets, collards, okra, eggplant, Paris Island Cos lettuce, arugula, spinach and rhubarb.

Her to-do list? "We are turning the property we purchased in March 2014 into a sustainable mini-farm. That includes updating the house as well as the property. The previous owners hadn’t been able to keep up the fences, gardens, etc., and we are in the process of restoring everything and adding touches of our own. We have poultry and plan to add goats and hair sheep once the fences are repaired." She says they will be adding more fruit and nut trees over time, as well as experimenting with growing oats.

"Once we’ve accomplished these tasks, we want to eventually harvest pine trees on our property and build a replica 18th-century log cabin complete with working fireplace for open hearth cooking – no modern amenities."

Their property is home to Chinese geese, bourbon red turkeys, and a "psychotic rat terrier." Dual-purpose chickens, Boer goats, and hair sheep are in the near future for the couple.

Recent additions to their poultry flock are Buff Orpington, Chochin and Ameracauna chickens, Pekin and Rouen ducks, and guineas.

The Historic Foodie's country skills are numerous and varied, and among them are canning; pickling/fermenting; drying; sewing; animal husbandry; gardening; making butter and cottage cheese; jams and preserves; cooking; writing historic recipes in a language the modern cook can understand and follow; open-hearth cooking; recreating various tools, clothing, and utility pieces from the 18th and 19th centuries; butchering; hand-laundering; making soap; making curtains; quilting; quilt piecing; rug-hooking with wool strips; making candles; ersatz foods (acorn or chestnut flour, etc.); Native American foods; keeping a well-stocked pantry so cooking doesn’t mean a trip to the store; fishing; writing magazine articles and books on food history; bread baking; embroidery and cross-stitch; and natural dyeing.

She defines a homesteader as "someone who is willing to trade the convenience of city life for the satisfaction that comes from providing for one’s own needs on whatever level possible. Someone who can think outside the box and is willing to learn whatever is necessary to achieve these goals."

And her philosophy on country life? "Learn as much as you can about the ways of our ancestors;the old ways are often the best way, especially in these uncertain times. Be responsible for yourself and your family. Be honest and moral, help your neighbor when you can, and don’t wait for a hand-out."

Follow her personal blog or on Facebook.