Lundy honored with Lee Smith Literary Award

Published 2:30 am Wednesday, August 29, 2018

HARROGATE, Tenn. — Ronni Lundy received the prestigious Lee Smith Award during Lincoln Memorial University’s (LMU) 2018 Mountain Heritage Literary Festival. The prize recognizes an individual who has worked to preserve and promote Appalachian culture.

Lundy’s work focuses on traditional American foods and music. Her books include “Shuck Beans, Stack Cakes and Honest Fried Chicken: The Heart and Soul of Southern Country Kitchens” (Atlantic, 1990) and “Butter Beans to Blackberries: Recipes from the Southern Garden” (North Point, 1999). Her book “Victuals” (Random House, 2016) won the 2017 James Beard Foundation Book of the Year Award. She was a founding member of the Southern Foodways Alliance and, in 2005, edited “Cornbread Nation 3: Foods of the Mountain South,” the organization’s occasional anthology of the region’s best food writing.

“Her writings have helped readers understand the rich tradition of two favorite Appalachian pastimes, cooking and eating,” said LMU Writer-In-Residence Darnell Arnoult. “We were so excited to present her with this honor to recognize her contribution to Appalachia.”

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Lundy was born in Corbin, Kentucky, in 1949 and grew up in the Louisville area. Her hometown of Corbin is where the Indiana native Harland Sanders developed his recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken, but Lundy has written: “I was born in Kentucky and Colonel Harland D. Sanders was not, so you can believe me when I say that I, not the Colonel, know the secret to making honest fried chicken.”

She has also lived in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and several other cities in New Mexico and now resides in the mountains of North Carolina.

Lundy was a pop music editor at the “Louisville Times” and the “Louisville Courier-Journal” in the 1980s and early 1990s. She focused on Americana, covering the likes of John Hartford, Emmylou Harris, Sam Bush, Dwight Yoakam and Bill Monroe. She also wrote about food and became a restaurant reviewer as the Louisville restaurant scene blossomed during the early 1990s.

Lundy has written about musicians, travel, small farms, community-supported agriculture, heirloom seeds and culinary traditions. Her work has appeared in “Esquire,” “Gourmet,” “Bon Appetit,” “Cooking Light, Eating Well,” “Sunset” and “Copia.” Her stories have twice been finalists for the James Beard Award, and “Butter Beans” was a finalist for the International Association of Culinary Professionals cookbook awards.

“Victuals” is an exploration of the foodways, people and places of Appalachia. It explores the surprisingly diverse history—and vibrant present—of food in the Mountain South through recipes, stories, traditions and innovations. Each chapter explores a specific defining food or tradition of the region — such as salt, beans, corn (and corn liquor). The essays introduce readers to their rich histories and the farmers, curers, hunters and chefs who define the region’s contemporary landscape. Sitting at a diverse intersection of cuisines, Appalachia offers a wide range of ingredients and products that can be transformed using traditional methods and contemporary applications. Through 80 recipes and stories gathered on her travels in the region, Lundy shares dishes that distill the story and flavors of the Mountain South.

The Lee Smith Award, named in honor of Appalachia’s most well-known writer, spotlights those doing good work in the region. Smith’s publications include “Fair and Tender Ladies,” “On Agate Hill” and many others. Prior recipients of the Lee Smith Award include Silas House, Earl Hamner, Jr., Sheila Kay Adams, George Ella Lyon, Beverly May, John Lang and Pamela Duncan.

The Mountain Heritage Literary Festival, held annually in June at LMU, continues to grow and have a positive influence on the thriving, living literature of Appalachia. The festival carries on the long literary tradition that exists at LMU, which claims such literary alums as James Still, Jesse Stuart, Don West and George Scarbrough.