Appalachian Appetite Winners

funnel cake

When I launched Appalachian Appetite, I didn’t know what to expect. I just had a rattling question I couldn’t answer—what is Appalachian food today?

Ten weeks and one hundred thirteen photos later, I’m starting to get the idea. Appalachian food is simply the food we’re eating. From venison stew to pork tacos, whatever we cook in Appalachia defines or redefines our food traditions, and it always has.

Mountain folk didn’t used to eat biscuits, you know. They were popularized in the early 1900s when volunteers poured into the region and crusaded for biscuits as a more civilized alternative to cornpones. Similarly, West Virginians didn’t fall for pepperoni rolls until the 1920s, after Italians moved to the state for mining jobs. 


It’s important to remember that Appalachian food constantly evolves, yet our winning photos illustrate something else. Even with the influx of kung pao and pad Thai, we still revere more traditional foods.

Take Appalachian Appetite’s grand prize winner for instance. The above picture was shot by Ronnie Lee Bailey, an image of funnel cake that reminds everyone of simple summertime joys.

“The funnel cake photo was taken in Vinton, Virginia, at an Independence Day event,” Ronnie recently told me, “The moment happened organically—nobody was posed—but it carried a lot of symbolic weight all the same.”

This classic shot won Ronnie a trip to North Carolina’s charming Mast Farm Inn plus a meal at the nearby Over Yonder restaurant.

Prime RibOur two runners up are also classic dishes. The first, a lovely photo of summertime canning, comes from Beth Minton in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. It shows dill pickles and bread & butter squash, enough to last into winter.

The second runner up was photographed by Sean Hyde of Charleston, West Virginia. His image of a prime rib at Paterno’s restaurant made mouths water.

Both Beth and Sean receive subscriptions to Smoky Mountain Living, and watch for all three winning images in upcoming issues of the magazine.

While these shots garnered the most votes, every last photo submitted to the contest inspired and informed us. As a collection, they reflect our region today—how we adore our roots yet connect with the larger world. They illustrate that this is a very special time to live and eat in Appalachia.


  • Jamie

    I was actually disappointed in your choice of winners, for your Appalachian food contest. No way, is funnel cake a traditional Appalachian food, and I’m sure no mountain man or woman would’ve ever used a prime rib for one meal. Get real…

  • Mark Lynn Ferguson

    Hi, Jamie. Thanks for commenting. The winner was selected by readers actually, who voted by “liking” the photos on the contest page.

  • Mark Lynn Ferguson

    Anonymous and Dona, you’re right—while funnel cake and prime rib are classic American dishes, they are not Appalachian. I’ve tweaked the copy to better reflect that distinction. That said, the goal with the contest was to see what people are really eating in Appalachia. That’s why the entries range from pork tacos to funnel cake to cornbread made in cast iron skillets.

  • molly byrd

    I thought this was a fun contest–always love when the Revivalist posts come across my fb feed.

  • Beth Hughes

    I grew up on a farm in Appalachia. While prime rib and garlic mashed potatoes weren’t everyday foods, when you raise your own beef and garden, they’re certainly possibilities along with so much more! And we had funnel cake at the county fair right along side corn dogs. Remember that Germans were just one of the immigrant bodies that settled there. Our exposure to a variety of international foods wasn’t limited to just beans and “taters”.

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