There’s a rush in our modern day to find the new, the innovative, the “fresh.” And while there’s nothing wrong with constantly looking ahead, it’s inadvertently led to leaving the tried and true—and delicious—in the dust. Additionally, this search for the new has given the false impression that things like meals, family time, and more need to somehow be complicated, involved, expensive, extra engaging, fashionable, and (Lord have mercy) Instagrammable.
Country cooking, while certainly accessible to a fancier crowd through 5-star restaurants with creative chefs, is one of those traditional things that has such amazing ingenuity paired with absolute, soul-nourishing deliciousness. And it doesn’t worry about being complicated (or Instagrammable) at all. What’s most important when it comes to country cooking is flavor, heartiness, and tradition. It’s things like old fashioned, true, and filled-with-love home country cooking that keep us all a little grounded and very well-fed. Oddly enough, the simplicity also meant that it wasn’t expensive. You could feed a whole family pretty easily on very little money.
We love the idea of bringing family together for a real, home cooked meal that doesn’t shy away from being a little messy or carbo-loaded. In fact, we love country cooking so much that we just had to reach out to the lovely daughters of Loretta Lynn, one of country music’s most iconic musicians who became very well known for her chicken and dumplings.
THE Loretta Lynn
Born in Appalachian Kentucky, Loretta was truly the daughter of a coal miner and grew up in relatively poor conditions. At the age of 15 Loretta married Oliver “Doolittle” Lynn and had four children by the age of 20. While far away from the musical world of her hometown and its people, Loretta turned to music and taught herself guitar. She almost immediately began writing her own songs about topics she knew well such as domestic life, life in general, and other topics that nobody else seemed to talk about in public.
With the support of her husband, Loretta began singing in local nightclubs where she caught the attention of Zero Records who published her debut single, “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl”. By 1960 the single had officially hit the popularity charts and became the springboard for Loretta and her husband to move to Music City where Loretta sang regularly at the Grand Ole Opry. Throughout her illustrious career, Loretta wrote 50 studio albums, topped the charts with 16 No. 1 singles, was awarded both the Kennedy Center Honors and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, as well as Billboard’s inaugural Women in Music “Legend” Award. She is also a four-time Grammy Award winner and received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010. She was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame as well as the Country Music Hall of Fame, and 45 million Loretta Lynn records have been sold worldwide.
By the 1970s Loretta Lynn was officially THE Loretta Lynn and continued to solidify her place as a country music icon to her dying day. In 1996, her husband died, which broke her heart. But she returned to the music scene in 2000, and published her cookbook, You’re Cookin’ It Country, in 2004. As a mother, wife, and music legend, Loretta worked tirelessly and created unforgettable moments for both her family and the world.
Both people and places can really define food. It’s amazing to think of the centuries of tradition and love that have gone into meal after meal all around the world. Country cooking, best known for grits, dumplings, biscuits, gravy, fried chicken, and so much more is one of those cooking genres that, when made properly, can create amazing memories and really bring people of all origins together. In addition to her music, cooking was a passion for Loretta as it is for so many other men and women who pour their heart and soul into making amazing food for the people they love.
When we think country cooking, we think warmth, love, comfort, home. We think of delicious food that doesn’t apologize for anything. We think of places and people in this country who have seen and survived quite a bit yet maintain a southern grace and hospitality not to be rivaled. Food does not have to be complicated or fancy. It just needs to be there. Because where there is good food, there is good company.
When we think of country cooking, we also think of Loretta Lynn and her legendary food that she often shared with colleagues, friends, and family. That’s why we were so excited for the opportunity to talk with Loretta’s daughters about their mother, her food, and the memories they share.
A Look At Loretta’s Country Cooking
“Mom was a great cook. She cooked delicious fried chicken and anything out of the garden.”
Patsy, Peggy, and Cissy Lynn gave us valuable and fun insight into their mother’s kitchen and her love for food and family. They said, in the early days “Dad would hunt and a mom would garden. We ate out of the garden all summer and again all winter from all the canning momma did.”
The resourcefulness of home cooking was a daily occurrence that incorporated bread, chicken and dumplings, fudge, and more.
“Mom loved to make homemade bread. She was the queen of pinto beans and cornbread. That cornbread was always perfect—crispy on top and crispy on the bottom, but perfect softness in the middle. Mom was the master of chicken and dumplings, too. When dad’s health was declining and he and mom were home together, she made him a lot of chicken and dumplings. Pure comfort food and he loved it.
We ALL love, love, love mom’s peanut butter fudge, which is like a payday candy bar from heaven, and her blackberry dumplings are better than any cobbler you’ll ever taste. She always reminded us to “push those dumplings, don’t stir ‘em” Mom had the sweet tooth in the family. She bought candy and junk out on the road but daddy didn’t buy those things. So when momma was home and she made fudge or blackberry dumplings we were in heaven!”
In addition to cooking, Loretta also canned a lot of food and was fondly remembered for the store of food she created for her family.
“Momma was a canning expert. She did a lot of canning with our Grandma Lynn. The canned a ton every year and canned every vegetable and lots of meat, like chicken. They also canned pickled green beans (still a family favorite) and pickled corn. Delicious.”
The one thing that got in the way of cooking for her family was touring. Often, Loretta would spend weeks on the road, resulting in a bit of disconnection from her home when she got back. But she’d always come back to it, usually with the loving help of her husband and children who would pitch in to help in the kitchen.
“One poignant memory of ours is when she was home from the road and was going to cook supper one night. We found her on the floor of the kitchen crying because she couldn’t find anything she needed. She said, ‘I don’t live here. I don’t even know where my pans are!’ As kids we just jumped in to try to help but looking back we can see the heartache and dad’s tender love for her. He kept saying, ‘It’s ok, we can fix that.’ We all jumped in there and made supper together and it became a beautiful family moment, but it showed the tension of family life and a music career. Even though we toured with momma a lot, we missed a lot of time together. She worked so hard to make that up through the many years we had her as our momma and our friend.”
Today, Loretta’s daughters still make their mom’s recipes, fondly remembering her as they cook her signature cornbread, fudge, banana pudding, blackberry dumplings, and others. They also keep up the tradition of canning, pulling from the extensive knowledge their mother passed down to them.
“Every time I can I replay in my mind everything momma taught me.” – Peggy Lynn
When asked how they wanted their mom remembered they said:
“She was a mom to six children above everything else. She clothed, fed, and loved us each one. She was always a mom. Always. On the stage and off the stage. She stopped many a shows to holler at the kids, or send us to the bus! She was still mom. Mom was authentic, never duplicit. She was always the same person on and off the stage. At home or in public. She was gentle and kind with others and she had a mother’s nurturing heart for everyone: her fans, her band members, everyone at the ranch, our friends. She mothered us all and we are all the better for it.
We also have to mention her sense of humor. She was quick-witted, clever, funny, and daring. She wrote songs with double meanings and knew it and loved it. She had an answer for everything and she loved to laugh. It’s one of the things we miss the most…that smile, that laugh.”
Loretta Lynn and country cooking go hand-in-hand, inspiring and feeding generations of Americans who love comfort food as much as Loretta’s iconic music. The tradition and ingenuity of country cooking has fed all sorts of people and has been a connecting force for an entire nation.