Looking back over more years than my mind sometimes wants to embrace (though my body tells me there have been a lot of them), I realize I’ve been the recipient of many wonderful gifts. Here are some of those blessings which, collectively, have molded and made me as a writer.
*By nothing more than an awesome accident of birthplace, I was born and raised in the heart of the Smokies, and the region long ago laid a firm hold on a corner of my soul. I proudly call myself a son of the Smokies, carry the label of hillbilly as a badge of honor, and am blessed by a lifelong love affair with my highland homeland.
*As my father once, said, “Son, you’ve had a marvelously misspent life.” He was referring to the fact that I’ve been privileged to hunt, fish, and travel all over the world in search of stories, all the time doing something I loved.
*Daddy and my paternal grandfather, Joe Casada, were great tellers of sporting tales and a fair share of any ability I have in that regard is directly attributable to them as mentors. Both also loved hunting and fishing and shared that passion with me in a most meaningful way.
*I was blessed with a mother who tolerated endless outdoor excursions, small game and fish cleaning in the kitchen sink, served as a sometime chauffeur to destinations too far for walking or biking, cooked everything I caught or shot, and always had an encouraging word or a bit of praise to offer.
*Several teachers recognized some small spark of promise in a youngster absolutely entranced by the natural world and the environs of southern Appalachia and gave me encouragement. I owe all of them a lasting debt of gratitude.
*One of the abiding joys of my years is being able to share with others some of the feelings, experiences, and love of place which loom so large in my life. That’s a big part of what this website is all about, it’s the whole thrust of my monthly newsletter, and I feel privileged to be able to bring things that mean so much to me into print. If I am able to convey some tiny portion of the love I have for sporting literature, the natural world, hunting, fishing, gardening, cooking, and the like to you, I’ll be happy. If those efforts bring a ray of sunshine into your world, I’ll be happier still.
Free Newsletter – Recipes, Books, Jim’s doings
Each month Jim sends out a newsletter which provides a mixture of nostalgia, reflections on his blessed boyhood growing up in the Great Smokies of North Carolina, shared memories of some special times and characters in his life, musings on the season and seasons past, a few recipes, some information on his books or those of others writing about subjects near and dear to his heart, and much more.
Basically the newsletter is a potpourri of literary outpouring from a fellow who knows just how blessed he was in the place and nature of his raising. There will be some lighthearted humor from time to time; maybe a bit of pining for a world we have to some degree lost; perhaps some practical information for the gardener, hunter, fisherman, or naturalist; but most of all an attempt to share thoughts and insight on things near and dear to Jim. If something in the newsletter brightens your day or lightens your way, let Jim know. Likewise, even though he readily admits to being mule stubborn after the fashion of so many of Scotch-Irish origin who came to make the southern Appalachians their home, Jim isn’t so old a dog that he isn’t interested in new tricks and up to garnering new information.
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Books of the month
My newest book, Fishing for Chickens: A Smokies Food Memoir
, was recently released by the University of Georgia Press. I’m quite pleased with how it turned out and the job the publisher did with it. The 330-page book features dozens of vintage black-and-white photographs, a glossary of Smokies’ food terms, an annotated bibliography of books on the region’s foodways, well over a hundred old-
timey recipes, and both a general index and a recipe index. The heart of the book though, and certainly the part of it in which I take the greatest pride, is precisely what its sub-title suggests. It is narrative coverage, in twenty-four chapters, of how folks raised crops and livestock; gathered foodstuffs from nature’s rich larder; canned, cured, and preserved their edibles; and the folkways of food in general.
Critics and experts in the field have been most gracious in their comments on the book. Here’s a sampling.
“Fishing for Chickens sagely, entertainingly, and deliciously reveals that our region is far broader and much more diverse in its stories and experiences than we have yet recorded. Casada gives a rich picture that expands our knowledge and he writes with an intimate, conversational feeling that makes this book a pleasure to read.” Ronni Lundy, James Beard award-winning author of Victuals: An Appalachian Journey
“To read Jim Casada is to sit on the porch or in front of the fireplace immersed in a great conversation with a truly knowledgeable friend. He wanders effortlessly into all the cultural and historical riches of a region and a time whose ways are unknown to too many of us. Casada brings us the realities of a life that has little of the monetary but boasts uncounted riches in the form of natural bounty combined with the ability to turn food preparation and dining into a truly enviable culture.” Rob Simbeck, author of The Southern Wildlife Watcher
“Don’t think for one second that Fishing for Chickens is just another printed collection of questionable recipes. Far from it. This book records Great Smoky Mountains culinary traditions at their best, and Casada has made it not only an informative but an entertaining read as well.” J. Wayne Fears, author of The Lodge Book of Dutch Oven Cooking
“I was immediately drawn to the mystique of the Great Smokies through Jim Casada’s endearing and descriptive food memories. Jim is the real deal, reaching back three generations to give us recipes truly traditional to ‘place.’ I’m obsessed with Fishing for Chickens.” Stacy Lyn Harris, author of Stacy Lyn’s Harvest Cookbook
Fishing for Chickens is a comprehensive, and loving, guide to the grown and gathered foods that form the staples of cooking in the Great Smoky Mountains region, their preparation, and the cultural practices and customs behind each. In this work, Jim Casada aptly displays his talents as perhaps the foremost modern chronicler of Smoky Mountain life.” Dan Pierce, author of The great Smokies from Habitat to National Park
Signed and inscribed copies of the book can be ordered from me for $28.95 +$5 shipping by check, cashier’s check, or money order (Jim Casada, 1250 Yorkdale Drive, Rock Hill, SC 29730) or through PayPal on this website.
Jim Casada’s book, A Smoky Mountain Boyhood: Musings, Memories, and More
has just been published by the University of Tennessee Press. The work encompasses 41 chapters and spans 300+ pages as well as including an extensive section of vintage photographs. Part autobiographical, it is primarily a window into the world of the middle of the 20th century as the author knew it growing up in his beloved highland homeland.
A publisher’s blurb for the book states that “in A Smoky Mountain Boyhood Casada pairs his gift for storytelling and his training as a historian to produce a highly readable memoir of mountain life, with stories evoking a strong sense of place and reflecting richly on the traits that make the people of Southern Appalachia a unique American demographic. Containing a strong sense of adventure, nostalgic tone, and well-paced prose, Casada’s book will be appreciated by those yearning to rediscover their childhoods or imaginatively climb these mountains.”
Divided into four sections—“High Country Holiday Tales and Traditions;” “Seasons of the Smokies;” “Tools, Toys, and Boyhood Treasures;” and “Precious Memories”—each of the book’s parts reflect on a memorable coming-of-age in the Smokies. Among the work’s focal points are traditional folkways; hunting and fishing; growing, preparing, gathering and eating wide varieties of foodstuffs; and the overall fabric of mountain life in yesteryear.
Copies of the book are $29.95 plus shipping and handling (Jim Casada, 1250 Yorkdale Drive, Rock Hill, SC 29730). The book is nicely timed for the Christmas season and will make a fine gift for anyone who cherishes yesteryear, enjoys storytelling, or wants to take a longing look backward into the magical world of a mountain boyhood.