Friday, August 19, 2011


by Virginia Campbell

Join Virginia on the porch swing
while she tells us a story or two.

I am so delighted to be visiting with you all here today at "A Writer's Life". Many thanks to our gracious and talented blog hostess, Caroline Clemmons. I  have my storytelling hat on today, and you are all invited to join me here on the porch for a day of tall tales, twisted truths, and tempting treats. Yes, refreshments will be served! I'll be settled here in my swing, but you can pull up a rocker or porch chair and make yourself right at home. I was born and raised, and still reside, in the beautiful mountains of Southwestern VA. The true tall tales of Southern mountain folk are often stranger than fiction!

My father's hometown was Jonesborough, TN, which is the oldest town in the state of Tennessee. Jonesborough is also the home of the International Storytelling Center. Each October, the town hosts the National Storytelling Festival, a world-renowned event which celebrates storytelling at its most magical .

Virginia's storytelling hat


An older gentleman, whom I knew as “Lucky”, was very outgoing and lively up until his death at age 93. I was surprised to learn that as a younger man, he had been very abrupt and somewhat “antisocial”. He had also been quite superstitious. However, this all changed after he survived being struck by lightning…on three separate occasions! After the third strike, he threw caution to the wind, set aside his fears and superstitions and began to live. He began to attend church, interacted with others, and became involved in community concerns. He met a nice woman, and they married and had four sons. Lucky considered himself to be a blessed man. If you look closely at the headstone on his grave, in one corner you’ll find a small lightning bolt.

That extra zing will make your taste buds tingle!

1-1/2 cups sugar
6 tablespoons cornstarch
Dash salt
1-1/2 cups water
3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
1 Tbsp. grated lemon peel
1 Tbsp. lime juice
1 pastry shell (9 inches), baked


3 egg whites, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
6 tablespoons sugar

In a saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch and salt. Stir in water. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until thickened. Reduce heat; cook and stir 2 additional minutes. Gradually stir in 1 cup of hot filling to egg yolks; return to saucepan. Bring to a boil. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in butter, lemon juice, lime juice, and peel. Pour hot filling into pastry shell. For meringue, beat egg whites, vanilla and cream of tartar in a bowl at medium speed until soft peaks form. Add sugar gradually, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating on high until stiff and glossy. Immediately spread over pie, sealing edges to pastry. Bake at 350° for 12-15 minutes or until meringue is golden. Cool. Store in refrigerator.

Granny Tate's home. Where's the skillet?

“Granny” Tate was an eccentric little country lady who lived off the beaten path and grew wonderful vegetables, fruit and flowers. She was wise in the ways of herbs and plants and also kept honey bees. She sold her wares at the local farmer’s market, but some who knew where she lived would just stop by her house and “go shopping”. Granny Tate also canned her produce and honey, and she usually made several quilts a year to sell. When the local sheriff started receiving calls from Granny about a prowler, he paid a duty call and told her it was probably a bear after the honeycombs. He had always thought that Granny took a nip now and then, and probably made her own “Mountain Dew”. Finally, she called and said that there was a dead man on her back porch, and she needed him removed. What the sheriff found was a live man with a large lump on his head, and one angry Granny. Southern women wield a mean skillet and rolling pin, and Granny was no exception. What made her so made was that she had used her favorite old black cast iron skillet, which had become thin on the bottom from long-time use. When she whacked the prowler on the head, it broke her prized skillet! Everyone looked at Granny with new respect. The sheriff searched high and low until he found her a good used skillet…blackened and “seasoned” just right. In return, she sent him off with a basket of preserves and home-canned goods and a large chunk of honey-on-the-comb.

One sweet way to use a skillet!
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 8 pieces
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup sour cream
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 stick chilled butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 cup chopped walnuts

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. For the cake: Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Add brown sugar and honey and beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Blend in vanilla and sour cream. With a rubber spatula, fold in flour and baking powder until completely blended. Generously butter a cast iron skillet and spread the batter evenly in the pan. For the topping: Mix the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and chilled butter with your fingers until well blended. Sprinkle evenly over the cake batter. Sprinkle with walnuts over the top. Place the skillet in the oven and bake for 35 – 40 minutes. Serve warm.

Freed White Tail Deer

The love of my life was tall, wiry, and quick with wit, temper, and laughter. His voice was raspy and he had a goofy laugh. He had dark golden blonde hair, and the most beautiful green eyes ever! His outward bravado was matched only by the size of his heart. For me, an inner core of compassion is essential in a man. They may fuss, cuss, rant and rave, and act like spoiled little boys, but those big hearts are there when it counts. Here in the mountains of VA, hunting is a way of life (not mine) and also a necessity to thin the deer population. My guy loved the outdoors, and he was raised in a family of hunters. However, he once told me that he freed a deer which he found trapped in barbed wired. He determined that the animal was not badly injured, just caught, so he cut him free. He would hunt animals on their own turf, but he could never kill one for sport that was trapped. Sometimes the men who seem to be the most easily defined turn out to be the ones with the most layers. If they are good guys, then it is very much worth your time to work through those layers to the heart of gold found inside.


I made a version of beef stew for dinner the other evening. When I make soup, stew, pasta sauce, chili, etc, it's usually a little different each time. I sort of have a basic idea, and then use what's on hand. This time, I used two different cheaper cuts of beef that were well-marbled. I trimmed the excess fat and cut the meat into bite-sized chunks. I browned the meat well in a little olive oil with a large onion for flavor. I let the meat cook down, and then added enough water to the pan to loosen the good bits and make a nice juice. I added several bay leaves, salt, pepper, and garlic salt. I cut up at least one large potato per person into big chunks, and then added some carrots and celery, also in large chunks. The meat is better in smaller pieces, and the veggies are better in larger pieces. This is the point where you add more liquid. Water, beef broth or red wine (or some of each) are best. (One time when making beef stew, I also added a jar of mushroom gravy with some additional water and it was delicious). Simmer stew covered until meat and veggies are tender, adding more liquid if needed. If desired, you can thicken the stew with flour or corn starch which has been blended smooth with a little cold water before stirring it into the hot stew. Remove bay leaves before serving. Stew is pretty basic, and the simpler the better.


1 1/2 cups uncooked wild rice, rinsed
4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
4 slices bacon, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, sliced
1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1/4 cup dried cranberries or golden raisins
seasoned salt to taste
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Place rice, water and salt in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer; cook 45 minutes or until tender. Uncover and fluff with a fork. Simmer for 5 additional minutes. Drain any liquid. While rice is cooking, fry bacon until crisp. Remove bacon from skillet and drain on paper towels. In bacon grease skillet, saute onion, celery and mushrooms until tender. Add rice, cranberries or raisins, seasoned salt, and pepper. Heat through. Place cooked rice mixture in a 2-qt. buttered casserole. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-30 minutes. Delicious with Cornish Game Hens, Roast Chicken or Roast Turkey.


1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1/2 head medium cabbage, rough-chopped
2 ribs celery, sliced
1 large onion, rough-chopped
1 (16 ounce) can kidney beans
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (32 ounce) carton beef broth
1/2 tsp garlic powder
several bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste

Brown ground beef and drain. In a large stock pot, combine remaining ingredients and add ground beef. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and cover, simmering for one hour or until vegetables are tender. Remove bay leaves before serving.

A lot of myths and tall tales started with a little nugget of truth and embellished it until it became a legend. Paranormal fiction is intriguing because it takes our fascination with fearsome things to a whole new level! Many of us have had unexplainable “supernatural” events in our lives, which leaves the door open for our imaginations. I have lived in the same house for over 30 years. My mother and I owned the house together. She passed away several years ago. I have had many paranormal experiences in my home, both before and after my mother passed away. The first experience was to glance over at a living room window late one night and see the "Scream" face looking in! I rushed to the door and turned on the front porch light, and not a "soul" was about! Another time, on Halloween night, I heard distinct footsteps on the wooden floor of the upstairs hallway. My mother and I were both downstairs and no other "human" was in the house. One night, I went upstairs to my room without turning on the stairway light. When I got to the doorway of my room, a large misty shape moved from the area of the doorway and went across the room and out the window. One bright Sunday morning, I had overslept, which is a rare occurrence. A voice from the doorway of my room said: "Are you getting up?" I looked over through sleep-filled eyes and saw the blurred image of a large friendly blonde woman dressed in red and royal blue. I answered, and then realized it wasn't my mother! The "woman" was twice the size of my mother (who was actually downstairs in the kitchen).

Since my mother passed away, I have noticed unusual scents in the house. I have smelled my grandfather's pipe tobacco, my grandmother's lily of the valley, and my mother's fingernail polish remover. All of these people are deceased, and none of those items are in the house! The time that I was the most afraid was when I came home to find my house almost in a vacuum state. There seemed to be no air, no sound, and no smell of any kind in the house. My cats were in hiding. I don't know what had been in the house, but it had some kind of mojo!


1 (18.25 ounce) package devil's food cake mix
1 (5.9 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 tbsp. instant coffee powder dissolved in 1/2 cup warm water
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). In a large bowl, mix together the cake and pudding mixes, sour cream, oil, beaten eggs and coffee water mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips and pour batter into a well greased 12 cup bundt pan. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until top is springy to the touch and a wooden toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool cake thoroughly in pan at least an hour and a half before inverting onto a plate If desired, dust the cake with powdered sugar.

What are your favorite family fables, local legends, and spooky stories? Any good recipes to share? I'd love to hear what you have to say : )


Jessica James said...

Great post, Virginia. Love your stories! Going to try the coffee cake! YUM!!!

Beth Trissel said...

I love all these stories, Virginia! What a wonderful post. You must come tell some tales on my blog too. Your stories remind me of the posts I've done based on accounts recorded by the late Shenandoah Valley historian John Heatwole. He has some especially wonderful stuff about the mountain people. I enjoyed all of your stories, but admit to being particularly impressed by the spooky stuff at the end. Your recipes are a wonderful addition too.

loveplay60 said...

Ginger, as always you keep blowing me away with your writing. It's GREAT!!! Love the story with the old lady and the skillet. I could so see my grandmother being just like that. Recipes sound great. Keep on writing!

Caroline Clemmons said...

Virginia, thank you for sharing your wonderful recipes and stories with us. My husband enjoyed them too. He has his "special" iron skillet, and mentioned breaking one would require quite a blow. Granny Tate was some lady! You are a wonderful storyteller, Virginia, and obviously and accomplished cook.

Nightingale said...

What a lovely post! Enjoyed the stories and the recipes. I might even try my hand at whipping one up!

Lynne Marshall said...

Vigrinia - as always, you blogs are fabulous. Our local presidential library has a storyteller around every 4th of July. We love to listen to his stories, and my favorite is how Abe Lincoln got his whiskers.

I have personally expereinced what I would call a poltergeist way back when I was 16 years old. I'll never, ever forget it!

As with all good storytellers, you've left the listener/blog reader with a question.
Hmm, whatever happened to the deer rescuing love of your life?

Laura Frantz said...

What an absolute FEAST of a post!! I'm going to write down all these recipies as I love wild rice, chocolate, and everything else you've graciously shared here! And the historical info and pictures are priceless. When I think of you, Virginia, though we've never met, I think of graciousness, beauty, cooking and baking, and books!! I hope you do many more of these. They're so rich and well...yummy:) Bless you.

Linda Broday said...

Virginia, I think I gained ten pounds just by reading your wonderful recipes. I love things that are cooked in an iron skillet. They have a better flavor. Great story about Granny Tate. I do think you have the gift for storytelling.

Bailey Stewart said...

The stew recipe sounds scrumptious. And yes, the smells .. my mother's perfume has followed me from the house I grew up in (which we sold after her death) to my apartment, even though the curtains and furniture was never in the old house. But it makes me feel safe and loved.

loveplay60 said...

It is so nice to read that others believe you have a gift at storytelling. Hang in there and keep writing, don't give up. If they could only see you tell one of your stories in person. Boy, would they leave feeling great and talking about that wonderful storyteller.

You need to share the one about the dog getting in the house or the cat and the cornbread or even you, the cats and the Christmas ham one of these days. I can still see you dancing around as you shared that last one with me. You know I have probably opened up a can of worms, because everyone is going to want you to share these stories with them.

Ginger, I want you to know that I always go away feeling better and with a smile on my face & in my heart after being with you or reading one of your blogs. You are a wonderful person and writer and I know you will make it. Love you!

Virginia C said...

Hey, y'all : ) Thank you so much for visiting here with me today! Many thanks to the wonderful Caroline Clemmons for hosting this terrific blog!

My dear friend, Jan, you are the best! Words could not express my gratitude for your friendship and continued support. You are a very inspiring and interesting lady! I am very lucky to call you friend : ) Love you too!!!

Jessica, I hope you enjoy the coffee cake--let me know : ) I am just about to start turning the pages on your amazing Civil War historical romance, "Noble Cause". I can't wait!~

Beth, I would love to tell tales on your blog. Your fabulous American Colonial historical romance "Red Bird's Song" is still quite vivid in my reader's mind!

Caroline...don't mess with Granny ; )

Nightingale--what a lovely handle! Thank you for visiting : )

Hi, Lynne : ) Let's just say that my fella lives on in my memories the way that he was when we were young. Sadly, he could not overcome his own personal demons, and his life went in another direction. Too bad for both of us.

Laura, you were describing yourself, not me. I am still loving "The Colonel's Lady"--especially the auburn-haired hero--sigh!

Linda, anything cooked in an old black skillet has a character all its own. My own Gran was a master skillet cook!

Bailey, I felt the same way about my supernatural scent sensations ; )

Karen C said...

Virginia, I loved your stories today. And, oh, my goodness - more wonderful recipes! Thank you!!

Virginia C said...

Hey, Karen C! You are a sweetie to visit with me here today! Hope you found something good to eat : )

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

So, so nice meeting you today, Virgina. I have saved your recipes and can't wait to try them. Thank you for sharing.

I love the south and all the wonderful people, places and stories. I have in fact had some ghostly experiences myself. Two months after my Dad passed away he visited me and I knew he was telling me that when our daughter died (she was dying from cancer at the time) she would be okay because he was there for her. It is amazing how this changed my attitude and made losing her easier to handle. I have since had many visits from my daughter and, thankfully, she is keeping an eye on me and when I need an angel, she is there.

I worked in an art gallery that was built in 1849 during the gold rush in Placerville, CA. Our ghost would slam doors upstairs when the place was empty, walk heavy across the floor and one day he tossed a six foot tall ceramic vase against the wall (my boss and workmate were across the room behind a counter)and it broke in many pieces and scratched the mahogany table leg in the process. Placerville is a meca for ghosts and it is where I get my ideas for my gold rush era stories.

Virginia C said...

Thank you for commenting, Paisley! I also enjoy your visits to my "A TASTE FOR ROMANCE" blog posts : )

Mason Canyon said...

Virginia, you tell the best stories ever. And the recipes, oh my. Here it is in the wee hours of the morning and I'm starving now. :)

Thoughts in Progress
Freelance Editing By Mason

Virginia C said...

Hi, Mason! Earlier, I had a "midnight snack"--a family favorite combo. Plain old cheese and crackers with a cup of "secret recipe" instant cocoa. The secret is a "splursh" of vanilla extract to enhance the chocolate flavor : ) Thanks so much for visiting!

Christina Hollis said...

You are a natural stroyteller, Virginia - what wonderful tales! Your trademark recipes are as tempting as ever- I can't wait to get home and try them.

Virginia C said...

Hello, Christina! Thanks for stopping by to chat. I hope your lovely garden produced lots of good eats for you this year!

Kandy Shepherd said...

Hi Virginia, what wonderful stories! And I love the way you link them to a recipe. I'm definitely going to try that coffee cake.

Virginia C said...

Hello, Kandy! Lovely to see you here! Reading your wonderful romances with their fabulous food scenes always leaves me hungry for more : )

Renee Vincent said...

Virginia, how in the world do you not run out of delectable recipes?! You really need to publish a cookbook dear along with these great stories...and I'd be the first to buy it!

Sorry it took so long for me to get here. Deadlines are killing me....

Virginia C said...

Oh, Renee! "You're a sweetheart, if there ever was one. If there ever was one, it's you!" Thank you! Don't work too hard ; )

Sue-Ellen Welfonder said...

Virginia (and Caroline), I am so very sorry to comment so late. Deadlines and other madness are my excuses!

Virginia, I loved every word of this. You are a born storyteller, along with being Recipe Queen. I love how you tied the stories to appropriate recipes.

Thank you so much for another amazingly entertaining blog!

Virginia C said...

Thank you, Sue-Ellen! I know that you stay so busy with your writing, and I appreciate your taking the time to comment here! Breath in lots of fresh air when you & Em take your walks : )

Avery Michaels said...

What WONDERFUL stories! I loved them. And plan on trying some of those delicious recipes. Kudos to Caroline for having the wonderful Virginia on her blog to share with us.

Virginia C said...

Thank you, Avery! Please try the recipes and let us know how they turned out : )