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Regional Reputations

Sometimes where you live can influence the type of person you become, affecting the food you like, the way you speak, and the values you embrace. This can be true of a region or even just a neighborhood. For example, many would say that people in the South stereotypically like country cookin’, speak with a slow twang, and have old-fashioned values. The mountains of Appalachia are known for their dialect and loyalty to family. Kentucky’s cities are sometimes seen to be less friendly and more hurried. The characters in the following books were certainly affected by their surroundings and accompanying stereotypes, some negatively and some in a more positive way.

The women in Ruby River, a novel by Lynn Pruett (Atlantic Monthly Press, $24), are classic examples of this theory. Hattie Bohannon, a widow raising four daughters from age 7 to 21, is the owner of a truck stop in Maridoches, Alabama. She keeps a tighter rein on the goings-on at her business than on those of her three oldest daughters, earning her the scorn of the local church and the town gossips. The bad-girl stereotype filters down to Connie, the 16-year-old, who is called “truck-stop girl” by her over-amorous prom date. The girls seem to be serious under-achievers mostly because that is what the town expects from them. While eye-opening to the effects of such treatment, this racy work is probably not for the easily offended as it contains some graphic language and sexual content.

Jo Anna Holt Watson shares her childhood memoirs of 1940s Versailles, Kentucky, in A Taste of the Sweet Apple (Sarabande Books, $14.95). Watson, the daughter of a doctor, wanted no part of the high-society life and frilly dresses to which her mother and aunts tried to conform her. Instead, she preferred time in the tobacco fields with their farm foreman and her hero, Joe Collins. Collins and the rest of the farm staff became her family, influencing her love of working the land and shaping her personality far more than her aloof parents. Watson proves to be a true storyteller as she paints a picture of a rural farm community, its residents, and its language.

The Southern tradition of good country cookin’ is what you’ll find in Recipes and Remembrances: A Collection of Recipes by Woodford County Woman’s Club (Morris Press, $20). This is the first cookbook published by the club that has been in existence since 1920. More than a collection of recipes, the book includes a “who’s who” list of Woodford County’s historical figures, as well as several early photographs of Versailles landmarks. Particularly interesting is a section of recipes, provided by Kentucky governors from Woodford County, highlighting dishes that were served in the governor’s mansion.

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