Charles Lytton's first understanding and appreciation of cooking food came from his grandmother. Her house was cold and drafty in the winter. As he puts it, You could throw a cat through the cracks around the closed windows. With characteristic language that is at once simple and colorful he creates a scene that retells the true Appalachian way of life: In the morning, the water dipper was often frozen in the drinking water bucket. Once she started the fire in the cook stove, she put the water bucket to melt the ice and make coffee. The remainder of the hot water got a chip or two of lye soap added. As the cook stove started to get hot, Mamaw began making fresh biscuits for breakfast. The very minute they came out of the oven, she slid the hog's slop bucket over to the oven. Then she pulled open the oven door and let it rest on the top of the slop bucket. She placed a dishtowel on the oven door, and I set down. Fat little boys get cold easy, she'd say. This here is how I kept your daddy and uncles from freezing to death on cold mornings. Fried eggs, fried meat, hot biscuits and coffee were on the way. This is how he started every day of his young life. As he describes in story after story and recipe after recipe, the people on River Ridge wasted thing, ate everything and never once went hungry. In words as warm as hot biscuits, this author invites his readers to join him on the oven door. As he says, It was a hell of a place to start growing up and watch cooking and learn to appreciate the style unique to River Ridge. This is how I got to be so big and right manly developed.
Growing up on River Ridge in Southwest Virginia, Charles Lytton enjoyed the New River right out the back door and a very large and colorful family. In his early childhood, he listened to and was educated by the stories told by the old men who lived them in Long Shop at Tom Long's store. He began his working life on a large farm in Whitethorn, VA, and studies in Rhode Island and Tennessee before returning to Virginia Tech for undergraduate and graduate degrees. Charles is a storyteller in the oral tradition so often attributed to Appalachia.