Asheville cooking instructor celebrates ‘made-from-scratch’ life

Barbara Swell's apple, cranberry and caramel dumpling pie. Photo courtesy of Barbara Swell

A recent story in Our State magazine by Durham, N.C., writer Christina Cooke focuses on the efforts of Asheville cooking instructor Barbara Swell to celebrate and preserve old-time recipes and cooking methods. Cooke also highlights Swell’s belief in the importance of gathering around a table and eating together without distraction.

When she was a girl, Barbara Swell would watch her grandmother Maudie bake sugar cookies, pumpkin raisin cookies, string beans, and chicken and biscuits in her sunlit West Virginia kitchen.

As the older woman cooked, always by instinct rather than recipe, Swell would take notes in a small notebook her mother had given her for that purpose, recording details like when to sift in the flour and how much was in a “pinch,” along with bits of grandmotherly wisdom.

“She had a made-from-scratch life,” Swell says, recalling Maudie’s homesteading ways. “She was my inspiration for hominess, making do, and doing it myself.”

Swell never lost the pioneer spirit she developed by her grandmother’s side. For the past decade, in fact, she has spread it to the world, offering old-time cooking classes from the 1930s log cabin on her five-acre property in Asheville.

The full story is here. Swell’s work with the Appalachian Food Storybank and her recipes for apple, cranberry and caramel dumpling pie and buttermilk skillet cornbread are featured in this Xpress story from November 2014.

About Gina Smith
Gina Smith is the Mountain Xpress Food section editor and writer. She can be reached at

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