To quote Mrs. Waltine Eubanks, “if they were not coming to fill their bellies with good food, then they were coming to fill their hearts with love.” This sentiment of food as a vehicle for community and fulfillment is a common theme among the Highland Descendant community. For many, the kitchen, not the living room, is the gathering place of the home. Such is shown through many of the interviews with various descendant members, but especially in the case of Mr. Francis Scott and his experience with canning. He talked about how canning was a foundational experience in his childhood where his family, specifically his mother, would preserve the goods that they would grow in their own garden. That practice that he learned with his mother decades ago is something that he carries onto this day, even using his parents’ old equipment. Mr. Scott’s story truly speaks to how important those memories are to his core values as a person.
The idea of the kitchen as a central gathering place was first mentioned by the Saylors, who described the kitchen in their family home: it was not only a place to learn how to cook, but where they picked up valuable life lessons. Angel Saylor and Jennifer Stacy would go into the kitchen to spend time with their grandmother and learn from her. Their grandmother’s entire day was structured around preparing food for the family, so they had to be in the kitchen to spend quality time with her. These stories reveal that the kitchen’s sole purpose was not only to provide food for the family—it is also viewed as a space for comfort and community.
For the Saylors, procuring food often became acts of celebration and togetherness. Sometimes the methods of gathering food from the garden or helping to hunt were bonding experiences, and not seen only as hard work. The Saylors often went into the garden to help their father or grandfather gather green beans, or whatever vegetables were being harvested. Angel recalls going back inside and stealing some of the green beans their older sister Jennifer had already picked, so that she and her younger sister could resume playing. While the siblings may have tried to get out of doing work, the communal tasks involved with gardening reveal how the identity of their family was intertwined with that of food itself. This speaks directly to a common thread throughout the Highland Descendant community, that food and family are deeply intertwined.
While the kitchen was often a space of tradition, many descendants also revealed a connection between food and family through innovation. The Moorheads describe how they keep traditions alive by constantly innovating upon them to fit modern, health-conscious needs. For example, they talk about taking established recipes for fried chicken or fried fish, and baking them instead. The Moorheads explain how they continue with traditional methods of cooking for special occasions and holidays, but have learned to adapt for everyday meals. Thus, innovation is a unique way for the descendants to interact with the kitchen and its bonds to their families.