As Appalachian food becomes a hip new trend in the culinary world, 100 Days in Appalachia’s food and culture editor Mike Costello has seen a growing disconnect between what he knows to be Appalachian food versus how the rest of the world perceives it.

Appalachian cuisine has been depicted as deep-fried and unhealthy comfort meals, but the truth of the region is trending food preparations like pickling, fermenting and cooking meals over open fire are the true history of the region. This disconnect reflects just one of many misconceptions surrounding Appalachia, according to Costello.

Costello spoke about the issue on a recent episode of The Fifty One podcast, as well as food access and the complex politics involved in it.

With the narrative emerging that people without access to food should just grow their own, Costello said the oversimplification of the issue does not take into account the lack of land, knowledge and ability to grow, harvest, preserve and prepare one’s own food, but he hopes there can be a conversation centered around how to pass on that knowledge between people inside the region rather than “do-gooders from the outside.”

“We’ve been used to the outside world stepping in and telling us the way we’re doing it is wrong,” Costello said. “I’d like to see us shift away from that model and shift a little bit more toward a model where we’re creating champions and we’re creating heroes in those communities of people that are already there and already doing these things…that are really rooted in place and in tradition and have a sense of pride around them.”

Listen to the conversation with host Amy Westervelt below.

The Fifty One is presented by DAME magazine and produced and distributed by Critical Frequency. The podcast takes a different national issue each season and works with local reporters and sources to explore what that issue looks like in communities across the country. Its first season is focused on food insecurity, and in this episode host Amy Westervelt talks to 100 Days in Appalachia’s Mike Costello about food access in Appalachia and various efforts to reclaim and elevate the region’s foodways. 

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This article was originally published by 100 Days in Appalachia, a nonprofit, collaborative newsroom telling the complex stories of the region that deserve to be heard. Sign up for their weekly newsletter here.