Saturday, March 11, 2017

_The Hancock News_ Column--March 8, 2017

I grew up in West Virginia, and I’m proud of my heritage. But when I was young, once in a while I did feel self-conscious about my home.

For example, when I visited my family on the west coast, I often met new people who, upon hearing I was from West Virginia, immediately looked at my feet. I always assumed they were checking to see if my hillbilly self was wearing shoes.

Maybe I was oversensitive and imagining all of that. But I did not make up my aunts and uncles teasing me about my accent. That was real, and in my travels out-of-state, I met up with many others who commented on my way of talking.

Several years later, my self-consciousness about how I talked caused me to pick Latin in college over the French I’d studied for three years in high school. I figured the professor might not appreciate my French accent with an Appalachian twist. I knew Latin was a dead language, and I wouldn’t be required to converse in it.

So that is why I didn’t learn to speak a second language until recently. Now I am quite fluent in baby talk, and, boy, am I thankful. My sweet little daughter jabbers at lightning speed sometimes. Please allow me to translate for you.

Many of Anna’s words are almost the same or identical to what we say in English-- apple, cracker, cookie, and eat. Perhaps her favorite word is the emphatic, “No!”

“Bonk!” means that she just bumped her head, sometimes on purpose so she can say, “Bonk!” “Up” means that she wants picked up. However, “Da-da” can also mean she wants to be picked up, or, more obviously, it can mean Daddy.

“Be-be” is what she calls the baby dolls she drags around. “Na-na,” accompanied by a finger-shake, is what she says accusingly when her brother naughtily steals one of those be-bes away. A heavy panting noise with her tongue hanging out means she’s telling you about Calvin, our dog.

“Pant-pant na-na be-be bonk!” means Calvin is naughty because he whacked her with his tail and caused her to drop a doll and fall down and hit her head.

However, she still lacks the words to say, “I am the queen, and I haven’t invited you to look at or speak to me. Remember my superiority.” When she wants to say something along those lines, she scrunches up her nose and puckers up her mouth in a sassy, exaggerated kissy face; I call it her snooty face. And, because she’s my daughter, I like to imagine she snoots with a little bit of hillbilly West Virginia twang.


In our great United States, lines blur between languages and cultures. That’s why a West Virginian (who was born in California and lives in Maryland) can give you a recipe for Mexican pot roast modified from an African-American cookbook.

The original recipe calls for some flour and for browning the meat up on all sides before roasting it, but I simplified it by throwing it in the crockpot as is. I’ve tried it both ways, and I see no difference. Our favorite way to eat this is to shred the meat, spoon a little of the juices over it, and eat it on tacos, but it’s also good served over rice.

Mexican Pot Roast

chuck roast
1 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. salt
2 medium onions
10 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
1 cup water

Combine chili powder, paprika, and salt. Rub mixture all over the roast. Then stud each onion with 5 cloves. Put meat, onions, cinnamon sticks and water in a crockpot and cook on low for 6-8 hours until tender. If you have a chance, turn the roast over after a couple of hours.

Serve meat sliced or shredded with some of the juices spooned over the top.

*This post has been shared at Strangers & Pilgrims on Earth for The Art of Home-Making Monday.


  1. That pot roast sounds great! I love cloves and meat...

    1. It really is delicious. It is also so very easy. I was worried the first time about the cloves and cinnamon, but their flavors are so subtle.