Skip the ‘possum, but go for the chicken

Chicken ‘n’ dumplin’s, beans ‘n’ taters, ‘possum and peanut butter fudge.

When Loretta Lynn married Oliver “Doolittle” Lynn at age 13, she wasn’t much of a cook.

“He threw out everything I cooked for at least three months,” she writes in her cookbook, “You’re Cookin’ It Country” (Rutledge Hill Press, $24.99).

“The first time I tried to make chicken and dumplings for Doo, they wasn’t too good,” she writes.

In the book, she tells of her first efforts at cooking, modeling her dishes on those her mother made. When she was growing up in eastern Kentucky as one of eight children, pickings were slim, so mostly she learned to cook “beans and taters and taters and beans.”

Today, she’s mastered those chicken and dumplings, especially when she is cooking for company, as she did for friend and music collaborator Jack White of The White Stripes when he came to Nashville, Tenn., to work on her new album, “Van Lear Rose.”

“That time, they came out great,” she says. “I had green beans and a salad and I made homemade bread. He really loved that bread.”

“You’re Cookin’ It Country” is more than a collection of 150 of her family’s favorite country recipes: Between recipes, Lynn shares stories of her times in the kitchen. You can almost hear her voice as she describes her family, the memories of people in her life and the experiences she had growing up in Kentucky.

She reminisces about famous people she’s known, including her last conversation with the late June Carter Cash and the stewed rabbit Patsy Cline loved so much.

Some of the recipes, such as roasted ‘possum, might not find their way to your dinner table, but the story about how her mom would go out and set traps and “track them dadgum animals down” will pull you into Lynn’s life story.

She writes, “I know people will holler, but ‘possum was my daddy’s favorite dish. If they lived where I lived, they would think it was a great dish, too.”

Other recipes, including her country-fried cream corn and chicken and dumplings, are about as traditionally Southern as you can get.

Then there’s her peanut butter fudge.

“I was probably 11 or 12 the first time I ever tasted peanut butter,” she writes. “I thought it was the greatest thing God ever made.

“I still love peanut butter. I like to put peanut butter in candy and cakes and stuff like that, that I make.

“My kids don’t think it’s special, but I do. I imagine it’s from the time when I was a kid.”

Regardless of whether you cook from this book, by the time you read the stories and enjoy the photos of Lynn’s life, you will feel like this legend in the world of country music is an old friend.

Published in the Asbury Park Press 9/29/04