Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2017 - 71
Carolyn Carter of Rockford General Store in Dobson,
North Carolina, presents a dish of sonker not long out
of the oven.
their families, too. Johnson and Reynolds went to a class for small-business
owners, scraped their money together,
and opened the restaurant, first on
busy Highway 89. It has since moved to
downtown Mount Airy.
"If you were to come to my house,
you could find just about everything that
we've got on our menu," Johnson tells us.
"Stew beef, meatloaf, country-style steak.
I'm a simple Southern cook." Sonker fits
her philosophy and her schedule perfectly. "I don't have to spend half a day making a cake or a pie," she says. Sonker is on
the menu at the Down Home Restaurant
Sonker is always served warm. "That's
when it shines," Johnson adds. Some
cooks prepare what is called a dip to accompany the sonker. It is usually made
of milk or half-and-half, sweetened with
sugar and flavored with vanilla extract
and served warm. The sonker bakers we
talked to never thicken theirs. In some
kitchens, cornstarch and even eggs are
occasionally used as thickeners, but most
sonker dips are not that involved. Gussy-
ing would run contrary to the dessert's
"It's a poor person's dessert," Johnson asserts. "If you lived in Mount
Airy, you grew up eating sonker. Maybe
not the elite city folks, but we country
folks sure did."
Sonker ingredients and procedures
may be simple, but the lineage is profound and far-reaching. Long before the
advent of wheat flour, Native Americans
combined cornmeal "doughs" with berries. Sonker, too, is clearly influenced by
the pie-making traditions of the British
Isles. And New World sweet potatoes
connected African American cooks in
North Carolina back to the yams of their
Three continents converge to bring
bowls of warm, milk-soaked sweet potato sonker to North Carolina's tables. It's
a sugary symbol of Southern ingenuity
in Surry County.
Fred and Jill Sauceman study and celebrate the foodways of Appalachia and the
South from their home base in Johnson City,
THE FOLK SCHOOL
Engaging hands and hearts since 1925. Come enjoy making crafts and
good friends on 300 natural, scenic acres in western North Carolina.
JOHN C. CAMPBELL FOLK SCHOOL
September/October 2017 71