SEVERAL MONTHS back, upon unsheathing chef Erin Rowe’s book, An Ozark Culinary History, from its promotional manila sleeve, our eyes went straight to the last two words of the subtitle: “squirrel meatloaf.” Suffice to say, we had … questions. It’s not that we’ve got especially finicky stomachs, nor are we particularly averse to squirrel as a dish (Squirrel Camp is a familiar tradition around these parts). But those words on the cover of a book purporting to explore our region’s culinary roots seemed to play into those less-than-flattering perceptions of how outsiders view this part of the country. So we put it aside—squirreled it away, one might say.

When we got wind that Erin would be putting on a lecture at the Old State House Museum, we remembered the book and pulled it off the shelf. Indeed, we found that recipe for squirrel meatloaf—but even a brief skim through the book’s pages revealed a great deal more. Chapter by chapter, interspersed with recipes for everything from chow-chow to blackberry cobbler, the slim book gradually outlines the process by which so many dishes came to have a place in our broader culinary tradition. “This book,” Erin writes in the opening pages, “is not just a detailing of that change, past to present, but it’s a story about Ozark cuisine, its ingredients and why it exists.”

To read through the recipes printed in Erin’s book—many of which have been sourced from family recipes—whether they’re for dried apples or biscuits and chocolate gravy, is to feel one’s connection with her home rekindled. To eat the food, though: That sets the fire blazing.

(by Randy Brewer)

High-rising heavenly biscuits so good they need a halo!

4 cups self-rising flour
¼ cup canola oil
3 cups milk

Mix ingredients well, and roll out onto a floured board. Cut with a biscuit cutter (or drinking glass) with minimal working of the dough (which toughens it). Place rounds carefully on a baking sheet, and bake at 450 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. These biscuits are great with fried chicken, sausage or chocolate gravy.

Chocolate Gravy

Corrupting heavenly biscuits in the Ozarks since the early 1900s!

4 cups milk

¾ cup sugar

¼ cup cocoa

½ cup flour

Dash of salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon butter

Heat milk over low heat, and mix dry ingredients together. Add them to the milk, and cook until thick. Add the vanilla and butter. Pour over hot baked biscuits or pancakes. Ain’t life sweet? Sure is … in the Ozarks!

Erin’s Brown Bag Lecture takes place at noon March 8 at the Old State House Museum. BYO squirrel meatloaf. For more info, go to