Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches

by Dr. Jessie Voigts /
Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture
Oct 08, 2014 / 0 comments

Every once in a while, you come across a book filled with such goodness, love, and kindness that it not only makes you smile, but reminds you of the goodness in your own life and inspires you to work harder at connecting, helping, loving. Such is the case with Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches, written by Renea Winchester. In this book, Winchester shares exactly what the title says - with a twist. It's also a story of a friendship, of a farm (and all the attendant hard work), of growing and nurturing, of recipes and how food connects us, and a way of life in the south that may seem quite foreign to much of the world. It's about giving, and how people come into our lives and change us for the better.


Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches


I love this book - I love the gentle writing of the daily rhythms of working on a small farm, the common sense approach to hard work (any farmgirl will recognize themselves in this book. I did!), the delicious recipes, and the way the book turns real life into such a beautiful story. The book is interspersed with a variety of southern recipes, from quick dishes to canning. If you're not from the south, it's a glimpse into another culture via its food. Photos throughout illustrate the recipes, the garden, and a remarkable friendship. But it's the tenderness of Winchester's writing - and her tales of working alongside and caring about Billy - that turn this book into such a treasure. Highly recommended!

We had a chance to catch up with Winchester, to get the backstory of her book, learn more about Billy, combating urban sprawl, reading, and even a short recipe. Here's what she had to say...


Renea Winchester, author of Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches


Please tell us about your book, Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches...

Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches is the second book I have written about the last farmer in Roswell, Georgia. When eighty-two-year old Farmer Billy and I toured with the first book, In the Garden with Billy, Lessons about Life, Love, and Tomatoes, we fielded a lot of questions about gardening. People also wrongly believed that we ate mainly tomato sandwiches during the summer (although they are quite delicious), Billy pointed out that he preferred a "fried baloney" sandwich, and from there I collected stories and recipes.

Then I attended the Pulpwood Queen gathering (it is the largest book club in the country). It was in Jefferson Texas, at Kitt's Kornbread, where I had a fried bologna sandwich on cornbread. Mercy, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. At that moment I knew the title.


Image from Book Launch of someone enjoying Noemi's Tamales (Chapter 23). From  Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches

Image from Book Launch of someone enjoying Noemi's Tamales (Chapter 23)


Billy is awesome - how does he feel about your books about him?

Billy is awesome. He loves the books because they bring people into his farm at a time when he needs help, or during the lonely winter months. The books have also given him an opportunity to teach the youth of the area that their food doesn't just come from Publix, it is grown in a little strip of country out behind Billy's house.


Urban sprawl and the lack of environmental education are definitely changing how we (especially kids) view the world. Billy's farm is an excellent example of teaching people about hard work, the realities of  food, and caring for our lands. What can readers take away from your book, to implement in their own lives?

My hope is that readers will realize how easy it is to grow fresh vegetables. Even in small spaces, there is room for a couple tomato plants and a cucumber vine. As my dear friend, Katherine Nordling once said, "pull up a weed and plant a seed."


Let's talk food! Oh, the recipes. What are your and Billy's favorites?

Oh dear, what a difficult question. Many of the recipes come from people who are very special to me, so asking for my favorite is difficult. There are so many: Friendship tea, Dilly Beans, "Kilt Lettuce," Linda Kaye's Bacon. Each trigger a memory of happy times spent with loved ones.


Linda Kay's Bacon (aka hog jowl). One slice and then chopped. From Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches

Linda Kay's Bacon (aka hog jowl). One slice and then chopped (above and below)

Linda Kay's Bacon (aka hog jowl). One slice and then chopped. From Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches


Kil't Lettuce and Onions

reprinted with permission

1 head of store bought lettuce, or 1 colander full of fresh-picked lettuce (not iceberg)
1 large bunch of green onions, chopped
1/4 c olive oil

Wash lettuce, then chop and drain on paper towel. Place lettuce in a glass bowl. Add chopped green onions on top of lettuce. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Do not toss.

Pour olive oil in a cast iron skillet and heat until oil almost begins to smoke. Once oil is very hot, pout it on top of lettuce to "kill it." Toss and serve immediately with cornbread.


What's up next for you?

I am still touring with events scheduled in North Carolina and Georgia. I am scheduled teach creative writing workshops at Georgia's Red Clay Conference in October, and in between those classes, I edit manuscripts for emerging authors through my company, Make Your Mark Publishing. In the quiet times, I listen to the characters in my first novel, Outbound Train. I hide in the bushes and write down what I see. Carole Anne, Granny Pearlene, and Barbara are three incredible women. I can't wait for readers to meet them in the future.


Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches


Is there anything else you'd like to share?

I want to take a moment to stress the importance of reading. Now, more than even, authors are struggling. Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches is a labor of love, an investment of two years. So I challenge readers to do more than enjoy the book, please tell others about Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches. This book is about the community that once was, and that can be again if we make the investment. It is a celebration of hard-working folk across the US who survived on peanut butter and baloney.


Cornmeal. From Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches



I've also begun a promotion I call the "Recipe Challenge." Melissa, a reader from Massachusetts, suggested I ask readers to make a recipe from the book and either take a photo or video, of both my book and the food (or beverage) they chose to try. Next, they should challenge their friends to buy the book and try a recipe. Tag their friend, themselves, and me and share the images. I want to  create a movement of readers sharing their favorite parts of the book, and encouraging their friends and family to support Independent Booksellers, and of course, buy my book.


Onion Soup. From Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches

Onion Soup


Obviously, I am going to challenge several readers to try the "Dope in a Bottle" on page 17. Especially readers like my Yankee friend Melissa.

The Recipe Challenge is a fun way for readers to try new food, and come together as a community of foodies and readers. But the best part is that at the end of October, I will give away a gift basket with goodies from the farm, a copy of both books, and a book bag made from Billy's recycled overalls to one random reader who has shared an image of my book and recipe on Facebook.

So let me begin with you Jessie: I hereby challenge you to make a new recipe out of the book, take a picture of it beside a copy of Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches, and challenge three of your friends (or more).


Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches


Learn more at:
In the Garden Facebook






Note - we received a review copy from the author - thank you!