A Study in Asheville

  • In Asheville (and especially in Pack Square, shown here), the boundaries between art, nature, and city life are blurred.
  • In Asheville, people are never afraid to stand up for what they believe in. This crowd of people is only a fraction of those who turned up for the March for Science—and this crowd is, in turn, only the aftermath.
  • Even the businesses join hands with the protesters in solidarity!
  • The Basilica of St. Lawrence stands tall and proud amongst the more modern buildings of downtown—the strongest example of the architectural diversity of the city.
  • One of the many stunning views from the nearby Blue Ridge Parkway.
  • Of course, being in the mountains, Asheville and the Blue Ridge Parkway always boast the best views in fall.
  • Many of the places along the Blue Ridge Parkway, such as the Little Switzerland Tunnel, exude something...else. Something almost revelatory in its solitude.
  • If you're a student at UNC Asheville, you need look no farther than your own backyard to see the beauty of nature; the Botanical Gardens back right up to the dorms on campus.
  • This sculpture in Pritchard Park is only one of many art fixtures installed throughout downtown, another example being a giant iron for which people will occasionally knit sweaters. Why? We don't need a reason here; that's the beauty of it.
  • If you're wandering the streets, chances are you'll run into the Pubcycle. Asheville and the surrounding area is famous for its craft breweries, and oftentimes if you find yourself annoyed by the music coming from this tourist contraption it'll quickly dissipate when you see the smiles on everyone's faces.
  • Asheville is a city of the arts, and as this mission statement from Kress Emporium states, the arts are meant to be shared.
  • Just one type of art from one artist that can be found in the nooks and crannies around downtown Asheville.
  • You never know what sort of creation you're going to find downtown, but you can be sure that someone poured their heart and soul into it.
  • Each of the artists and merchants have their own unique aesthetics.
  • The photographers in Asheville are incredibly talented—and of course, there's no end of scenery to capture.
  • Even if you aren't looking to buy anything, you can be sure that you'll find the most random types of art where you least expect them.
  • Even the buildings in downtown Asheville seem to have their own distinct personalities.
  • You can't go two steps downtown without hearing music. This group, the Carolina Catskins, plays swing music with a distinct Southern Appalachian twist that you're sure not to find anywhere else.
  • Downtown, older architecture mingles with the new. Not shown: the fancy Wells Fargo building immediately to the left, or Breakout (escape rooms) immediately to the right.
  • Biltmore Estate, one of the flagships of the Asheville area.
  • A portion of the Biltmore Gardens, open to the public.
  • Hidden gems like this can be found all throughout Biltmore Gardens.
  • A side view of Biltmore Estate.

Asheville, simply put, is a kaleidoscope, and for the both of us, our home. With every step taken through the streets of downtown, it is impossible not to note the many different forms that the arts take—the multiple styles of architecture, the street music floating between the buildings, the countless murals, and the merchant artists, just to name a few. The beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway and the awe-inspiring Biltmore Estate have drawn people to Asheville for decades, because few other places in the world can boast that they make art feel alive like we can here. This mountain city is a truly unique place where the urban melds seamlessly into the rural; the city is beautiful and flawed and unique in that it is proud of both.

Arching over all of this, of course, is an incredibly strong sense of community. The people here are unafraid to stand up for each other, protecting the freedom of expression that makes Asheville so great. Especially downtown, any visitor can tell that the lines between art, nature, and city life are blurred to the extent that they can no longer be separated. The residents thrive on it, saturating the city with welcoming laughter which tourists often can’t help but join.

In our studies with the cookbooks, we understand now how not just the sharing of food, but the recording of recipes helps create the connections and atmosphere that we see in Asheville. Food is more than sustenance, it is an expression of love, family, and culture-especially here in the South.  In order to expand our project and fully connect ourselves to that we studied, we decided that we wanted to examine the role of cookbooks and food in this unique community.  Our city possesses a personality that shines through its buildings, its events, its environment, its people, and especially its food. We discovered that the cookbooks and staples of Southern Appalachia are more than just one part to a whole; they represent a culture in and of itself, and here we wanted to look at those same connections on a local, less abstract backdrop.

Photo Credits: Slideshow-Kinsey Danzis, 2017; Header-Kyle Noel, 2015.