It’s not a stretch to say that at this moment, Virginia can lay claim to one of the most recognized home cooks in America.
Now (and this surely doesn’t come as breaking news to many of our readers), the Commonwealth happens to be super-well-endowed with ace kitchen wizards who pursue their wizardry without seeking fame or fortune. And that was certainly the case for one Linda Skeens for a very long while—only now she’s an honest-to-goodness viral sensation, a multiple-time guest of the TODAY Show, and soon to be a published cookbook author.
There’s a decent chance you’ve heard of Linda by this point, thanks to a star turn at the 2022 Virginia-Kentucky District Fair. It was there, last June, that this self-described “Appalachian grandmother” from Russell County absolutely swept the Baked Goods category, winning every place in the “Cakes,” “Pies,” “Cookies,” “Brownies,” “Savory Bread,” “Sweet Bread,” and “Candy” divisions.
And that didn’t even account for all of Linda’s almost ridiculous success at the “VaKy” Fair, given her total ribbon haul also included some winnings in the Canned Foods category as well as Embroidery and Wall Décor.
This sort of thing was not particularly new for Linda, who’s been amassing ribbons at fairs and other competitions for decades while reliably wowing her family and friends in the culinary department. But her downright crushing Baked Goods domination last year happened to whip the Internet into a frenzy: inspiring songs, T-shirts, and online campaigns focused on finding out just who this county-fair boss is.
Linda, who doesn’t use social media, was utterly unaware of all this commotion. Her daughter and granddaughter clued her in, and before you knew it, she was wowing the TODAY presenters with a tasty confectionary spread. Appearances on The Kelly Clarkson Show, National Public Radio, and other outlets followed in turn.
Well, now the whole world can learn some of this veteran home cook’s tricks of the trade thanks to Linda’s soon-to-be-released, first-ever cookbook: Blue Ribbon Kitchen: Tips From America’s Favorite County Fair Champion.
The book features 30-plus of Linda’s legitimately prize-winning creations, from Buttermilk Biscuits With Pumpkin Butter to Piña Colada Fudge, plus dozens of other tried-and-true family recipes of both sweet and savory descriptions, many lovingly passed down from her mother and grandmother. (Her personal favorite, as TODAY notes, is not a baked good at all, by the way: It’s Parmesan Chicken.)
The cookbook—set to drop in early June and available for preorder now—sounds like it’ll be a wonderful showcase for old-time, country-style Virginia cookery and classic comfort foods reminiscent of those unpretentious, hidden-gem recipe collections that churches and civic groups put out. (We admit to being hardcore fans thereof.)
Indeed, Linda’s Blue Ribbon Kitchen demonstrates how essential stories, family tradition, and memories are to food-making and eating; her recipes come interwoven with her own reminiscences, not to mention some of the original poems she’s long composed.
We had the privilege of talking to Linda not long ago and asked her advice for anyone looking to achieve similar success down at the local county fair. “Do your very best,” she told us, “and hope for the best.” Now that’s pretty darn solid counsel for life in general, wouldn’t you say?