A down-home Southern cook who went supremely viral over the summer will soon be able to place her own book right next to the pile of blue ribbons she has placed on her shelf.
TODAY Food can exclusively reveal that Linda Skeens, the 74-year-old grandmother who achieved a country fair blue ribbon sweep and subsequent internet glory is writing her first book. Her jams, desserts, cornbread and more are being immortalized in the pages of her own recipe book, “Blue Ribbon Kitchen: Recipes & Tips from America’s Favorite County Fair Champion,” set to come out summer 2023.
For those unfamiliar with Skeens’s recent rise to fame, this past June, at the VaKy Fair (a county fair comprised of Wise County in Virginia and Letcher County in Kentucky), a Facebook post showing all the winners of the fair’s many cooking and homemaking categories went viral for containing one key name: Linda Skeens. She dominated the Baked Goods category, won many of the spots in Canned Foods and even placed in non-kitchen categories in Embroidery and Wall Décor as well.
In beating her competition and achieving internet virality, scoring an appearance on TODAY and “The Kelly Clarkson Show” with a still-fervent fanbase, Skeens is taking the next step on her year of culinary awesomeness and becoming a published author.
“I just have always liked cooking and my mom is a real good cook,” Linda Skeens told TODAY Food, on the phone with her daughter and social media helper Cathy Johnson. “But actually when I got married — 58 years, next month — I couldn’t cook anything. I learned on my own and I just liked to cook. I enjoy doing it.”
Skeens, a Russell County, Virginia native, is happy that her first-ever published collection of recipes and family stories will include more than 30 of her prize-winning recipes like her Peach-Raspberry Jam, Jalapeño Salsa, Buttermilk Biscuits with Pumpkin Butter, Pineapple Zucchini Bread, Piña Colada Fudge and more, including many other canned recipes, something the new author hopes will revive a dying art.
“I actually hope a lot of people will want to start canning again, baking again and doing crafts because that’s dying,” Skeens said. “Now, there’s not a lot of people except ones my age that still can stuff. Most young people don’t know what you’re talking about, so I hope people will take from the book and want to do it more.”
Skeens’ upcoming recipe book will also include more than 70 other family-favorite dishes she said she’s held dear from her mother and grandmother, including Oven-Fried Green Tomatoes, Molasses Cake, Slow Cooker Cabbage Rolls, Fried Catfish with Tartar Sauce, Loaded Red Potato Casserole and many more.
Her daughter chimed in with her personal favorite recipe as well.
“Lasagna. That’s all I ask for for my birthday every year,” Johnson told TODAY, adding that the key to her mother’s recipe is the homemade tomato sauce. “Keep the cake, keep the ice cream, keep the gifts. Give me my lasagna.”
Skeens said her personal favorite recipe is her Parmesan Chicken, a recipe she said she plans on including in the book. When TODAY asked her what her husband’s favorite recipe was, he could be heard shouting “Everything!” from another room. Good man.
Skeens has also started a TikTok account, sharing her home life and cooking process online for the first time ever. Operating as @lindaskeensblueribbon, the Appalachian grandmother is already up to over 45,000 followers since launching Sept. 23. Her first recipe video on the account, a video where she shows how to make pinwheel fudge, garnered nearly 400,000 views over the weekend.
As to how Skeens is handling her newfound fame, she’s still getting used to being recognized. In fact, she had her own diva moment just this past weekend.
“We went to a cruise-in which is sort of like a car show this past Saturday, and about 40 or 50 people came up to me,” Skeens said, adding that they all called her a celebrity and wanted their picture taken with her. “They wanted an autograph and it was crazy.”
Still, Skeens is nothing but happy and appreciative of the attention her recipes are getting, and hopes that people become inspired to cook and spend time with family by making the hearty recipes she is including.
“I’ve always wanted to do a cookbook and I never had the opportunity till now,” she shared. “I just want to thank all the people that’ve been following me and talking to me because it means a lot to me. I don’t do Facebook, but I read everything that people put on there — my daughter makes sure of it. I appreciate it all.”