Cookbook review: Smoky Mountain flavors inspired by a theme park

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

‘The Unofficial Dollywood Cookbook: From Frannie’s Famous Fried Chicken Sandwiches to Grist Mill Cinnamon Bread, 100 Delicious Dollywood-Inspired Recipes!’ by Erin K. Browne (Adams Media, $22.99)

I often hear of enthusiastic cooks taking notes of what they eat in restaurants in hopes of replicating those dining experiences at home. But I hadn’t thought of theme parks as a source of serious culinary inspiration until I received my copy of “The Unofficial Dollywood Cookbook: From Frannie’s Famous Chicken Sandwiches to Grist Mill Cinnamon Bread, 100 Delicious Dollywood-Inspired Recipes!” (Adams, $22.99).

Its author, Erin K. Browne, is not on the payroll of Dollywood, the 160-acre amusement park which draws some 3 million visitors each season to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Rather, she’s a stay-at-home mom who creates recipes — many copycats of dishes inspired by family trips and pop culture — in her Knoxville kitchen and shares them on her blog, Like Dolly Parton, the park’s superstar co-owner, she reveres her East Tennessee heritage, and views the nearby attraction as her family’s “sanctuary.” She knows the layouts of the 11 themed areas by heart and finds the food offerings within each as thrilling as the roller coasters and musical acts.

Since the park didn’t supply her with recipes, she was on her own to reproduce her favorite taste memories with the tools she had to work with — most found in any kitchen with the possible exceptions of a spiralizer for making Tater Twirls and a high-powered blender for mixing Orange Cream Milkshakes by the batch.

Judging from her effusive prose, her efforts were clearly a labor of love. Dolly Parton’s deep connections to her childhood mountain home are expressed not only visually and musically throughout the park, she writes, “but also culinarily through robust menus filled with storied dishes that are always served with love.”

She illustrates that observation with well-tested interpretations of Country-Fried Steak with White Pepper Gravy served at the Front Porch Cafe, Meatloaf Stackers at Granny Ogle’s Ham n’ Beans cafe in Craftsman’s Alley, and much more organized in chapters ranging from Smoky Mountain Snacks to Back Porch Sips.

For Browne, each conjures a cherished memory of a fun family outing. More than that, they also taste like home.

Susan Puckett is a cookbook author and former food editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow her at

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