Rita Forrester, granddaughter of A. P. and Sara Carter, is the executive director of the Carter Family Fold. Her mother, Janette Carter, established the Fold in 1974 as a tribute to her father, A. P., who asked her to carry on the family’s musical legacy. For thirty years, Janette welcomed friends, family, and strangers to her hometown of Hiltons, Virginia, communing with them over food and song. She sang every song as if it were the first time, and she cooked as if she were at home, making cornbread, soup beans, and homemade cakes to feed the pilgrims who traveled so far to reach the Fold. When Janette passed away in 2006, Rita saw it as her duty to try to fill her mother’s shoes—a big job, to be sure, but Rita is, after all, her mother’s daughter. Every Saturday night, Rita welcomes people to the Fold with some words about her family, and then she sits in with the band to sing from the Carter Family songbook. Afterwards, she retreats to the kitchen, where she makes sure the cornbread is done, the soup beans are hot, and the cake is sliced and ready to serve. Almost all of the food served at the Fold is made from Carter Family recipes. Rita is committed not only to carrying on her family’s musical legacy, but celebrating their culinary legacy, as well. To her, it’s all connected.
Date of interview:
February 21, 2009