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When my friend Tommy Sue offered corn light bread* that she’d baked the day before, I was skeptical and almost chose a commercial bun that came with the carry out barbeque supper. “If you don’t want a bun, here’s some corn light bread I made yesterday.” Cold corn bread? The only way my mother served cold cornbread was crumbled into a glass of milk and eaten with a spoon, which was Sunday night supper. I went along with my girlfriends who also sat around Tommy Sue’s dining room table and I laid a piece of her homemade bread, baked in a loaf pan and sliced like banana bread, on my plate. Slathered with soft butter, it was delicious.

During dinner we college girlfriends discussed how we make and bake cornbread differently. We agreed that it is usually baked in a black skillet and in a hot oven, but Tommy Sue’s mother baked cornbread in a loaf pan and often served it cold. We realized that we bake cornbread like our mothers did. Blondie’s mother told her to remember 2, 2, and 2. *  Two cups of cornmeal, 2 eggs, and 2 cups of buttermilk. Heat ¼ cup oil in a black skillet in a 450° F oven and pour about half the oil in the batter, stir well, and watch the batter sizzle when it’s poured into the skillet.

Jo Ann’s family had milk cows and no milk was ever wasted so her mother used the old milk, no-longer-good-for-drinking-milk, to make cornbread. After baking, she turned the bread onto her tiled countertop and covered it with the skillet until the middle was soft. Friend Alicia learned to heat ½ cup oil in a black skillet and drop spoonfuls of thick batter into the skillet allowing the oil to bubble around each spoonful. After baking, the spoonful-size portions break apart easily. All of us agreed that the best cornbread was baked in hot bacon drippings. Our mothers kept a jar or small crock close to the stove to pour bacon grease into and that was used for cornbread and to season vegetables.

Kathy’s mother always baked plain cornbread to serve with pinto beans, and she made Mexican cornbread to serve with vegetable soup. The mention of Mexican cornbread started a whole new topic. Broccoli Cornbread* is made with Jiffy cornbread mix, butter, eggs, cottage cheese, onions, and chopped frozen broccoli and baked in a 9 x 13 pan. There’s Creamed Corn Cornbread, Zucchini cornbread, and Green Chili Cornbread. I googled cornbread recipes and got 3,950,000 results. That’s more varieties of cornbread than there are black skillets!

After the first column about cornbread, readers have shared their stories. Tricia’s mother was born and raised in Ohio and her Sunday night supper was a one-pan meal. She cooked pork sausage – either patties or crumbled – and then poured cornbread batter into the hot skillet and baked it. Seems like this should be a good Southern dish. I’ve heard about hush puppies, cornbread dressing, spoon bread, hoecakes, Johnny cakes, hot water cornbread, cornbread salad, vegetable spoon bread, and crackling cornbread.

This cornbread saga may not be ended yet. There may be yet another cornbread story.

*Recipes posted http://susanrray.com

 

 

 

 

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One Response

  1. Enjoyed the read, Susan. I agree that cold cornbread is either for putting in milk or saving for dressing. My grandfather told the story that he and his 5 siblings always had in a huge bowl cornbread and milk for Sunday supper. I always envisioned this through the little kittens in my story book lapping from a bowl. Only these were little people with spoons and a tired mama.

    Like

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