Cornbread is not cake!
“The North thinks it knows how to make cornbread, but this is a gross superstition. Perhaps no bread in the world is quite as good as Southern corn bread, and perhaps no bread in the world is quite as bad as the Northern imitation of it.” Mark Twain
If you know me, you know I have a thing about cornbread. I like cornbread, I always have. I will eat it with almost any meal, but it is best of course with the quintessential dish, beans and cornbread. Now most of you think of the beans in this equation as pinto beans. I like pinto beans and have eaten them most of my life but for the past several years I have switched over to white beans, namely the Great Northern variety. But I digress, we are here to talk about cornbread.
You would think that with something as simple as cornbread, taking about it would be simple as well. Well, evidently it is not. Cornbread, you see, is wonderful in its simplicity. What could be simpler than a “quick bread” consisting mainly of cornmeal, maybe some baking powder, milk or buttermilk, an egg if you are so inclined, some bacon grease or lard, and a hot iron skillet? When we delve into learning about the history of this uniquely American dish, we are told the Native Indians made this bread originally with ground corn and the Europeans that came later quickly adopted this delicious bread.
The simple form of cornbread was said to be cooked on everything from the flat surface of a garden hoe to the bayonets of Civil War soldiers. We have come a long way since then and so has cornbread. I am an acolyte of the pure form of cornbread, the one true cornbread. It does not rise very high in the pan/skillet, it is tasty, has a scrumptious aroma, and is just slightly you might say on the greasy side. It has some crunch, mostly from the bottom and sides, but not too much. It is done in the center but not overdone and dry. This nirvana of cornbreadness, the ultimate goal of all who toil to reach this plateau of enlightenment, also has some things that it never, never, ever, has baked within its lofty goodness. I would maybe permit some flour to be used in the equation, (even though I don’t) but there is one thing that can never be allowed in cornbread under my roof.
That’s right, that demon of sweetness, sugar, should never be allowed into the halls of your cornbread. It is just not, uh… simply not…. well, you just don’t do it! Now I know there are a lot of very nice ladies out there who are wonderful cooks, (maybe even a few guys) that put that awful sugar in their cornbread. These ladies are three times the cook I could ever hope to be, but you are just going to have to stop that, like today!
“I am an acolyte of the pure form of cornbread, the one true cornbread.”
I have heard that this atrocity is more prevalent north of the Mason Dixon Line (note the Mark Twain quote above) but I am not sure. Perish the thought but I believe this could be going on in a few households in Dixie. (shudder) Now I want to be clear here, I did not start this sermon to drift into the old north and south thing…. that horse has been reduced to dry dust from all the beating. But there can be no doubt that cornbread is thought of as a southern delicacy.
To put a finer point on it I am acting like the self-appointed Grand Master of cornbread, but my neck of the woods, West Virginia, in the heart of the Appalachians is not considered the true South to most people. Certainly not by those of the deep south like Alabama and Mississippi. In fact, really most of the country doesn’t know what to do with those of us in the Mountain State. The North thinks we are southern, most of the South doesn’t claim us, and both sides just seem to want us to sit there and be quiet, unseen, and unheard unless they want to take a whitewater raft trip, go leaf peeping for the fall colors, or maybe make a pilgrimage to find Jesco White. But again, I digress….
I am reaching out to Barbra Baird over at www.womensoutdoornews.com for her views on the cornbread debate. Barbra is an experienced cook and outdoorswoman and I know she will have some interesting insight in the realm of cornbread. And that brings me to something we should have done a long time ago here on Guns and Cornbread.
We would like to see your cornbread recipes! Write up how you make America’s bread, it doesn’t matter if you are north, south, east, west. If you do one of those conglomerations where you put jalapenos, creamed corn, and who knows what all in it, OK. We will even allow (shudder) and post recipes which include the use of sugar! (I know, hard to believe) Just send those recipes so we may compare what you guys are doing out there……who knows, we may even learn something.
So be thorough in your recipe description, what is the temp of your oven, do you use the cast iron skillet or something else, what kind or brand of cornmeal do you use, (I of course like Martha White cornmeal in honor of Flatt and Scruggs) I know my squirrel dog buddy Kevin Murphy over at www.smallgamenation.co/ uses another brand of cornmeal but I can’t think of what that is right now. Kevin, we would like to hear your thoughts on making cornbread as well.
How do you prepare the skillet before baking, do you use raw cornmeal and add your own baking powder or leavening, how do you test for being done, how do you slice your cornbread? We want it all!
Well, this should be good, please consider getting back to us with those recipes, and I hope we don’t spark too many cornbread rivalries over methods and ingredients!
Cornbread as you know is serious business!
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