14. Cornbread, Baked in Cast Iron the Way God Intended

12 Jan

If you’ve never lived in the South, chances are you’ve never eaten cornbread. Maybe you’ve ordered “cornbread” at a barbeque joint or some Southern-style restaurant, but nine times out of ten, you’ll get something that ought to be called “corncake.”

On line for dinner at a writers conference years ago, I noticed they were serving sweet cornbread. (And, yes, you can tell the difference just by looking at it.) The girl in front of me said, “that’s not cornbread; that’s YANKEE PONE.” And that’s what I’ve called it ever since.

When I was little, my mom made cornbread in a special pan so that it looked like little sticks of corn. Later, she moved on to the simpler cast iron skillet. This made the cornbread easier to butter, but the sticks were just so cute. However, neither of these iterations of cornbread contained a single teaspoon of sugar. And they were both made with self-rising white cornmeal, which I’ve yet to find outside the South.

My mom was never one to use a recipe when it came to making bread-like items, namely biscuits and cornbread. The one time she did follow a recipe – a three page one for my aunt tommie’s croissants – she swore she would never do it again. Her croissants were flat as folks used to think the earth was, but still they tasted pretty good.

I tried watching my mom to see if I could duplicate her recipes, and imagine my surprise upon finding that the secret ingredient to cornbread is bacon grease. (And people wonder why I’m leery of bringing my vegetarian with vegan tendencies boyfriend home with me.) Not only are all the vegetables seasoned with meat, turns out the bread is too.

Over the years, I’ve developed an appreciation for what passes as cornbread around these parts. Especially the mix they sell at Trader Joe’s. Though now that I have publicly declared this, they will probably discontinue the product. Still, no matter how yummy sweet cornbread can be, it just doesn’t go with chicken ‘n dumplings. Which I suppose is irrelevant considering how rarely one stumbles across chicken ‘n dumplings in the Pacific Northwest.

2 Responses to “14. Cornbread, Baked in Cast Iron the Way God Intended”

  1. Julie January 14, 2010 at 7:02 pm #

    When I was little my mom had a special pan that made corn bread in the shape of catfish. I LOVED catfish shaped cornbread. Like your mom, mine eventually abandoned the catfish pan for the skillet claiming that the catfish pan “was too hard to clean”. Tragic.


  1. 34. Grits: It’s What’s for Breakfast « stuff southern people like - November 6, 2012

    […] 2. Southerners do not add sugar to grits. I can’t really explain this because Southerners tend to have raging sweet teeth, but some things are just meant to be savory. See cornbread. […]

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