The proof is in the Cornbread

Growing up I don’t think we ever had a bag of cornmeal in the house. I knew what it was and that you used it to make cornbread, but I am not sure where I learned that from. It may have been from watching PBS cooking shows as a kid. Yes, I was that kid. I still am. I love cooking shows and some cooking competitions, but not all. I love the Great British Baking Show. I think it shows real creativity, passion, and they pull from their experience or just go on their intuition when they don’t really know what something is. I don’t know if I could ever be a contestant on something like that.

I do love cornbread. I prefer it over any other bread or cake…. if it is good. By good I mean that it can’t be dry, crumbly, or tough. It needs to have good flavor, just holds together, have a crunchy top and sides, but be tender inside, and it needs to soak up butter. I have tried many recipes just to end up with bad or just ok cornbread. It takes a very good cornmeal too.

Growing up, mom would have boxes of Jiffy in the cabinet. Mostly they were cornbread mixes, but sometimes we would have a cake mix or something. Usually for cakes mom would use a Betty Crocker cake mix or occasionally she would get out her cookbook and make a Chiffon or Marble cake.

If you have never used a Jiffy Cornbread Mix, you should. Just to say you have. It makes a sweet tender cornbread. It’s a little cake’y, but I kinda like it. I’ve not used one in years. Maybe I’ll try one again this winter. Making cornbread from scratch is pretty easy though. If you search for a recipe, you will find a good variety of them. It’s kind of like looking for a biscuit recipe. Everybody’s grandmother made the best and all the recipes were different. I might post my recipe, but not yet. I want to work on a couple to add to my cookbook and right now I just have my Brown Butter Cornbread recipe.

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Mary also used Jiffy Cornbread Mix and she made cornbread a couple of times a week. She and Charlie always had a bread on the table with supper. Sometimes it was just slices of white bread, but there was always bread. Mary would eat hers with her meal, but she always saved just a little bit for dessert. She had the tiniest little jelly glass that would sit by her plate with some milk or buttermilk in it. She would pour it before she sat down for supper, but never drank from it. At the end of her meal, she would make her dessert by crumbling cornbread into the glass and let it sit for a minute while she cleared the table. If they had white bread, she would break up a slice and add just a little sugar to it. She didn’t need to add sugar to the cornbread dessert because the Jiffy mix was pretty sweet already.

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Now, I know there is a debate about sweet or not sweet cornbread and whether it should be white or yellow. Some say that sweet and yellow is “Northern” cornbread and not sweet and white is “Southern”. I just think that corn should be yellow, so that would mean that cornbread should be yellow, and I just like it a little bit sweet. I can eat a salty cornbread and that is good too. It is a personal preference for everybody.

I didn’t know at the time that crumbling up your cornbread into milk or buttermilk was a Southern thing. I just knew that Mary did it and if she did it, then it was good enough for me. I really like a little sugary white bread in milk too. It’s been years since I had even thought about that. I think that may be my breakfast in the morning. There are a couple of heels in the bag just begging to be milked.

One of the things I like is to take a leftover piece of cornbread and crumble it up into a cup of buttermilk for breakfast the next morning, which is what I did on Jan 2nd.

I made cornbread for New Year’s Day, something else Mary always did. She also made cabbage with pork or sauerkraut with ribs for New Year’s Day. When she and Charlie were first married, they moved from VA up to OH for Charlie to work. They rented a couple of rooms from a very nice lady who kind of took them under her motherly wing. They basically had a bedroom and a kitchen and that was it. Mary said that for years they had a table but no chairs and they sat on wooden apple crates to eat. They also didn’t have much money, but they got by and appreciated what they did have. Their first New Year’s Day there, the woman they rented from brought up a pot of cabbage cooked with pork and a pan of cornbread. She told Mary that they needed to eat it up for dinner that night because it would bring them wealth and luck for the coming year. She said that they got through the next year and figured it worked, so they did that every year from there on out. They were married for nearly 60 years and she still did it after Charlie passed. She made sure I got a plate too. And you know what, I have always gotten by financially and I feel pretty lucky most of the time. So, I guess the proof is in the cornbread.

One Comment on “The proof is in the Cornbread

  1. Jimmy, Growing up in the far north, we always had a sweet cornbread, but it was called Johnny Cake. We all loved it, but I also love the southern version of corn bread. I agree too, the unbolted cornmeal that the Old Mill grinds is the best!


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The Appalachian Tale

Memories, recipes, and Tales of an Appalachian Boy.

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