Thursday, October 6, 2005

Southern Cornbread

I was making cornbread the other day and remembered a story about cornbread that I heard by Alabama storyteller Kathryn Tucker Windham. When traveling around the South, she stops at little family restaurants and always orders cornbread, she says:

It is just amazing the variety that you get in cornbread, the different kinds of it. You never really know exactly what to expect when you order cornbread. But I am always shocked whey they don't have cornbread. I expect any Southern eating establishment to have cornbread. They just shouldn't be allowed a license to operate if they don't have cornbread.

Cornbread must be had with turnip greens, snap beans, collards, peas, okra, tomatoes, butter beans, and all those good vegetables that you have in the summertime. The worst kind of cornbread that they can bring you anywhere is cornbread that has sugar in it. Now, that's pure Yankee cornbread. No decent Southern cornbread has ever had sugar in it.


The words on paper just don't do justice to her storytelling, her voice is classic old Southern, it is a joy to listen to her voice and her stories. Found in a description for one of her recordings: Ms. Windham's rich voice spreads over the listener like butter over Southern cornbread.

Making cornbread was one of the things I was responsible for at suppertime, as a child of 10 or 11, along with making tea (sweet of course), and setting the table. I am not sure if I handled the hot cornbread pan, probably not, maybe just mixed it up. Making cornbread is not like baking any other kind of bread. An iron skillet is required, one that has been well seasoned so the bread won't stick. And the greased skillet must be heated in a hot oven before pouring in the batter - when you hear it sizzle you know you have the beginnings of a good crust.

I have been putting a pinch or more of sugar in my cornbread, but I think I should stop now, I don't want to be accused of not making decent Southern cornbread! I wonder if Two-Mama or Mother Hanie put sugar in their cornbread? Making cornbread the old fashioned way is a Southern tradition that needs to be passed down. Now, bring on the butter and black-eyed peas!

1 comment:

Rose said...

I still make cornbread...not every day like my mom did...but just occasionally. I cannot stand sugar in cornbread...that is just wrong. haha I love it with spinach or mustard greens, and bacon...a meal fit for a king!