It is amazing that the subject of cornbread would bring me out of my writing retirement. My last post was one month ago on this blog. That's like years in the blog world. I knew that when I took the time to sit at my desk to write again, the subject matter would have to move me, but I had no idea the subject matter would be cornbread.
Cornbread. I serve it with Will's chili. I typically make it when we have dinner guests and I must follow Will's recipe down to every ingredient or else, it probably will not get eaten.
So, what's so special about cornbread? This March, food writer and cookbook author Kathleen Purvis, won several awards by the North Carolina Associated Press for this story on sugar in cornbread that was originally published in March 2016 in the Charlotte Observer. I met Kathleen several years ago at a Savor the South cooking festival.
It is a fascinating article and really depicts the history of the South, and how our food can be so divers today based on how we were raised. You really need to read this wonderfully written article, but to paraphrase, it is believed that cornbread styles started to differ in the South based on the type of cornmeal used. Yellow cornmeal was less expensive that the naturally sweeter white cornmeal mix. Only Southern gentry used the white corn meal, and it was baked on special occasions. It was not an everyday dish for anyone.
In the early 1900s, cornbread was made with flour and water-based white corn meal made with sweet white corn, but by the time the depression hit, yellow corn meal was produced because it was cheaper and would last longer. It is believed that cooks, especially African-American cooks added sugar to their recipes to give it a sweeter flavor.
Cornbread, of course, was made from scratch during that time using cornmeal, flour, which helped it rise, and some added sugar for flavor. Historians think this is one of the biggest differences between Southern food and soul food today.
The modern cook will also recognize this sweeter taste with the already prepared Jiffy cornbread mix.
My grandmother never baked cornbread. At least, I don't remember her serving baked cornbread when I visited. Instead, she made what is called "hoe" cakes. She would fry them in a cast iron skillet and serve them with her entree and the many garden-fresh vegetables she would prepare daily.
My own father learned a lot about cooking from his mother. My Dad made this fried cornbread, too. He didn't make it a lot, but I do remember him doing it when he would fry fish or if he made fried okra or fried chicken. If he was frying a food then he would make this cornbread, too.
It's been probably twenty years since I tasted his fried cornbread, but I remember loving it. It was like hushpuppy cornbread.
I didn't start making my own cornbread until I married Will. He made it. His cornbread has been called "melt in your mouth" delicious. I've served it to guests. My kids eat it like cookies and people have asked for the recipe. It's the only cornbread I've made in the past seventeen years now.
I can't even say it is true Southern cornbread. But, I will tell you that I'm known for messing things up and when I do then it's no good. I left the canned corn out of it one time and it was not the same. It was Ok, but Will said it was ruined. I also left the eggs out and again, it was not the same. In fact, that batch may have gone into the trash.
After reading Kathleen's article, I'm going to dub this cornbread as gourmet cornbread with soul because the base is Jiffy mix. I was going to make it for guests the other day and bought Trader Joe's cornbread mix. I told Will before I did it and let's just say I had to go to the store the day the guests arrived to get the jiffy mix. It's not jiffy....then forget it.
There is no telling what is in that processed jiffy mix, but we'll never go healthy with this cornbread recipe. Some things just can't be changed.
|Photo of similar looking cornbread when I make mine. Recipe totally different, though.|
Will's Favorite Cornbread
1 box of Jiffy Mix
1 small can of white creamed corn
1/2 cup of olive oil
8 ounces of sour cream
Mix ingredients together. Bake in 9 by 9 pan for 40 to 45 minutes.
How do you like your cornbread?