Southern Food and Southern Cornbread – More than just something to eat! (The first in a series on Southern Food)
One of the things that really defines the South is the food. It is one thing that has always brought us together. Whenever a family suffers a tragedy, the Southern community goes into action to bring food and share in the tragedy. One of the best places to find and learn about Southern food is the community cookbooks. The church cookbooks, the Junior League Cookbooks, the garden club cookbook. All of them are compiled recipes from the homes of those mysterious Southern cooks that have the old family recipes that they are happy to share and pass along.
The first community cookbooks were compiled during the War Between the States (known to some as the Civil War) to raise funds to treat wounded soldiers, to support family members who had lost fathers and sons and also those who had lost farms to the ravages of the war. After the war, many other charitable organizations continued compiling the community cookbooks and it still continues today.
I love to collect cookbooks but some of my favorites are these community compiled cookbooks. They may never win culinary acclaim, for the recipes contained within are simple recipes from real people using simple ingredients. So many of the recipes have a story to tell, a history of generations past.
In my own history, Southern food was defined by more than what was on the table. It was about my family sitting around the supper table sharing a meal and getting to know each other. It was about sharing our table with the company of friends and family, where everyone was always welcomed. It was also about being in the kitchen with my mother learning how to create a wonderful meal and serving it with warm hospitality.
Southern food – it has a mysterious connotation that surrounds the culture of the South. I hope you enjoy this series of posts about Southern food and some of the stories surrounding the culture.
I have been including a lagniappe with every post for some time. That is part of my attempt at Southern hospitality. Lagniappe simply means “something extra that is added.” The word is used in Trinidad and Tobago, Puerto Rico, Louisiana, Eastern Oklahoma, Southern Arkansas, Charleston in South Carolina, southern and western Mississippi, the gulf coast of Alabama, and parts of eastern Texas. Mark Twain writes about the word in a chapter on New Orleans in Life on the Mississippi (1883). He called it “a word worth travelling to New Orleans to get.” It is something thrown in, gratis, for good measure. The lagniappes that I will include with this series will all be about Southern food.
Today’s Lagniappe: *Southern Cornbread
At one time, corn was “virtually the sole grain of the South and cornbread the true staff of Southern life,” according to A Gracious Plenty, Recipes and Recollections from the American South by John T. Edge for the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi.
My grandmother used to make cornbread and crumble it in a bowl with buttermilk. Personally, I prefer it hot and slathered with butter.
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup white cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons flour
1/3 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon bacon drippings (or oil)
Preheat oven to 425. Beat the eggs in a bowl. Add the buttermilk, then the cornmeal, and mix. Add the salt, flour, baking soda, and baking powder. mix thoroughly. Place the drippings or oil into a 9 inch iron skillet. Heat the skillet in the oven.
Pour the batter into the hot skillet. Put it in the oven and bake the cornbread for 10 to 15 minutes. Place it under the broiler for a few minutes to brown the top slightly. Turn the cornbread out upside down on a plate. Cut it like a pie and serve immediately.
Concerts from the Kitchen
Arkansas Symphony Orchestra Society Guild
Little Rock, Arkansas
* -The story is that this recipe is from Georgetown, Arkansas, a community of about 75 people located on the White River. This recipe is said to have originated with a cook employed on a nearby plantation.
Photo by fritish via flickr