Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Cornbread for Supper

Another Trip Down Memory Lane... Chores and Duties...

I usually try to make a well-balanced and fairly attractive meal for supper. Sometimes I just don't feel inspired though, and tonight was one of those times. I ended up fixing chili, cornbread, and sliced cucumbers. (Wow -- lots of "c" words there.)

As I was stirring up the cornbread, I realized that I've been baking cornbread for 45 years or more. I've probably baked over a thousand pans of it. (Mental math done while stirring suggests this is a reasonable estimate.)

Cornbread was one of the first things that I ever learned to bake. Mama always told me how good my cornbread was. I don't know if she was telling the truth or if she said that to keep me interested in baking. However, I did have a secret ingredient that I always added -- 1 teaspoon of vanilla.

Whenever we had cornbread, Mama heated a pan of milk. You could crumble a piece of corn bread into a cereal bowl, sprinkle it with a little salt and pepper, and pour a little hot milk over it. I liked it with just enough milk to soak the corn bread, but not to fill the bowl. I haven't eaten it that way for many years.

When we lived in Bolivia, the little Indian lady who did our laundry often told me, "Oh, SeƱora! Your cornbread is just like cake!" Dennis and I laughed about that because she had previously worked for an American named Steve. Steve was (in)famous for his cornbread and proud that he never used a recipe. We had tasted Steve's cornbread at a potluck dinner. It was a gummy, baked, cornmeal mush -- apparently made without baking powder.

If we have soup, Dennis always wants cornbread with it. He crumbles it over his bowl and it becomes one with the soup. Isaac, Keely and I all agree that we don't want to waste our cornbread or ruin our soup that way. We'll just have butter and maybe a little jelly or honey on ours, thank you.

When I was a little girl, I used the cornbread recipe on the back of the Quaker Cornmeal box. In about 1972, I bought a Fannie Farmer Cookbook, and ever since, I've used its recipe for cornbread. Here the Fannie Farmer recipe, doubled as I usually make it:

Corn Bread

Stir together:
1-1/2 cups corn meal
2 cups flour
2/3 cup sugar (or Splenda)
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Mix in:
2 cups milk
2 eggs
1/4 cup canola oil

Spoon into two 8x8" baking pans. Bake about 20 minutes at 350°. Or bake in a 9x13" pan for 25-30 minutes or until bread tests done.

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Update: I've posted this recipe and another for Mexican Cornbread on my recipe blog.

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Trixie said...

I adore cornbread too. My favorite recipe is Crescent Dragonwagon's Sizzlin' Skillet Cornbread. I'll look it up and post it soon. We're definitely entering cornbread season!

Genevieve said...

There's a season on cornbread? My family doesn't seem to know that! It could be 110° in my kitchen and they'd be happy to turn on the oven and bake cornbread.

Christopher Newton said...

My favorite kind of cornbread is the Italian version - polenta. It's not sweet like the American kind and goes well with a nice glass of red wine. You could never say that about American cornbread, Your mom had the right idea - milk and plenty of it!

Genevieve said...

The Fannie Farmer recipe does make a sweet cornbread (which my family prefers.) I think the hot milk thing is just a country way of eating cornbread that my mother remembered from her own childhood and liked.

I probably wouldn't think of polenta as cornbread, myself. The polenta I've experienced seemed more like a cornmeal mush to me, but I'm certainly not very well-informed about polentas.

Genevieve said...

P.S. I don't mean to sound rude about what's cornbread and what isn't. There are regional differences in the definitions of food words. For example, the Kentucky "dumpling" seems like a "noodle" to me. What's "cornmeal mush" to me may well be "cornbread" to the Pondering Pig.

Christopher Newton said...

How true. How true. I'd forgotten about fried mush. Polenta is sort of like that - fried in olive oil with garlic and tomatoes and cheesy stuff on top. Man, that's Italian comfort food. We always cheer when Farmer Bean brings it down for our slops.

Collagemama said...

I'm not very fancy or particular about cornbread, but I like it best cooked in a cast iron skillet with the crunchy crust. Just finished an art project with my little students about bees and honey. Honey on cornbread.... um..good!

Genevieve said...

I like it baked in a skillet, too. And also as muffins, and most any way you can think of. :)

Michael Leddy said...

Even vegans can love cornbread -- my wife Elaine makes a terrific version with soymilk powder. Hard to tell it's not the real thing.

Mama Manak said...

TY so much for this recipe!!! My Mom used to use this recipe and I've been searching for it for a long time! TY TY TY!!! You are a Godsend!

Genevieve said...

I'm glad that I actually posted something useful -- it made my day to get your note, MamaManak. If you watch on eBay, you can probably find an older edition of the Fannie Farmer Cookbook. I bought one for my daughter there since that's the cookbook she learned to bake with. Her cookbook is nice and clean, and I have the one she spilled every ingredient on. ;)

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