Today my husband went grocery shopping with me. We were walking down the flour and cornmeal section, when we noticed the many boxes and single-serve bags of cornbread mix, from expensive to local store name brands. By now, you are thinking, is she nuts? Those boxes have been on those shelves for 50 years. Why would she be checking on them today? You are correct as usual, why notice them today?
I took the time to pick each one up and read the label. Many had flour as the first ingredient and a list of chemical names that I could not pronounce nor spell for this blog. In some lists I had to search for corn as an ingredient. I shook my heard and my husband laughed. We reminisced the early days of our lives when cornbread was the real thing. I am not a cornbread maven, but we are both connoisseurs of great tasting cornbread made with whole fresh cornmeal and milk.
In the middle 1960’s, I am blessed to have attended a small women’s college in central Georgia. We had an old fashioned dining room with white tablecloths and a kitchen fill of the best cooks that Georgia produced. Their cornbread was perfect. Growing up in South Florida, my mother typically made box cornbread muffins. When we had church dinners and picnics my siblings and I, were able to taste real cornbread and Southern fried Hush Puppies. So you can imagine when I arrived as a freshman on this small campus, I was delighted with whole ground cornmeal, cornbread sticks, and the best cheese grits in the state. I knew ahead of time the dinner menu and would never miss a meal with their cornbread. I am hooked for life on real cornmeal cornbread sticks, and a pone cooked in a hot cast-iron skillet.
My first taste of freshly made cracklin (g) cornbread was on a college friend’s Georgia family farm. Here in the deep South we drop the (g) off of many words and crackling is just one example. It does not matter to me if it is white, or yellow, as long as it is stone- ground cornmeal along with fresh buttermilk, no sugar, and bacon drippings.
My husband, was born and raised in the Missouri farm land. He grew up with stone-ground white meal. He still has fond memories of his grandmother baking her cornbread in a black cast-iron skillet. His mother always kept fresh cornbread in the kitchen for three hungry boys to snack on after milking the cows. On a cold, blustery East Tennessee day, a bowl full of warm, crumbled cornbread, cold milk, and accompanied with a spoon, is his comfort food.
We keep five-pound bags of white stone-ground meal in the deep freezer. I do not want to run out of this staple for our kitchen.
No problem if you enjoy your boxed cornbread muffins like they now serve at the Cracker Barrel Restaurants. I am sure that when you find and taste the real thing you will not go back to cornbread cake.