Saturday, February 25, 2006

East Texas Cornbread: A photo essay

marjorie says...

I don't know what it is about the passing of winter, but I invariably start getting homesick with the first signs of spring, which there certainly are plenty of out in our yard. And this week its got me thinking of my mothers food. I thought I'd show y'all how to make my mother's cornbread. I don't think I've ever been home when there wasn't a skillet of this cornbread ready to be had in my mother's kitchen. Invariably, there will also be a pot of pinto beans .

And, on occasion, black eyed peas--which is what I had a hankering for this weekend. My mom's name, by the way, is Ruth Ann.

Now, my mom calls this cornbread her mother's cornbread.
My grandmother's name was Tess. She raised ten kids on a farm in East Texas (yes, that is where I am from, as opposed to "Texas") and according to my mother baked an awful lot. I wish I had experienced more of my grandmother's cooking, but alas, I have to say that in my mind this recipe will always belong to my mother. But it's sure nice to contemplate the continuity.

So, this is a dry cornbread cooked in an iron skillet and turned half way through. Turning it gives it a nice crispy crust pretty much all around. It goes really well with beans or just about any other thing you might want to sop up. I love it. Here are the ingredients:

You take .75 cup each of corn meal and flour, one egg, .5 tsp baking soda, 1.5 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tbsp. vegetable oil, and you eyeball the buttermilk.

Put it all in a bowl.

Mix it!

Now, according to mom, in order to flip the cornbread (which is essential) you got to use an iron skillet. It just doesn't work otherwise. You heat up some oil in the skillet and sprinkle in some cornmeal before you put the batter in.

Then you pour in the batter and cook it on 400 degrees for about 20-30 minutes.

When the top gets a little brown, you pull it out and flip it. On the left here, I've pulled it out and am about to flip it.

And then you can see the bottom side after I've flipped it (check out the pot of black-eyed peas, ready to go!). Flipping it, as you can imagine, is an acquired skill. I think I might have been just a tad premature in this case, but I'm still working on it. That's all I can really say about that.

My final cornbread in the skillet picture didn't turn out, so I had to take another one after the cornbread had already, um, been dug into! As you can see, after re-flipping it upon taking it out a final time, the top has an excellent crust, exactly the way it should be.

And this is how I like to eat it...

Don't forget the pepper sauce!

My mother says that she's never thought her cornbread was as good as her mother's. Well, I don't know what to say about that, other than that I sure like the cornbread I grew up with. And I can certainly say that my cornbread isn't as good as my mom's. In the end, maybe its just simply all about cornbread being made by your mother that makes it so darn good.

I'm sure that when reading through this, my mom and maybe my sisters, are recognizing that black skillet without the handle. Yeah, I grew up with it and I snagged it--thanks mom! As this photo-essay demostrates, I am a total sentimentalist.

Finally, not to leave my dad, Jerry, completely out of this lovefest...
what in the *world* you ask is this:

Well, that's what I think of as my dad's snack, and I figure just about everyone who grew up in the South will recognize it for what it is: cornbread in a glass of buttermilk. And that, folks, is definitely an acquired taste!


Blogger Maggie said...

This is my favorite m-pyrical post you've ever done, Marjorie. I just love this! I love Southern cookin'! I love you!

Thanks for sharing. (And I mean you, too, Ruth Ann!)

1:08 AM  
Blogger marjorie said...

Thanks Maggie--maybe I'll do more photo was fun!

As for my m-pyrical posts, I don't know...the excerpt on sheep, and where the worm begins is pretty darn good!

11:18 AM  
Anonymous Rita said...

After reading this I also am craving some of mom's cornbread! I loved the photos!!

4:23 PM  
Anonymous Nelwyn said...

Absolutely great! Should be published in one of those Southern Woman magazines! That cornbread and buttermilk reminded me of Dadan!

7:23 PM  
Blogger marjorie said...

thanks nelwyn! i knew you'd like it. i wish we could do photo essays like this on the myfamily site...wouldn't that be cool?

dadan, for the rest of you, was my great grandfather w.w. willeford. nelwyn, i have a question about him over at the myfamily site...

10:56 PM  
Blogger mjae said...

This makes our kitchen look really homey!

Nice job, Marj.

10:58 AM  
Anonymous susan said...

Reading this put a smile on my face! .......Mom does make some mean cornbread.

8:42 PM  
Anonymous Nelwyn said...

Liz said she could SMELL the cornbread as you were cooking it.

9:48 AM  
Blogger Cyndi H said...

My great grandmother, Bertha Alma taught me to make cornbread this way. Only difference is we put a lid on the skillet. We are from East Texas; settling in Melrose after the Civil War.
Question: Bertha Alma had a daughter named Nelwyn. This is also my mother's name & first cousin's name. Any idea why that name was popular in 1912?

1:02 PM  
Blogger marjorie said...

I'll have to try it with a lid, if I can find one that will fit. This is the first time I've ever heard of other people named Nelwyn. We've always assumed my aunt's name comes from her grandmother, who was named Nell. But apparently it was a thing in East Texas. I won't ask Nelwyn when she was born, but it was for sure later than 1912 by at least a couple of decades.

12:03 PM  

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