The One About Cornbread
October 07, 2006

hi kids,

today is the Cookie’s 30th birfday. there will be much partying!
but enough about Cookie. let’s talk about me. this week, i learned the greatest and most awesome thing of my life. i learned how to make cornbread, real, honest to the good Lord God of the Baptist Church Potluck Jamboree and Faith Healing Revival, cornbread.


my family and i are displaced yankees, you see. actually, i don’t think Ohio = yankee, but basically if you were born north of the Mason-Dixon (and hell, pretty much anything north of Tennessee, because seriously, Maryland? no dice.) then the south will dub you a damn yankee. and what’s funny is they claim that yankees talk funny, oh, the irony. what they mean by funny is enunciation. they’re not used to hearing a word pronounced the way it’s actually spelled. i’m not poking fun (much) just stating a fact.

anyway, because of our midwestern/yankee “heritage” i grew up with my mom making cornbread the way they do up north. i never liked it very much so i rarely ate it even if we went to a restaurant or to someone’s house. i thought all cornbread was the same. i know what you’re thinking, “My God, you fool.”
i know.

you may also be thinking, “What’s the difference in the cornbread from the north and south?”
in a word, sugar.
and all the southern people reading this will grimace and go, “oh Lord no, not sweet cornbread, you fool.”

well, i had no idea. not until last year anyway when our good friend, Flippy Chinchilla, made some cornbread to go with our chili dinner at mom&dad’s and everyone was all, “great cornbread, Flippy!” and so i thought that i should take a taste myself so i could see what the fuss was about. because lemme say, mom was oohing and ahhing over the cornbread. i tasted the bread and wow, i really liked it. i mean, i really liked it. i could’ve eaten a whole “loaf” myself. it was glory! but what made it so good?

it was flat and dense, and not sweet at all, and the outside was really cripsy and yet chewy at the same time. i’m told this is corn pone. which is a bit different than regular cornbread in that i guess the cornbread is a bit more fluffy than corn pone, whatever. anyway, i don’t care what you call it, it’s totally fabulous, and it’s an awesome treat when Flippy makes it. so if she makes some and you’re there, you should at least give it a try. it just might change your life.
(drama much?)

so the other day i thought it would be cool to have some cornbread with our dinner, but the thing is…i’ve never made it. well, that’s not true really, this one time i bought a cornbread mix and made it into muffins and it was so dry and gross that i never made it again. but now, knowing that the perfect, most delicious cornbread recipe actually exists, and that i know the very lady who has the recipe…well, i had to ask Flippy for the recipe.

but would she give it to me? there’s lots of weirdos out there who have awesome recipes for things…but they won’t share! these are evil and greedy bitches. are you a stingy recipe whore who won’t share their most loved and delicious recipes? if so, that’s cool, they’re your recipes after all, just know that we secretly hate you and we totally talk about you behind your back. we are dirty namecallers, but you, with your miser’s heart are much, much worse. cows.

so i called and left Flippy a voicemail asking if she’d be willing to share her secret recipe of cancer-curing cornbread. it doesn’t actually cure cancer, but it’s so good that it should. it’s the damn FDA that’s holding it back.

it should be noted at this time that it is completely normal that when talking to someone about cornbread they’ll usually say something like, “My *insert mother or grandmother’s name* makes/made the best cornbread ever!” this WILL happen anytime you mention cornbread in the south. it is best to just smile and nod and say something benign like, “no kidding? how nice for you.” or maybe, “really? that sounds quite pleasant.” then it’s best if you steer the conversation back to what you were saying about cornbread because the other person might then try to tell you what “secret” ingredient or cooking method so-and-so used to make their special cornbread and the thing is you don’t care because you know that your *insert mother or grandmother’s name* actually makes/made the actual best cornbread ever, ever, ever. and it’s a waste of time for the other person to even be speaking at all about their shitty cornbread.
thus it goes with cornbread in the south.

which is crazy because it’s really all moot seeing as how Flippy Chinchilla’s cornbread is ACTUALLY the ACTUAL best cornbread on the whole of planet Earth, and you, your mama, and your grandma can all go cry about it.
such is the power of cornbread.

ANYway. Ms. Flippy called me back and was honored that i wanted her recipe out of all the other kajillion recipes of cornbread in the world. she then went on to tell me how she never really liked her mom’s cornbread either and that the recipe she used was actually that of a next door neighbor who made, it turns out, the best cornbread in all the land. she went on to say that when she wanted to learn to make cornbread she went to that lady and basically told her the same thing that i told Flippy, “hi, yours is the only cornbread on the planet worth eating, would you mind telling me how you make it?” and, because the lady was NOT a stingy troll, she shared the glorious recipe with Flippy. and in that honor Flippy shared the recipe with me. and i have made cornbread four times this week.

lucky for me, Jimmy was raised in the south and therefore loves cornbread. and, double luck, he likes Flippy’s cornbread too and has not once said anything like, “This is good, but *insert mother or grandmother’s name* makes the best cornbread ever.” this may be because he’s a dude, and dudes usually just like homemade food in general and never really care who’s recipe it is. or maybe he knows that saying something like that is a good way to end up in the emergency room with a fork stuck in his eye. at any rate he did not complain once about having to eat cornbread four times this week.

i know that the fact that i’ve lived in Alabama for OVER 25 years does not make me a southerner. it matters not that i was raised here. because see, i wasn’t born here. and? i was raised by yankees. so see, the south would never claim me…unless of course i was some kind of college football star, then they’d totally claim me. i say this so you won’t get mad that i said that your grandma’s (or whoever’s) cornbread was shitty. see, you could get mad at that, or you could just say, “Well, that comin’ from a damn yankee don’t mean a danged ol’ thang. What would she know ’bout cornbread eenyway? Poor ol’ thang, wouldn’t know a good piece of cornbread if it was meltin’ in her mouth!”

that could be true.

anyway. this would be the part of the essay where i give the recipe to Flippy’s Amazing Cornbread (FAC). but truth is, you don’t want it, cos your mama makes the best blah blah blah.

1 cup self-rising cornmeal (yellow or white, i don’t care)

1/4 cup vegetable oil

3/4 buttermilk (how can something so gross make things taste so good?)

that’s it. those are the ‘gredients. this is perfect for an 8″ iron skillet. if you’ve got a bigger skillet then adjust the recipe accordingly. this shouldn’t be too hard if you’ll notice that the wet ingredients = the size of the dry ingredients. 1 cup dry to 1 cup wet. there you go.

to prep your skillet what you do is put some oil in it and i just use my hands to smear it around the bottom AND the sides. you should not have a ton of oil in the pan, okay? just enough to coat it all and leave maybe a sixteenth of an inch standing in the bottom. put this in the oven. now.

then you’re gonna preheat the oven to 425.

now mix the stuff up in a bowl. sometimes i’ll give it a few shakes of salt out of my salt shaker just for shitsngiggles. but it’s fine either way.

when the oven beeps take the skillet out, BUT BE SURE TO USE A POT HOLDER or else you’ll have a pan handle-shaped burn on your palm. the oil should be hot but not smoking. stick your hand in the bag of cornmeal and grab some and drizzle it on the bottom of the pan into the oil. it will sizzle, this means it’s working. when you get it covered with dry cornmeal then you pour the mixture into the skillet, actually you may need to stir it again and then pour. the buttermilk creates a lot of air in the dough because buttermilk is weird and magical. so stir it then pour it and put it in the oven for i dunno, 15 minutes, maybe longer if your oven is wack. you can do the toothpick test.

then you get a paper plate or put a paper towel on a real plate whatever, and you flip the cornbread out of the skillet and onto the plate. it should just pop out of the skillet like a magical food trick. and there you have it. the bottom will be on the top.

wait for the skillet to cool down before you clean it. i’ve been told that you never wash an iron skillet with soap. you just wipe it out with a paper towel, i guess. otherwise you ruin the skillet and it gets AIDS and then you have to reseason it. which sounds like a lot of work for a pan, right? anyway.

so then you slice it into wedges and eat it all before anyone else can have any. my dad puts butter on it, and sometimes after the meal is over and there’s some left over he’ll slice it and put butter and honey on it. i don’t put anything on it because it’s perfect as it is and to put anything on it is an insult to the buttermilk (do not antagonize buttermilk. it always wins). the only bad thing is, it doesn’t keep well. but really, is that a problem? i mean, what are the odds there’s going to be leftovers, right? especially if you’re using an 8″ skillet.

so there you go. you should make it some time. or come over to my house, chances are i’m making some right now.




next epitomb: hoecakes. hee!


jaimie “corn! bread!” pickle

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