Wednesday, June 11, 2008

An ode to cornbread

A paean to the pinnacle of provisionary perfection; a commendation of the culinary culmination of corn's cultivation!

I really, really, really like cornbread.

Things I like about cornbread:
-The crunch! The firm, snappy crust! "Cornbread" with a soft, spongy top and sides? AN ABOMINATION! Not cornbread at all! And cornbread recipes that call for a cake pan? Please, no! Cornbread is cooked in a cast-iron skillet, just the way my mother always does, thanksverymuch, and it CRUNCHES. Don't give me any of this northern-cornbread cakey nonsense.
-The texture! Delightfully rustic, simple, coarse, moist-centered, generally fabulous.
-The sweetness! Even traditionally-unsweetened cornbread is sweet, because it's made out of, you know, corn. Which is sweet. But if you're crazy like me, you'll break tradition and add a few tablespoons of sugar. Because it is FABULOUS.
-Do you see that I am so excited I am YELLING?
-The flavor! It has... bite, somehow. I also love cornbread batter, straight out of the bowl, and it is even more defined there -- a hint of something sharp amid all the soft, mild, sweet flavors of the bread. Like the gentle crumb inside versus the crunchy crust. Cornbread has depth, people. Cornbread has character.
-The versatility! You can put all KINDS of things in cornbread and have it still be fabulous. I don't, but, you know, you could. And that's cool.
-Its simplicity! It's not hard to make cornbread. In fact, it's downright easy! And the ingredients aren't fancy -- flour, cornmeal, butter, buttermilk, baking powder, baking soda, salt, an egg. Sugar if you're crazy. Easy! Cheap! Simple! AND SO FREAKING GOOD!

I absolutely adore cornbread. And sometimes, I get these cravings... this overwhelming need to have cornbread. (The same thing happens with biscuits.)

And you can't just slap cornbread down beside stir-fry, or curry, or any other standard dinner I make. You just can't. So I make beans and rice, and greens, and maybe a cobbler for dessert, and I don't make sweet tea because -- although I did at last develop a taste for it -- seeing just how much sugar is involved makes me want to cry -- but overall I think I'd make my grandmama's family proud.

I'm no Southerner, not really. I'm a quarter-blood transplant at best, and that's debatable. And I know the cornbread I make is hardly traditional -- sugar aside, there's also no bacon grease, and I fake my buttermilk with milk and lemonjuice. I know. I really have no room to talk. And I didn't really mean to badmouth Yankee cornbread.

But a girl has needs, you know? I happen to need regular doses of hot, crunchy, Southern-style cornbread deliciousness. I might be a bit of an evangelical cornbread lover.

I must spread the word!

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