Thursday, May 30, 2013


I've been sick with bronchitis and asthma, and I've been feeling mighty low in spirits as a result. A long sickness does that to me. I'm doing better, but I'm still walking slowly and taking my time until I finally am all well. And finding little things to lift my spirits.

Like making cornbread.

A little history: my mom has baked cornbread all my life. Mom makes real cornbread, you understand: the kind with no sugar, baked in a cast iron skillet, coarse and corny. I never liked this stuff and did not eat it growing up, preferring the sweet, cakey versions you're most likely to encounter out in restaurants these days.

However, this last week I found myself poring over a favorite cookbook, Smokehouse Ham, Spoon Bread, & Scuppernong Wine, which has an entire chapter devoted to cornbread.  I love this book because it reminds me of the stories my mom tells of her growing up surrounded by an extended family along the Ohio River in Kent, West Virginia. And suddenly I wanted--I needed--to make cornbread, just like Mom's, the cornbread I never liked. 

So yesterday I stopped at Safeway after work, picked up some buttermilk and stoneground cornmeal, went home, mixed up some cornbread, and popped it in the oven in a hot cast iron skillet.

Then my house started to smell like cornbread and I almost cried.

Because I never actually liked this cornbread growing up, I never consciously noticed that warm scent that fills the kitchen while it bakes. I did yesterday, and the sensation was completely unexpected. I can only describe it in terms of cliches, I'm afraid: it felt like a big warm hug from my mom, welcoming me home. I genuinely felt teary.

I immediately called Mom to tell her that, even if this turned out to be the worst cornbread ever made by human hands, it was worth making just for this smell and the associated feelings that came with it.

But it wasn't the worst cornbread ever. In fact, it was delicious. Corny, coarse, the same bread I hated all growing up. Only now, inexplicably, I love it. And for some reason, it's soothed my spirit in a way that nothing has in a good while.

Don't forget the potholder OW!
Hot out the oven.

Smells like home.
Butter's melting.


  1. How wonderful!

    (Less wonderful: you made me cry. At work.)

  2. @Cherry: Oh no, I'm sorry! You know what might help? CORNBREAD. (I just ate some for lunch.)

  3. Hi, College Gardener, and thanks! Where are you in NE? Mulch Boy is a MA boy through and through, and I love it up there.

  4. I don't eat corn but make cornbread stuffing every Thanksgiving and Christmas and the thought of not making it -with coarse, corny homemade cornbread - is horrific. You're making me crave a slab with butter and honey. So glad you're feeling better. :o)

  5. My cornbread story: I volunteered to make some (for the first time from a box mix) for a chili party I was invited to. I made it three more times that day with two other brands before it came out acceptable to take to the party. Then there, someone else brought skillet cornbread from scratch that was so much better.

  6. @Tammy: You don't eat corn. I don't even know you anymore.

    1. Our bodies process corn as a simple sugar and starch. I'd rather have a brownie or three.

  7. @Swimray: I know, right? And it's so ridiculously easy, too. Mulch Boy has already suggested I make some tomorrow night (our friends are coming over to hang out on the porch and eat ribs).

  8. It really is tasty. And when you cut a slice it looks like pacman!