I laughed, I cried, I sat spellbound and on the edge of my seat to the very end! I was reading the newest Harry Potter book, right? Wrong. I just finished reading The Cornbread Gospels by Crescent Dragonwagon and I absolutely LOVE this book.
This is not just a cookbook. It's stories wound around history, looped with facts and hints and tied together with recipes that will join your repertoire and never, ever leave. It's not just cornbread recipes, either! It's muffins and pones and pancakes and go-withs like greens and soups.
I, like so many people that Crescent Dragonwagon met in her travels, grew up with cornbread and have a deep affection for it; not just because I love it, but because of the memories it brings with it each time it's pulled hot from the oven. When I told my mom about this book, the first thing out of her mouth was, "Grandma made cornbread every day of her life." I didn't know that! I knew grandma made it, of course, but I didn't know it was a daily thing for her. I asked mom if grandma had a recipe or if she (and I looked around and lowered my voice at this) made it from a box. Thankfully, mom said grandma always used a recipe, "...yellow cornmeal-always, a little flour, some sugar..." Just as I'd suspected.
At any rate, when I read about the history of cornbread and how it at one time was thought by some to be "poor people food", or that others were looked down upon for eating it, it nearly broke my heart. Cornbread is beautiful to me, and to think that anyone would think different was just not right. I kept reading, not able to stop, and found that thoughts turned around eventually. I didn't know there was so much to know about cornbread.
I couldn't wait to get started on making some of those recipes, so I chose 3 and got started. The first one was, of course, the first (and I feel-best) in the book, "Dairy Hollow House Skillet-Sizzled Cornbread", the very cornbread served by C.D. at her former Eureka Springs inn of the same name. Let me tell you, I didn't think there was much reason to make any other cornbread at all - ever - after that one. Even my husband a true *gasp* cornbread-hater (I'll deal with him later, don't you worry) liked it.
The next two were "Leora's Sweet-Milk Buttermilk Cornbread" and "Ronni's Appalachian Cornbread". Those greens I made the other day were made especially to go with these cornbreads - and they were perfect. The next day, I made Kush from the leftovers, which I only think we had since I'd made 3 pans of cornbread! I just loved having my cast iron pan out for something truly worthy of being made in it.
There is no other book you will ever need for a cornbread recipe. Not ever. This woman has traveled far and wide and found versions that span the globe. Did you even have a clue that cornbread was global?
I have lots of recipes left to try (there's over 200!), and I plan to update you all with each one, but I urge you to get out and get your own copy of this book. Or, better yet, sit still - right where you are - and order it from Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble. You sure won't be sorry.