Friday, March 11, 2011

Amanda's Mississipi Cornbread

Elvis came to Jackson, MI to perform at a fundraiser to help tornado victims in the area.  Our Southern neighbor Amanda was lucky enough to see him at this concert, one of his last ever live performances.  She remembers it vividly, and she gets the photo credit, too, taken by her 7 -year old self with her Kodak Instamatic and carefully lifted from her childhood scrapbook for our use.  Thanks, Amanda!


The name is evocative of fragrance, sounds and textures; sweet Magnolias, sticky Pecan Pie, cornbread and biscuits baking.  It also brings to mind that distinctive drawl, y'all, and traditions of southern hospitality.  It's the birthplace of many a famous writer -- Tennessee Williams and William Faulkner come straight to mind.  And of course it's the birthplace of the late, great King of Rock 'n' Roll, Elvis.

We persuaded one Southern Belle from Jackson, Mississippi,  now a Philadelphia transplant, to share her foodie recollections about life in the South.  We asked our neighbor, Amanda, about the truth behind a few Southern cliches:
  • that everything is fried (it's true she confesses, her fave fried dish is a fried dill pickle);
  • that Southern Ladies favor BIG HAIR.  (Also true, they are prone to over-zealous use of the curlers, but with good reason..the humidity wreaks havoc on the tresses);
  • and, that food is central to all large, noisy Southern family gatherings, (Amanda's mama was one of ten children - six girls and four boys so her Grandma's kitchen was always filled with busy bee Aunts!)

Sweetcorn in every shape and form was always on the menu.  It popped up for breakfast (cornbread cut into cubes and boiled up with milk to an oatmeal like consistency, was her Dad's ritual); creamed sweetcorn was a staple side for dinner (roasted or boiled, scraped off the husk then boiled up with oodles of cream, butter and salt and pepper) and then there's the ubiquitous cornbread -- we're all familiar with cornbread, only difference with true cornbread is that in the South, cornbread is made in a skillet. 

According to Amanda: "The secret's in the skillet.  Every house in the South owns at least one heavy cast iron skillet.  The trick I remember was heating the oil in the skillet, in the oven, while mixing the ingredients. Then when you poured in the batter you kind of had a fried crust already."

So here's the recipe to make Buttermilk cornbread Southern-style...

No  skillet on hand? 
Run to the Down Home Diner, Beck's Cajun Cafe or Delilah's
at the Reading Terminal Market for your fix instead!

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