What I remember most about meals with my family is cornbread. It is a dish that spans the seasons, during the summer we served it with fried chicken, and when the weather cooled it came on the side of a hearty bowl of beef stew. It's come to my attention that many associate cornbread with the small, dry, yellow squares slapped on a tray at lunchtime in middle school. Let me be the first to tell you, this is NOT that cornbread! My mom made cornbread so often that she always kept a box or two of Jiffy mix in our cabinet. It’s now on my short list of requests when I visit home.
Mom's recipe is simple. She uses a boxed Jiffy mix and adds 1/2 a can of creamed corn. Bakes in a well-seasoned cast iron skillet and lathers the bread with butter once it’s baked and serves it with a drizzle of honey. I watched her make it dozens of times and wanted to know if others had a similar experience growing up. If so, I wanted to know their recipes. Rose, a reader and old friend from college, was one of the first to share with me.
Rose grew up in a large family with five younger siblings where her mother homeschooled all of them until they went to college, frequently watching her friends' children also. Rose says it wasn't uncommon for there to be ten or more kids running around their house.
"As I've gotten older and started my own little family, I have more and more respect for my mother. She not only educated all these kids, but she also managed to put three hot and homemade meals on the table every day," Rose said.
The cornbread is a family staple in their home. Rose remembers always doubling the recipe so they had enough for leftovers. "We eat it with chili, as a side to simple meat + vegetable dinners, cold with butter for breakfast, and more. We made it a few times a month throughout my childhood and it's one of the most requested meals now when we are all together. It's the first thing that I baked with my mom when I was nine years old. I remember feeling so special when she invited me into the kitchen and showed me how to measure the flour, crack the eggs, and mix the ingredients together."
Rose now has a family of her own. She says when her son is old enough she plans to bring him into the kitchen to make cornbread and other dishes together. She wants him to experience the rewarding hard work and the joy of cooking together and cooking for others. This feeling comes from the willingness she saw in her mother to always include the family in every process of mealtime.
"My mother was always willing to let her kids crowd around her in our little kitchen and help get dinner on the table. I have so many memories of a full, noisy, hot kitchen with food covering the countertops. There were plenty of failed recipes and mistakes made. But what I remember most is not the mistakes or successes so much as the way cooking and baking brought us all together. No matter how bad our day might have been or what challenges we faced, we could sit around our 14-foot farm table, pass around dishes we all helped create, talk, laugh and share life with each other."
- Preheat oven to 400F. Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl first. Add egg and buttermilk and mix well. Add oil last and mix again. (If you're taking my mom's advice & adding the creamed corn, add 1/2 can last and mix!)
- Grease a loaf pan or 8x8 pan with butter. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until barely golden and fork comes out clean.
- Generously spread butter over top of the bread while it's warm. Serve immediately.