Cornbread Comfort

For me, food and recipes connect me to family and friends.  Smells of chicken and garlic always transport me to my dad’s kitchen while just chopping broccoli gives me giggles reminding me of prepping for a Jackson party!

My best friend’s mom recently passed away and I will always think of the great times that we shared this past year especially at the Isle of Palms and Las Vegas where she made the craps table cheer everytime she was the shooter!  She gave us all some wonderful memories to hold in our hearts for the remainder of our days on earth until we reunite.

Mary Ann was the matriarch of this fun-loving, wacky family.  I went to visit this extended family in Tennessee in 2011 where we celebrated, partied and bonded with each other through tons of food and drink as Southerners have taught me.  We ended that wonderful trip with a family dinner at Mary Ann’s.  One of the ulterior motives of this dinner was to be able to watch “the master” make her cornbread.

  • 2 cups corn meal
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2-3 teaspoons oil (heated in pan)

Mary Ann had a cornbread skillet, well used and seasoned after years of making the beloved recipe.  It had about eight wedges built into the skillet and was perfect for cornbread.  This California girl had never seen a skillet like this!

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She had the skillet on the stove warming on a low heat and poured in well over the recommended amount of oil!  (Her daughter in law ended up removing some, so I suggest using the appropriate amount in the ingredients listed).

After combining the corn meal, egg and milk, you pour the mixture in the oiled skillet.  Set your oven to 400 degrees, place the skillet on the middle rack and bake for approximately 30 minutes or until golden brown.

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If you don’t have a separated skillet like Mary Ann’s, you can use a standard skillet.  She would use a standard skillet and flip the cornbread through the baking to get both sides a beautiful golden brown all over.

This recipe is best baked in a skillet but if you don’t have one, a cake pan will work but it won’t get the lovely Southern fried golden crusting that happens in the skillet.  This is a simple recipe but the flavor comes from essentially frying in the oven.

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It could be that this recipe was made with love each time and that was its main ingredient.  Thankfully we are blessed with indulging in memories of every bite and smell that comes from recipes like Mary Ann’s cornbread.  If kitchen walls could talk, they would divulge thousands of emotions, hundreds of calories and most of all, decades of love.  We can take comfort in cornbread today and continue traditions for tomorrow.

“She loved YOU best!”

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3 thoughts on “Cornbread Comfort”

  1. Beautiful tribute to Mary Ann. And the rite of passage of learning to make Cornbread is quintessentially Southern. Cornbread was the first thing I learned to make. My mother thought this was essential knowledge and oh, so easy. She was right.

  2. Mary Ann watched me the first time I made this for her, coaching me all the way. It was easy, though, because my mom and my grandmother before her, both made it the same way; heating up the oil so it got that wonderful crust. Mom used to put her skillet in the oven while the oven preheated. Great stuff, cornbread! And since you aren’t from the South, if you didn’t know, stale cornbread is great in a glass (or bowl) with milk poured over it. On second thought, might not should say “great”… it could be an acquired taste 🙂 My dad used to eat it that way with buttermilk! And yes, Mary Ann told me she liked it, too, although I never saw her eat it that way… but then, there was rarely any left over past the second day 🙂 Thanks for sharing this wonderful memory, Tish!

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