Corn Bread – from The Cook, the Eater & the Writer

I am not one bit southern. My mother’s northern family and my father’s midwestern folks all lit out for California when they were kids. My mom and dad never made corn bread, I wasn’t fed grits, I knew no greens other than spinach, and I didn’t taste a biscuit until my first trip to Popeye’s in high school. And you know what? I’m not wild about corn bread. It’s fine, as far as it goes, but I can take it or leave it. Kind of funny, then, that I’d ever be anyone’s source for a cornbread recipe. But cornbread and I have a relationship now, and it’s been going on for years.

My husband adores cornbread. Raised in the south by southern parents, he loves his cornbread like he loves his sweet tea. I lovingly make cornbread for him from time to time, but usually I don’t eat so much as a slice. Why deprive him of even a crumb of something he loves so much?

Chili and cornbread held a special place on my menu back in the restaurant days. Sure, the chili was vegetarian, but nonetheless, I can think of at least two regulars who came in for their chili, black coffee and cornbread fix at least twice a week. This combination, minus the black coffee, was popular enough to keep cornbread rotating in and out of our oven many times a month. In this way, I became known for cornbread.

You wouldn’t think the mysterious draw of cornbread would come up much in Germany. Corn is still largely considered a new world food here, and though I can see it growing in the fields near our house, locals tell me it’s nearly all destined to be animal feed or biofuel. Small quantities of corn on the cob do make an occasional appearance in supermarkets here, but I suspect it’s for the benefit of the sizable American population in these parts.

After a few months of frequenting a local bakery, my German improved enough to communicate, within limits, with the friendly lady behind the counter. Once we had established an ability to barely understand each other, the first thing she asked me was if I had a recipe for “Amerikanischer Maisbrot”. “Ja,” I said in disbelief. “Ich habe eins.”

So here it is. Made in the Orbit’s kitchen, my kitchen, the German baker’s kitchen and now, perhaps, yours. This is copied from the recipe card we used, and it makes one 9×9 pan’s worth of cornbread.

Heat oven to 350º F.

Mix in a large bowl:

  • 2 c. corn meal
  • 2 c flour
  • 4 t baking powder
  • 1 t salt
  • 2 t baking soda

In another bowl, mix:

  • 2 c milk
  • 1 T white vinegar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • 1 c grated monterey jack cheese
  • 1/2 c melted, unsalted butter
  • 1 chopped jalapeño

Mix the two bowls together and bake in a greased pan for 45 min. (Center should be firm.)

Enjoy with chili if you like.

Prep time: 10 minutes, plus baking time

Musical accompaniment: Mistadobalina by Del the Funky Homosaphien, Groove is in the Heart by Deee-Lite, Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard by Paul Simon