Sweet or not, cornbread tells a story

01/04/2012 12:00 AM

01/03/2012 10:55 PM

My granddaughter, Claire, is in the 5th grade and likes American Girl dolls. She received two new ones for Christmas — one from Santa and one from me, both Civil War era.

When she visited during Christmas with her family, I had a houseful of company. Claire wanted to sleep with Grandma in the king-size bed, and all five of her American Girl dolls came along. She lined three up on the floor, cushioned on pillows and carefully tucked in for the night, but the two special ones were perched in our bed. The next morning, she carefully dressed each one and fixed their hair — one even had braids.

Each doll has a name and a life story. Claire shares the story of each of her dolls, including what happened in their lives in the historical context. It is a great history lesson.

Another history lesson unfolds in the recipe for cornbread. Cornbread was popular during the Civil War because it was very cheap and could be made in many different ways. Sometimes it was baked in a pan or it could be fried in a skillet as hoecakes or fritters.

Today, there are many variations of cornbread. True southern cornbread is not sweet, but people in other regions like their cornbread sweet and more cake-like. Peppers, cheese and other ingredients can be added as it is very versatile bread.

The following recipe is a basic one that I made recently in a cooking class. It quickly became a favorite. It is a form of quick bread, meaning it is easy to stir together and bake. In less than an hour, you have a great cornbread. Ingredients are basic things that many of you will have in your pantry. If you do not have buttermilk in your refrigerator, you can make a quick substitute by stirring a teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice into a cup of milk.

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