My mother made Yankee cornbread that was sweet, soft, and moist. When her bright yellow squares were coupled with Boston Baked Beans, grilled all-beef franks, sautéed green beans with mushrooms, fresh unpasteurized milk from our cow, and blackberry ice-cream for dessert, a Saturday night evening meal became a savory sensation. I tasted southern cornbread at county picnics or at the homes of friends, but I did not enjoy those coarse, flat, unsweetened cornbreads the way I savored my mother’s recipe. I will admit that I have grown to enjoy just about any cornbread variation at this point in my life, but I do miss those Saturday night meals of my youth.
In Robert Moss’s online post, “The Real Reason Sugar Has No Place in Cornbread, ” he gives a very detailed explanation for the increased use of sugar in cornbread recipes, which, he contends, has to do with the evolution of corn grinding as stone mills began to be replaced with steel roller mills. However, famed pastry chef Simone Faure, disagrees in her discussion, “Battle of the Cornbreads: Northern vs. Southern Style,” in Feast Magazine. She argues that sugar has always been an option in southern cornbread recipes. Until I did a little research, I had no idea such a complicated debated about how cornbread should be created existed.
From the 13th chapter, “Lulu, a milk cow,” of Growing Up Floridian:
Whole, unpasteurized milk became a part of every meal in our house. We had to drink at least one big glass morning, noon, and night and were encouraged to drink more between meals. Such consumption kept the refrigerator space balanced with the eight or ten eggs we got from the chickens every day and the ripe tomatoes we were allowed to pick from the farms a couple miles down the road. A stand alone freezer in the large closet and storage space at the end of the carport held a wide assortment of beef cuts from a steer that was slaughtered on the ranch every six months. None of the ranch hands were skilled butchers, so they traded a portion of the carcass, after they skinned and cleaned the animal, to the local butcher if he would cut the steaks, roasts, loins, and ribs into shareable portions. A similar process filled the rest of the freezer with pork. Wild hogs were trapped and grain fed for two months. Then, they were slaughtered and taken to the same butcher, who produced boxes of sausage, and packages of pork chops, roasts, and loins in such quantity that we were never without solid home-grown meals.