Country as cornbread. A term to mean that somebody is pretty dang country. So if I were to describe myself... I'd have to say I'm as country as cornbread... and milk.
Yes, that's right. Cornbread and milk. And if I have my druthers it's not just any milk, but rich tangy buttermilk. And in the absence of buttermilk, I'll settle for sweet milk. Now for some of you, this may all sound as alien as time warps, black holes and crepes are to me. So in order to catch you up on what I'm talking about, let's go back to the beginning which is always a good place to start.
As a child, my mama always cooked either biscuits or cornbread for every meal. As much as I loved her cathead biscuits, my favorite of the two was the cornbread. I'll eat cornbread with anything. You could put a gourmet meal on the table in front of me and a plate of cornbread; I'd go for the cornbread first.
Now, as with most food, there is debate over whether white cornmeal or yellow cornmeal is better. Just like with my grits, give me the yellow stuff. It may all be in my head, but it just tastes more like corn to me and I like corn and I want my cornbread to taste like it's made from corn. Makes sense... to me anyway.
Sugar or no sugar. Again, this is a matter of contention and the basis of arguments as heated as those concerning whether to salt or not salt red ripe watermelon. To me, the answer is simple. Do you want your cornbread sweet or not? I like mine unsweetened, but that's just me and I've eaten it both ways. Some folks even put honey in theirs... it's just a matter of what you like. And if other people don't like it, that means more cornbread for you.
Something I refuse to be swayed on is the use of butter or bacon grease. I've seen cooks use vegetable shortening in their cornbread, and if I wanted my cornbread to taste like white greasy stuff, then I'd be happy with it. But I want my cornbread to have that mm..mm buttery or bacony taste that goes so well with cornbread. Face it... if you make corn on the cob, do you smear it with shortening or butter before eating? I like mine with butter, so into the cornbread it goes. And of course after it's done, more butter spread on the finished product.
Another thing I will not do any other way is to use anything other than my cast iron skillet for the bread. There is no substituting for the taste and crust obtained from that heavy seasoned kitchen staple, the iron skillet. I'm sure there must be an ancient curse for somebody that tries to cook cornbread in anything but this magical cookware.
Once the cornbread is done, some people like to eat it piping hot in their milk. I like mine cold in cold milk... but I have to say that I do not possess the patience to wait that long. Crumbling in a bowl or large mug, with the buttermilk poured over the top or if necessary... sweet milk.
But please... I beg you... if you're going to follow the time honored tradition of cornbread and milk, please don't use blue john. What's blue john, you ask? That's the term we used for what folks now call skim milk. I know we're trying to watch our waists and all the rest of our curvy parts. Seriously though... you're eating ground corn cooked with gobs of butter, egg and milk. So do you really want to skimp at the end by offending the cornbread's sensibilities by pairing it with blue john? Go for it... sweet milk or buttermilk. It's good for what ail's you... I promise.
Now excuse me. I need a refill on my bowl of cornbread and milk.