I’ve been unable to post this past week due to computer issues, so I’m late in posting last week’s story about Corny the little goat – and how Southerners have always made the most of the little bit they had. And yes, I really do have a cousin who had a pet goat. Another story about her is that she suffered an eye injury when her chicken tried to peck her shiny earring. But that’s another story for another day.
Corny was a baby goat cousin Rosie Belle adopted when she was a senior in high school. His full name was “Cornbread Charlie,” but she only yelled out both names if he started running across the school parking lot. He would nibble the weeds along the fence near the football field, then perch on top of her Toyota Corolla during classes and no one cared.
The cute goat-kid’s middle name, “Charlie,” was in honor of her favorite science teacher, and “Cornbread” came from her favorite part of supper.
Our mothers made cornbread that was fluffy and soft, but our grandmother first fried it in hot grease in a cast iron skillet on the stove, then, she’d finish it off in the hot oven and it would come out thin, with a crispy outside and a smooth inside that tasted like a crunchy dream of heaven. It was our favorite part of the big family meal. Some called it corn pone while others said it was more like a hoe cake, but we just called it “fried bread.”
Every family seems to have a customized twist on their version of cornbread, but never do any of the real Southern families add sugar to their cornbread, because that’s called . . . cake. Those with roots in Appalachia had their traditional method for more of a thin bread, while others added eggs to achieve the fluffier version.
Rosie Belle’s daddy insisted on having cornbread several times a week and told his daughter eating it with butter would make her pretty. In later years, she regretted trying to be so pretty and joined a gym.
Corn was an abundant commodity in the poverty stricken South, so cornbread was a staple in most homes. As Southern legends go, hoe cake supposedly got its name from being cooked on a garden hoe over an open fire, although many say “hoe” just meant some type of griddle.
Baked tall and soft, or fried flat and crispy, using a skillet, or heavy cast iron mold that looked like corn stalks, every family and region had a different interpretation of the bread, but all were related to the Southern story of creating something wonderful out of almost nothing at all. Even today, it unifies Southern tables in households of all kinds.
Civil War soldiers crumbled cornbread over beans to make a hearty meal, and some people still crumble it in a glass of milk to eat with a spoon like cereal. It’s an old-fashioned treat passed down from a time when there wasn’t much else in the pantry. I tried crumbling it in milk with my Grandfather and decided it was messy, but better than Captain Crunch.
Like the old quilts that started as worthless scraps but were transformed into beautiful and practical items, a simple bowl of cornmeal was made into a staple of Southern mealtimes. When we thought we had nothing, we had it all. Necessity, ingenuity and the grace of God gave us beautiful clothes, warm blankets, homemade toys and buttered cornbread. Generations later, we still know that in the land of dirt roads, cornfields and cotton, even a little goat can become a trusty friend, and a handful of corn can become a delicacy when we embrace the joy of simple things.
This story first appeared on AL.com and in their fine newspapers throughout the state of Alabama.
My husband calls cornbread crumbled in milk “Sand Mountain Milkshakes”. You can use “sweet milk” or butter milk. He has also been known to crumble Fritos in butter milk. And if you are a true Southerner, you know where Sand Mountain is and what sweet milk is…
That’s great! Your husband is a character worth a million!
Very cute Leslie Anne! At the risk of being kicked out of the South, this California girl doesn’t like cornbread ?
I must not have ever had any like Grandmother’s….
It’s the California part that saves you. We understand. Bless your heart. I’ll bring you some cornbread sometime. (you don’t want my biscuits!)
Leslie Ann, I love this post and I love cornbread. My beloved mom made the best cornbread ever. I try to carry on the tradition, and my sweet Daddy says I have mastered the art of simple cornbread. I made him a skillet yesterday because he likes to crumble it into buttermilk for his supper. Our nearest neighbor had a couple of goats that would wander up the hill to our house on occasion. I was out jogging one day many years ago when they decided to join me. It was trash pick-up day and metal cans were still in use, of which I am glad. One goat decided to play rough and charged at me, and I just so happened to be running past the empty trash can. The lid became my defense against Billy. I can laugh now, but I have to admit I was a bit frightened at the time. I always enjoy your posts!
Oh Pam! Those goats are cute when they are little kids, but get to be pretty pushy when older. Glad you were feisty and fought back! More people than I realized still crumble the bread into buttermilk!
My mama loved to sit on her porch swing with some cornbread dunked in a big mug of pot likker from collard greens. I like my cornbread dunked in butter!! I adore goats. We had a herd of research goats that my friend and I managed to hide away for years after our project ended at Clemson. They were the smartest, prettiest little girls ever and they had a great life “flying under the radar” out at the dairy farm. Shhhh…don’t tell!!
That would make a great book. I think goats are very friendly, but their eyes kind of spook me out. Glad you gave them a good life. And yes, butter is a great partner to cornbread. I love it over red beans and rice. A little more of a Gulf Coast flavor. Thanks Roxanne, have a great weekend.
We ate cornbread and milk growing up. My mama still makes it and she and daddy make a supper of it sometimes with a plateful of veggies…but Douglas likes and will only eat… (sit down for this…!) Jiffy Mix.
Does Douglas forget to whom he is married? The Southern Martha Stewart/Paula Dean! Poor Yankee baby and double bless his heart!
Lots of fond memories in this post! My Daddy would not eat his dinner (at about 1 o’clock not at night) without his hot cornbread. My sainted mother made it every day but Saturday. He often ate the leftovers at night with the remains being crumbled into a glass of cold buttermilk. I never developed a taste for that particular delicacy. The buttered cornbread, yes. And like your cousin RosieBelle, I later wished I had not been quite so fond of it!
But it made you pretty!
My goodness, I love this post today. Wish I could go back a little in time to that farm in Tuscaloosa were I grew up. Wonderful southern memories and the way my Mama and granny cooked. I had an Aunt Minnie that could make the best fruit pies.
I still can’t make biscuits and cornbread that taste that good.
My grandmother was named Minnie! She also made the best biscuits ever. Such simple ingredients, yet you had to have the special knack to get them all to work together just right. Thanks Sue.
I had an Aunt Minnie! And an Aunt named Duchess. ?