Are you dead from eating all that bacon grease? Which one is the recipe... Saffie
From: Robert H Leedy [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Saturday, February 14, 2009 2:04 PM
To: Janis Owens
Subject: Re: the great corn cake debate
Thanks for your very interesting response. It is very timely: I am reading this as I am pouring the dry ingredients of 5 versions into bowls. They are labeled as:
2. Marjorie - Cornmeal
3. Marjorie - Cornmeal Mix
4. Aunt Mildred
5. Grandma (Mom's version)
After writing the story, I decided to try the different versions out to test against your recipe and settle the dispute within my family. My wife & I are having an afternoon "Kick Ass Breakfast" and will vote on the best version.
I bought fresh ingredients from the grocery store and while looking for corn meal, I noticed there was straight cornmeal AND cornmeal mix. Marjorie was unsure of her recipe specifics and I am suspicious she may have used cornmeal mix so I am doing her recipe in two versions.
The mention of honey is interesting - as I mentioned, my dad prefers corn cakes with honey. My father is actually from Isoban, West Virginia (the heart of Appalachia). His father was a coal miner and his mother was a school teacher. My grandparents eventually ended up in Bartow, Florida where they operated a diner across the street from the Polk County Courthouse. I remember playing in the restaurant as a small child. At home, my grandmother always cooked a big breakfast and even bigger one on Sundays: Bacon & eggs, country ham, grits or potatoes, homemade biscuits and red eye gravy, and fried apples; My grandfather was always in charge of the coffee which he made by pouring coffee grounds directly into a saucepan. It was great, strong stuff and you had to leave the last sip in your cup because it was most likely full of coffee grounds. My dad called it Cowboy Coffee. That wonderful coffee is probably why I cannot drink the more typical and weaker coffee that is so prevalent in American homes and offices. When I am away from my espresso machine I drink "Nasty Coffee" or "Gringo Coffee" but it is not pleasurable. Starbucks is easier to find outside of metropolitan areas these days and thank God McDonalds is now doing lattes!
These geographic food histories are intriguing. My wife is Puerto Rican and we lived in Puerto Rico for a few years. I was always struck at how similar Puerto Rican cooking is to Soul Food / African American cooking of the South. Puerto Ricans use okra in their cooking but call it "gingambo" - which definitely tells you it is a slave influence and came from Africa - as it actually did. There are stews made in Puerto Rico that will immediately remind me of the home cooking we had in my elementary school. Fried foods are very prevalent and now that she lives in the States, my wife has become a big fan of Publix fried chicken (I will have to try your recipe.) Cornmeal is used a lot and as you talk about the differences in Cracker versions (salty) of cornbread vs. African or Soul Food versions (sweet), I believe Puerto Ricans prefer cornmeal based bread - a little on the sweet side. Make mine salty...
I enjoy introducing my Puerto Rican relatives to my comfort foods. They loved my collard greens and Hoppin' John I served on New Year's. Black eyed peas are quite different from pink beans but there is a connection there. They also loved my turkey stuffed with cornbread dressing (they normally use sausage only). Southern barbecue is also a big hit with the in laws. My mother has also cooked chicken and dumplings which was very exotic for the Puerto Rican side of the family - but they loved it!
My mom loves Puerto Rican cooking as her Virginian parents moved to Tampa before she was born. Along with the Virginia influences, she grew up on black beans and rice, garbanzo bean soup, and Cuban sandwiches. Though not Puerto Rican, Cuban cooking is quite similar...
I will let you know how the corn cake experiment turns out. You have my blessing on publishing the story, if you like. What is your website address?
Thanks for writing,