It was the eventual boredom of playing with Barbie dolls, other kids being busy, or watching television shows that lead me to the kitchen. It occurs to me now; my father was the only family member in an open room, without closed doors. Sundays were the days, in which my father spent all day in the kitchen. As I grew older, I would read the newspaper, and we would talk about current events and opinions. These talks intertwined with my basic cooking lessons, and cooking would become an intuitive skill. With little hands, I peeled carrots, potatoes, a garlic clove or an onion. I watched boiling pots and pans as my father made a quick dash into the vegetable garden. Cheese or vegetables would be grated. I learned how to correctly prep and mince vegetables. Sauces would be stirred or whisked. Ingredients would be pre-measured for cakes as I anxiously waited for Dad to pour the batter into the pan. I loved licking beaters and bowls. My sister and I had a babysitter who did not understand why we were the only kids who didn’t like licking the batter from her instant cake mix. Out of modesty, we simply told her no thank you without an explanation of comparison. Although, we were happy for a slice.
As other kids were using mini ovens with a “just add water” cake mix, I started my solo culinary adventure with the making of cornbread. I did it without my parents looking over my shoulder, because they weren’t home. I was in the habit of reading my father’s cookbooks and food magazines, when I proceed to read recipes on the back of food packages. On the back of a cornmeal package, I saw a simple cornbread recipe. Recalling how my father follows recipes as he bakes, I started pre-measuring ingredients. Pulling out a loaf pan to grease and line it with parchment paper, I made the batter. Carefully pouring the batter into the pan, I then placed it into a pre-heated oven. And, I watch the oven window for 20 to 30 minutes as it transformed from batter into bread. I remember being proud of my solo adventure. The neighborhood kids on my block each received a piece.
There are few recipes my father makes that I don’t like, for I rarely like his cornbread. His recipe has little to no sugar with a coarser texture. When I made my own cornbread, it was slightly sweeter and similar to a cake. I didn’t know cornbread could be delicious. My self-discovery was an intermediate lesson of discovering how the same dish could have a different recipe. Learning this lesson is important, because it opens my mind to try many dishes with ingredients that I don’t like. However, I might like the combination of flavors.
Cornbread is a southern dish, in which everyone swears their mother, grandmother or an aunt makes it the best. If it’s a cake mix, then it’s good, but it’s not the best. Let’s open our minds to a homemade version, a recipe our great-grandparents ate before the age of artificiality and instant cake mixes.
1 cup all-purpose, white flour
1 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
A pinch of sea salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
1-1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup melted butter, cooled or olive oil
1 egg, beaten
1. Preheat oven to 400° F. Butter skillet or an 8 to 9 in. oven-proof dish.
2. Combine dry ingredients. Stir in butter and egg. Add 1 cup of buttermilk. If batter is too stiff, add a little more buttermilk until desired consistency, but no more than 1-1/2 cups.
3. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until a fork/toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
4. Serve warm with butter.