This is the second week in a row that I’ve “let my South Carolina show” by giving you some southern-inspired recipes! Though sweet tea, lemonade and cornbread are about as classically down south as flavors come, I wouldn’t dare claim that my creations resemble the real deal culinary classics of my home. You won’t see me throw around words like authentic or traditional–simply because my aim was not to recreate history with these bakes. I did consider that route, but that was before I did a bit of research about old fashioned, southern cornbread and deduced some information that prompted me to pursue a more unorthodox route. Basically, classic southern cornbread is nothing like your well-known Jiffy box mix: it’s often made with white cornmeal instead of yellow, its texture isn’t nearly as aerated, and it’s sometimes made by purists who omit the milk and sugar and eggs entirely. I don’t know about you, but I love milk and sugar and eggs. Plus, I preferred to avoid having dozens of great grandmas rolling in their graves because I horrifically insulted the pure name of cornbread with my wannabe version.
Needless to say, it didn’t take me long to decide that trying to make authentic cornbread would actually end up being the least authentic choice I could make. I did, though, in my online digging, get caught in the web of cornbread-making videos. One of my favorites was by a woman who goes by Mamma Cherri, a London YouTuber with a substantial following. I was immediately drawn into her cornbread video, which began with her taking a trip to a market to purchase the ingredients (plus a few random items she needed to grab). It then shifted to her very cluttered kitchen, where she quickly walked through the process of making the cornbread, haphazardly tossing ingredients into bowls and rarely pausing to explain as she worked. What made the video so appealing was just how incredibly natural it was. Mamma Cherri’s kitchen looked like any family kitchen, cramped and cluttered; she didn’t use any real measuring cups; the video had no added effects or even transitions; her daughter simply followed her around with a camera while she shopped and baked, the two of them engaging in comical banter throughout the process. As I chuckled, watching her cut the cornbread with a comically massive knife because that’s what was nearby, I realized how invested I had become in this woman’s life in the span of eight minutes. I wanted to meet her; I felt like I knew her; I trusted her.
Okay, that sounded a tad creepy. But it’s true! And it got me thinking: it’s amazing how attracted we are to authenticity. There are few qualities more instantly magnetizing about people than that of being completely genuine, or “unapologetically themselves,” as reality t.v. loves to put it. But what’s equally amazing, sadly, is how tirelessly we try to adopt characteristics and lifestyles and interests that have nothing to do with who we are–just because we think that our authentic selves can’t measure up to others’ standards unless we add some sort of embellishment. In a culture dominated by fantasy–impossible bodies, impossible experiences, impossible makeup, impossible wealth–it’s often hard to realize what reality even is, let alone understand that your personal reality is 1) normal, and 2) adequate. I promise you, it is both of those things.
On this hump day, then, I want you to remember that nobody remembers someone for being just like someone else; I want you to try loving the parts of you that don’t line up with the manicured photos on your Instagram feed. When it comes to cornbread AND life, you can’t go wrong with real authenticity.
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
1 John 3:1
Sweet and Smoky Skillet Cornbread (V)(GF)
- 1 cup yellow cornmeal
- 1/4 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 3/4 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/4 cup sugar (vegan if desired)
- 1/4 cup vegan butter, melted (plus an extra 2 TBSP for skillet)
- 1/2 flax egg (1/2 TBSP ground flax seed mixed with 1 TBSP plus 1 1/2 tsp water, left to thicken in fridge for at least five minutes)
- 2/3 cup “buttermilk” (2 tsp vinegar mixed with enough almond milk to make 2/3 cup, left to sit for at least 5 minutes)
- 1/8 tsp liquid smoke
- Place a small cast iron skillet in the oven (mine was about 7” across the bottom), and preheat the oven to 400°F.
- In a large bowl, whisk together cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, smoked paprika, salt and sugar.
- Add “buttermilk”, flax egg, and liquid smoke to the dry ingredients, and whisk until incorporated. Then, whisk in the melted butter.
- Remove skillet from the oven, and place 2 TBSP of butter into it to coat the bottom.
- Carefully pour cornbread batter into the skillet on top of the butter.
- Bake in the preheated oven for about 18-20 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the skillet before slicing. Enjoy with a bowl of chili, barbecue, or on its own!