The year I got married, my grandma gave me her iron skillet for Christmas. “It’s already properly aged,” she said proudly. “And I’ll teach you all my receipts, too.” (Grandma, who was from the Ozark Mountains in Missouri, always called recipes “receipts.”)
I loved that old skillet. Not only because it was a great cooking pan, but because untold years of family history were baked into it. As Grandma taught me to fry chicken, golden and crispy, she explained how to cook on a wood stove–“Just in case.” She taught me to fry apples drenched in cinnamon, and as they sizzled in the bacon fat she told me about a neighbor family in the mountains who had twelve children named alphabetically. (The first two were Alice Bettina and Clyde Demont, but I can’t remember the other ten. To this day, when I can’t sleep, I go through the alphabet naming babies.) Grandma taught me to fry green tomatoes, and told me what a treat they were in the mountains when the family had been without fresh produce so long they couldn’t wait for the tomatoes to ripen
Oh, and the cornbread. That was my favorite. Here’s Grandma’s “receipt”:
Heat the oven to hot.
Beat together 2 eggs, 3 glugs of buttermilk from the jug, and a handful of lard, melted.
Add 2 fistfuls of cornmeal, 1 fistful of flour, a generous pinch of salt, and a generous pinch of baking soda.
Mix everything together well. Turn the stove up hot and melt lard in the skillet. Pour in the batter and leave it until it sizzles. Take the skillet off and stick in it in the oven. Bake until the cornbread is golden and done.
Mmmmm~! Just thinking about that crispy-edged cornbread makes my mouth water!
If you decide to try Grandma’s receipt, let me know what you think.
“You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.”
Bishop Desmond Tutu