This morning I made myself a glass full of cornbread and milk.

The cornbread my family makes is made with white cornmeal and is rather dry. It tastes great when hot with a generous amount of butter and goes wonderfully with chile. The bread has no sugar in it so it is unlike most cornbread that you would find in restaurants. My mom and sister don’t like it and I have not convinced my husband of how good it is. He and my mom always have a polite piece when we make it. That’s fine – more leftover to have with milk.

As far back as I can remember, my dad crumbled the leftover cornbread into a glass and poured milk over it. It was never put in a bowl, even though it is eaten with a spoon like cereal. I often wondered who started this tradition, so I called my dad this morning to ask about it.

He told me that his mother used to make it and his grandmother did, too. Dad said that his grandmother made a large meal at noon (dinner) that usually included cornbread. Bread is filling and helped to stretch out the meal to feed her nine children. My dad called it depression era food. When supper came in the evening, more cornbread was served. If a hungry child came back after supper, she offered him cornbread with milk over it. It helped fill him up and made up for the lack of meat when they ran out. Dad told me that the funny thing was that even though his grandmother made cornbread regularly, his grandfather wouldn’t touch the stuff.

My mom always frowned at the idea of cornbread and milk. However, her family has an even stranger tradition. They crumble up cake, put it in a bowl and pour milk over that. They usually used the leftover birthday cake, although my Uncle Mike didn’t wait for it to be “leftover”. When he was offered a piece at a party, he got out a bowl and poured on the milk. My dad told me that my mom and my Uncle Tom used to take Hostess Cupcakes, smash them up and eat them with milk. The thought leaves me shaking my head. I guess it’s like dipping cookies in milk, which I don’t do either.

Below you will find the recipe we use for cornbread. If you have a cast iron skillet that is seasoned, that is your best choice. However, I usually make mine in cake pans. The family always used lard, but my dad uses Crisco. I use vegetable oil. Dad melts his Crisco in the cake pan on the stove until it is smoking. He says that heating up the pan keeps the bread from sticking. I just use Pam. I have to admit that his tastes better.

What crazy food traditions does your family have?

2 cups white corn meal
3 tbsp vegetable oil (or Crisco or lard*)
3 tbsp all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 3/4 cup of milk
1 egg

Mix all together and place in greased pan. Cook 20-25 minutes at 400 degrees.
*If you are brave enough to use the Crisco or lard, place in the pan you are going to cook the cornbread in. Heat up on stove until it melts and roll it around the pan to coat. Pour hot melted Crisco into mixture instead of oil. Keep baking soda nearby in case of fire! 🙂