My mom was a born competitor, and proof is in this cornbread story. (The other corroborating evidence is in my Six Simple Words That Can End Your Life post, where I narrowly escaped death by paring knife.)
I didn’t cook much when I was young and single, so competition was never a problem. I ate a lot of salads, baked potatoes and macaroni salads because they were cheap and I was poor. But, once I was married and in my 30s, I started entertaining more, so I wanted to re-create dishes my mom used to make, especially her cornbread.
It was golden, sweet, moist and delicious, and I was desperate to have some one day, so I called and asked her for her recipe. “Oh Frenzy,” she said, “Dattsa nading. You justta follow da recipe onna da box. Dats alla.”
So, I got the Albers Corn meal out and followed the recipe on the box and it tasted nothing like my moms. What the hell? I thought and went right to the phone. “Ma, you said to follow the recipe on the box and it would be just like yours, but it didn’t taste like yours at all!
She laughed at my irritation, chuckling, “Wella honey, you gadda add a lilla more sugar anna a lilla more oil, den ittsa good” she said, not grasping that I’d just wasted time, ingredients, and a lot of drool looking forward to her delicious cornbread. I doubt that her omission was intentional, but the chuckle over the fact that what I’d made wasn’t as good as hers, carried the glee of a woman who knew she was still the best cook in the family.
I may have had to deal with a batch of cornbread that was not as good as my mother’s, but I won’t put you through that, so I’m happily passing on this tidbit of knowledge.
That corrected recipe is still in the dilapidated cook book I put together years ago. The book has seen a lot of baking and now looks like Frankenbook. but I like it because it reminds me of my mom’s well worn recipes, yellowed with age, dotted with batter, a lot of love and a little bit of Neapolitan competition.
She’s been gone 24 years, as of yesterday, March 3rd. And, although she kind of liked being top chef in the kitchen, I know she won’t mind me sharing her cornbread recipe — as long as you give her credit.
Mama Tunno’s Sweet Cornbread
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
(In a separate bowl)
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup oil (I use canola)
(2 Tbsp. softened butter to spread on top of cornbread when its done)
Mix together the dry ingredients. Then mix together the milk, egg, and oil. Add it to the dry ingredients and pour into an 8X8 rectangular pan. Bake at 400 for 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
(If you like a softer texture, you can use less corn meal and more flour, like 3/4 cup corn meal and 1 1/4 cups flour, or 1/2 cup flour and 1 1/2 cups flour. Personally, I like it the way it is.)