Many of my best memories involve food on some level. I’d say that’s probably the case for most people when you really think about it. Cooking with my mom. Potlucks at church. Making jam or canning tomatoes. Making the BEST homemade ice cream on the 4th of July with the neighbor’s fresh milk straight from their big ole dairy cows. Picking the garden with my Grandaddy Sam. Hoeing the garden with my Granny. The comforting sound of my Grandmother, Mother, and Aunts laughing and cooking in her big brown kitchen on holidays. Endless summer vegetables. Corned beef and cabbage on Easter. Pot roasts on lazy Sunday afternoons before we had kids and I got to take a nap. My dad making breakfast before school. And a million other memories. Food just has a way of bringing people together.
My favorite food has always been soup. Even as a little kid, when everyone else liked pizza, or spaghetti, or burgers, my answer was always soup. Both of my grandmothers made the best vegetable soup and I can still vividly remember how good it tasted and smelled. Fall and winter are my favorite times to make soup, but I literally eat it all year round! I’ve mastered many soups over the years and it can be a cheap and easy food on a budget that feeds a crowd. Win-win for me! But in life and food, you always need a friend, and my soup’s friend is always cornbread. There’s just nothing better than soup and cornbread. They make a great pair.
My grandmother made the BEST cornbread. I’m stating that as fact, because it is, indeed a fact. Don’t bother arguing. Agnes Anderson was many things, a true pioneer woman who lived through the Depression and WWII, a skillful knitter even with arthritic fingers, an avid reader, lover of butter pecan ice cream, sports fan, a speed demon on the type writer, but most of she was an excellent cook. Not the cooking you see today on TV with apricot glaze, kale garnishes and all that fancy smancy stuff. She was a “take what you have (or have grown or slaughtered yourself) and chop your own wood and cook on a wood stove and make a meal fit for a king before sunrise” type of cook. She made practical things like hearty, filling food for farming men, frugal meals for hard times, and casseroles from leftovers so nothing was wasted. She is partly where I learned my from scratch ways and mostly where I learned what true dedication and hard work meant. My mom, and later myself, tried to replicate her cornbread recipe. After all, it was just plain ole cornbread. We even watched her make it, and we never could get it just right. So, my Mom eventually just made her own cornbread recipe. It was the SECOND BEST cornbread! It’s perfect with soups and stews or just a big pot of beans on a cool fall day. I would give just about anything I own for a day of cooking with either of them. BUT I’m so thankful for the recipes passed down from generations that remind me not only of the practical skills they taught me, but the deeper importance of those meals cooked together and eaten together. Even though supper together every night seemed insignificant growing up, I now realize just how foundational a small thing like that can be for a family. If you don’t eat together, I encourage you to try. I know life is busy, but there’s so much to be gained by that simple act. Cook together. Teach your kids family recipes, yes even the boys, and yes even the little ones who make a big mess. Don’t wait to invest in those precious to you because you never know when it may be too late. Even though you may think you are just making supper, you are doing far more than just cooking.
And even though it’s not so cool on this first day of fall in TN, I’m still making soup and Mama’s cornbread to celebrate. Hope you enjoy it too!
Mama’s Cheesy Cornbread:
1 cup of shredded cheese (I’m not gonna lie, I use more😂)
1 small container of sour cream (8oz)
1 cup cornmeal
a little milk if you need to make it the right consistency.
Mix these together and place in a greased skillet. Bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes.
*I ususally double this recipe to make a thicker cornbread, but it turns out perfectly either way. And I always use a cast iron skillet.