Tuesday, September 20, 2011


I was eight-years-old when my mother taught me how to make cornbread from scratch, baking it in a cast iron frying pan. Back then, everything my mother cooked was made from scratch and she demanded that I learn and learn early. I remember my mother’s delight when Jiffy cornbread-in-a-box hit the shelves, cutting down on her cornbread-making time, but once learned I have never had the itch to shortcut the mixing of finely ground yellow cornmeal, self-rising flour, that tablespoon of sugar and the butter and milk. I will probably always make cornbread from scratch and bake it in a cast iron pan.

I didn’t demand that my older boys learn how to cook. Their wives would probably like me more if I had. And the one girl child of ours had about as much interest in the kitchen as the man in the moon. She was too busy chasing after her big brothers to care about anything "girlie" going on in our house. My youngest son, however, was not so lucky. He’s like an only child since his older siblings were all out of the house by his fifth birthday. Him, I commanded. Luckily, he followed willingly, motivated by the prospect of mixing elements in a bowl and hoping that they might explode.

By the time Baby Boy was ten he could run circles around me in the kitchen. At the age of thirteen he volunteered to cook for his grandparents for the first time, delighting them with a restaurant-quality shrimp and fettuccine alfredo. By then, I’d nicknamed him Chef Boy-U-Good. He had a talent for mixing flavors and colors so that the food not only looked pretty on a plate but tasted like a definite serving of more. I miss my Baby Boy’s cooking.

I cooked dinner earlier tonight. The things I think about while making cornbread from scratch.

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