Pantry Staple Comfort

In the months following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, I went through a career crisis.

With the world experiencing so much grief and anxiety, I asked myself, what on earth was I doing writing about food: making up recipes, blathering on and on about my delights and failures in the kitchen? Shouldn’t I be saving the world instead?

Then I attended the Fancy Food Show in New York. This giant exposition shows off popular and emerging specialty foods in the United States and abroad, from salsas to cheeses to chocolates.

I nibbled my way through the thousands of booths at the Jacob Javits Convention Center and soon identified a trend. In an effort to counteract the prevalent cultural malaise, most of the food purveyors that year were displaying wares that embodied tradition and comfort.

They reminded me reminded that food can nourish our spirits as well as our bodies.

I came to a realization, one that still guides my work. I may not be saving the world literally in my kitchen. In difficult times, however, reaching out to other people with nourishing foods and stories reminds me and others that the world is worth saving.

Now that Americans are practicing a regime of social distancing, I am grateful for my well stocked pantry and the opportunity it gives me to share foods with neighbors. Even if we can’t get together to eat, I can deliver carefully prepared dishes.

And we have plenty of time to talk on the telephone, about food and also about other things that matter: family, love, books, music, films, television programs, and the increasing daylight that reminds us that the earth keeps moving through its cycle of growth and renewal.

We may not be making a lot of money these days, thanks to COVID-19. We can still make simple, inexpensive foods, however, and nourish our families, neighbors, and community with them.

Food can comfort us both physically and emotionally. I imagine I’m not the only person who has felt a bit overwhelmed by the cascade of events in the last couple of weeks as the closing down of public life has accelerated.

Preparing something that cooks for hours and hours and takes shape little by little, like my red beans and rice, can slow down our lives and our heartrates.

I made this dish recently with that good old standby, cornbread. Non-employees are not allowed in the studio at my TV home away from home, Mass Appeal, so I phoned in the cornbread recipe to share with the co-hosts. Even without seeing each other, we had fun.

I hope to see many of you soon. Meanwhile, stay well, take care of each other, and cook your hearts out.

Yankee Cornbread

Ingredients:

3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon Creole seasoning (or 1/2 teaspoon salt)
1 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons melted butter or bacon fat

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Generously grease a 9-inch cast-iron skillet (or an 8-inch square baking dish) with butter or bacon fat.

In a bowl combine the flour, the cornmeal, the sugar, the baking powder, and the seasoning. Mix together the remaining ingredients and blend them into the dry mixture. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for about 20 minutes, until the top is golden brown.

Cut into wedges or slices. Serves 6 to 8.

Tags:

11 Responses to “Pantry Staple Comfort”

  1. Adelaide B. Shaw says:

    Hi Tinky,

    There’s nothing more comforting than the fragrance of fresh bread, any bread. And snatching a bite while warm. . .Yum!

    Yankee cornbread
    a staple of home
    but our Yankee baker
    had a tenancy to roam

    took a trip to Creole land
    and tasted something new
    a peppery spice in all she ate
    from morning eggs to supper stew

    brought it back to home up north
    and knew just what to do
    she put it in her cornbread
    and shares it now with you

    Happy eating
    Adelaide

  2. Devon says:

    So happy to see you in your fine garb and outrageous hat. Thank you for brightening my day. Thank you so much for your savory recipes!

    Being off sugar, to prevent any recurrence of cancer, (cancer thrives on sugar) I’m going to make your red beans today. Can’t wait!

    You and your recipes are an Inspiration! I’ve adapted many of your recipes and repeatedly felt buoyed by your shows. You are a Heroine in my book! ! !

  3. Cara Hochhalter says:

    Nice to hear some healthy eating news from you! Just made some cornbread the other day using the recipe on the back of the Bob Mills Cornmeal bag…
    . Nice to think of you in your lovely neighborhood.
    . We are well and so far so good…
    . Love and healthiness…is that how you spell it?

  4. tinkyweisblat says:

    I think you can spell it any way you want to, Cara. Devon, I should think the cornbread would be fine without any sugar at all. And Adelaide, I am HONORED by the darling poem. Be well, all of you.

  5. Jennifer says:

    Great article, great hat, great recipe to try. The trifecta!

  6. Carol says:

    Enjoyed your latest column. I always do! I have a pumpkin bread mix in my pantry that was a Christmas gift. I don’t cook much but I’m seriously considering baking it soon. Stay safe!

  7. Laura says:

    Just received your latest Grandmothers Kitchen email which expressed so beautifully what we’re all going through right now. Who could have ever imagined this? Be safe and stay well.

    The Yankee Cornbread sounds delish! It will go perfectly with the 2 lbs of red beans I made just yesterday!! What timing!! 😁

  8. Margie says:

    Good morning, Tinky!

    Hope you’re staying in and staying safe. Are you about to climb the walls yet?

    I enjoyed reading your last blog, especially about the red beans and rice. There is almost nothing better to eat than that.

    Washday was always Monday, and a big pot of beans was put on to cook so there’d be something good and hot for supper. Washing was hard work if the old wash pot and scrub board had to be used. It was still time consuming and hard when I was a kid. My mother had a Maytag wringer washer, and every piece of clothing had to be put through the wringer to get the water out. Then, of course, hung on the clothes line.

    Mother, who was born in 1899, never had a clothes dryer. She finally got an automatic washer, a Norge, when I was married and no longer living at home.

    After a day of struggling with clothes in the cold or the heat, a pot of beans would have been so wonderful. It only took thirty minutes or so to cook a pot of long-grain rice.

    Your recipe for red beans and rice is a good one.

    Now your cornbread recipe—I had to laugh. You’ve lived in the South long enough to know that Southerners do not like Yankee cornbread. Sugar? Never! Yankee cornbread is like cake.
    I hope you’ve had the opportunity to eat some Southern cornbread, especially the kind that’s so scratchy you think you’ll choke. To me, that’s the best!

    The varieties of cornbread remind me of a book I found a few years back. It’s The Cornbread Gospels by Crescent Dragonwagon. It’s possible you’ve heard of the book or even own it.
    If not, if you ever run across a copy, grab it. It has a wonderful assortment of breads, even one from Sook Faulk, Truman Capote’s cousin. I did try the recipe and wrote on the margin—Ok, not fantastic.

    My favorite recipe from the book is White River Cornbread. (White River is in northeast Arkansas—an area for trout fishing.) It’s made with white cornmeal —buttermilk and no sugar is added.

    I have only tried a few recipes from the The Cornbread Gospels, but I really love all of Crescent’s comments throughout the book. I noticed that she included one from Vermont which uses maple syrup. Definitely, a Yankee cornbread!

    Please keep cooking, keep smiling and keep writing your blogs! We have to do our best during this week of Passover and Easter. Hard not to be with family and friends.
    Again, be safe!

  9. tinkyweisblat says:

    Thanks so much, Jennifer, Carol, and Laura. And Margie, I loved reading about your mother. I’ll keep my eyes out for the book. Meanwhile, be well, and celebrate spring as best you can.

  10. Ena says:

    We’re in RI, being very disciplined about shopping only once a week (but we hit a large supermarket, a family owned one, and the tiny fish store). We seem to be cooking more than usual, and that means washing pots and pans more than usual, but it’s all good, only sorry we can’t share it with friends/family. Michael made chili with the beans that were in the cabinet, and I discovered polenta in the fridge. It could be too coarse for cornbread, but I’ll try it. The farmer down the road has always put the eggs out in a cooler, so that’s contactless shopping.

    When I was working I always said that home is a nice place, of which we see too little…

    Thanks for your good spirits and good cooking ideas
    Hope to see you in summer! Stay well!

  11. tinkyweisblat says:

    Lovely to hear from you, Ena. I know no one’s situation is ideal right now, but I’m so glad that you are coping. Lots of love….

Leave a Reply