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The great corn bread controversy
cornbread article 002
“Southern Cooking” by Mrs. S.R. Dull, a former cooking editor for the the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, has been in Judy Shippey’s family for two generations. It is worn from use, but still coveted by cooks in the family. - photo by Photo by Judy Shippey
In recent years I have discovered that there exists an epicurean storm surrounding one of my favorite foods, cornbread.
Years of eating what was billed as cornbread on school menus, and attempting to eat the cornbread served in most restaurants has convinced me that we are talking about two different food items altogether! The sweet, cake-like stuff that is presented commercially as “cornbread’ bears no earthly resemblance to the dense, bread-like, crusty delight I grew up eating with fish and vegetables. That, to me, is the real cornbread.
How in the world did that cake bread intrude upon true Southern cornbread? When did it all start to go astray?
I think that I have an answer — cookbooks. True Southern cooks, eager to keep with the latest fare for their families, began, perhaps unwittingly, using cookbooks published in other areas of our country. The cornbread recipes in those cookbooks use sugar in their batters. Therein lies the difference.
I have a delightful collection of old cookbooks inherited from both of my Grandmothers Hendry (yes, there were two of them). These cookbooks are fun to read just for pleasure due to the often picturesque way in which the recipes are presented.
 These books were published in the early part of the last century. One of my favorites, “Any One Can Bake” was published in 1928 by the Royal Baking Powder Co. in New York. Even that far back it still calls for sugar in its cornbread recipe. The picture in the book with the recipe resembles cake.
I am not implying that cornbread like that is not good. I am sure that some people like it. I am just stating clearly and unequivocally that it is not for me.
To find a recipe for my cornbread we must turn to one of the Southern cooking gurus, such as Mrs. S.R. Dull. She was for many years the cooking editor of the Atlanta Journal and Constitution. In 1928 her recipes were collected into a cookbook called, “Southern Cooking.” The copy I have was printed in 1941 and it was presented to my mother by two aunts. It has remained a treasured volume in our kitchen ever since. In fact, when any of our family cooks wanted the best recipe for anything the call would go out to bring Mrs. Dull.
The book has been so well used that the back cover is completely gone and the binding is held onto the front cover with tape. I still use this volume extensively, although I sometimes have to ask older cooks for a translation of some of the cooking terms.
I am going to share with you Mrs. Dull’s recipe for cornbread. It is well worth the extra steps of preparation. To taste a piece of this bread, fresh from the oven, with butter dripping from it, is truly mouthwatering. To have it on your plate soggy with the potlikker from black-eyed peas or turnip greens, is indescribable!

Egg bread
(My Grandmother Hendry called it that and so did Mrs. Dull)
2 eggs
2-1/2 cups sifted meal
2 cups buttermilk
3 tablespoons melted shortening (I use bacon grease)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon soda
3 teaspoons baking powder
Preheat oven to 450. Use a heavy pan, preferably a cast iron skillet. Place enough unmelted bacon grease or shortening into the pan to cover the bottom of the pan when melted. Put the pan into the oven to heat while making the batter.
Beat the eggs together until light. Add buttermilk, melted shortening and salt. Put in meal, mixing well until smooth. Sift in the baking powder and dissolve the soda in a spoonful of cold water. Add to mixture, stir well . Carefully remove the hot pan from the oven, pour the batter into it and bake the cornbread until brown and crusty — about 15 to 20 minutes. Cut into wedges with a pizza cutter (my idea) and butter and devour a piece while it is warm! Yum! Yum!
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