First and foremost–please forgive another blast from the past so soon after last week’s. Things are crazy with me right now, some extremely personal that I won’t blog about here, and some extremely painful, like the pulled back muscle I got last week. Fortunately the doctor gave me lovely, lovely muscle relaxers and pain pills, so I was able to get a lot of rest. I’m back at work today and ready to rock and roll. And I promise next week’s review will be a brand new book that I haven’t read yet!
Next the disclaimer: The author of this book sent me a free review copy. I received no remuneration for the review, and the opinions expressed are my own.
The mailman brought me a lovely, lovely package today. It’s so fun getting things in the mail that are neither bills nor catalogues nor other advertisements. A few weeks ago I posted the recipe for the cornbread I made the previous night, and mentioned how Joe steadfastly refused to eat it because–gasp!–it was Southern style cornbread, grainy and not sweet. Crescent Dragonwagon e-mailed me not only with an offer to review her cornbread cookbook, but also provided a pithy quotation from Chaucer! (No, not about cornbread, but gingerbread, and I’ll get to that in just a sec.)
The Cornbread Gospels is a dream of a cookbook. It is beautifully laid out and organized, and has plenty to satisfy the cook, the reader, the historian, and anyone else who should be so fortunate as to lay hands on a copy. In the introduction, Dragonwagon tells us some of the experiences she had in the almost six years it took her to complete this book. The first chapter, entitled “Southern Cornbreads: Soul in a Skillet,” gets to the heart of the debate between Yankees and Southerners as to what constitutes a proper cornbread. She doesn’t take sides though, which is probably wise.
There are recipes for any kind of cornbread you can imagine, and you’re virtually guaranteed to drool while you read through them. A sampling of the recipes: Truman Capote’s Family’s Cornbread; Land of Milk and Honey Custard-Layered Cornbread; Seriously Spicy Main Dish Cornbread; Bobota (Greek Cornbread, with orange juice, currants, and orange-honey syrup); High Desert Blue Corn Muffins with Sage and Toasted Pine Nuts; Herb-Scented Corn Whole Wheat Bread; Dixie Spoonbread; George Washington’s Favorite Corn Cakes; Indonesian-Style Corn and Eggplant Fritters; Golden Gazpacho; Old South Style Greens (to eat with your delectable cornbread); and Very Lemony Cornmeal Pound Cake.
Along the way, you’ll find quotations and snippets of verses about cornbread; you’ll learn the difference between a jonnycake and a johnnycake; and you’ll learn how to make your own corn tortillas. Wondering what to serve with your cornbread? The book is sprinkled with suggested menus. There’s a recipe for any palate here, as well as a feast for the mind.
Oh–and are you still wondering about the Chaucer quotation? Chaucer writes, “they sette him roial spicery and gyngebreed.” And Dragonwagon does, in fact, include a recipe for Dark, Extra-Gingery Gingerbread, with Darra’s Hot Citrus Sauce. I think Chaucer would approve.