Dave Peyton: What do you like to dip your cornbread in?
“Cornbread & Milk: It’s an Appalachian thing.”
That’s the name of an almost lyrical essay recently in the Appalachian Magazine.
The article was written by Kim Holloway Stalcup, who is the eighth generation of her family to call Cherokee County, North Carolina, home.
I made mention of the article on my Facebook page and it began a rather lengthy discussion of cornbread crumbled in sweet milk, buttermilk and even coffee and eaten as a treat, a dessert or to finish a mountain meal.
Pat Henry, a friend, said “I remember both of my parents & grandparents having any leftover cornbread in milk all the time. Never saw the attraction myself.”
Some had negative memories. One came from Bob Myers, former local politician now living in South Florida.
“In the Myers family, it was cornbread and buttermilk. I hated it yuk!” Myers said.
Linda Goldenberg Mason had a different thing in which to crumble cornbread.
“Leftover cornbread was usually crumbled into soup at my Granny’s house. Stale cornbread was the best because it could hold up to hot soup.”
Dave Swint said cornbread and milk was part of a once weekly celebration.
“It was soup beans and cornbread once a week at my house when I was growing up, but after supper around 9 p.m., you could count on Dad to have a glass of milk and cornbread. And we never had that spongy and sweet yellow cornbread. That’s just a poor substitute for cake. We always had this cornbread ... dense and grainy and hearty, with a nice crunch.”
Natives who have left us still honor cornbread and milk.
Bob Rogers, who lives in Arizona, said “We expats still have it from time to time. Not as often as with sweet sorghum though.”
Jerry Bowles who lives in South Carolina wrote “Cornbread and buttermilk.Yum.”
Mack Samples, born on the Clay-Kanawha County line but now living close to Morgantown, wrote “I still enjoy cornbread and milk all the time. But I put my biscuits in my coffee and eat it with a spoon. I might not be worth a snit for anything else, but I am Appalachian to the core.”
Coffee? Yes, believe it or not, my dad dipped his cornbread in coffee. He said his mom, my grandma, used to feed him cornbread and coffee when he was a child. Go figure.
Tammy Pritt responded to Mack, “You’re from my neck of the woods and we called biscuits in coffee a ‘soakie’ with a tiny spoon of sugar. It was a regular for breakfast with elderberry jam or hot molasses.”
Bill Dreger, another expatriate wrote: “My neighbor in Pea Ridge made the best cornbread. I think one of her secret ingredients was lard in the pan. The best milk would be from one of your own cows or goats.”
Martha C. Woodward wrote “My grandfather, Big Daddy Hammond, ate cornbread and buttermilk for supper most evenings, especially after his wife died.”
So, it’s clear that cornbread and milk (or coffee) is part of our heritage and probably ought to be celebrated in a festival, along with pinto beans and cornbread.
But it’s not likely to happen. As I said about pinto beans — “too pedestrian.”
As for me, I never found cornbread and milk (or coffee) palatable.
Dave Peyton is on Facebook. His email address is email@example.com.