DON’T FORGET THE BUTTER — Credit Native Americans, our letter-writer says, for bread baked with cornmeal, but no sugar and no wheat. PHOTO BY ARNOLD GATILAO VIA FLICKR.COM

Editor, The Beacon:

I was amused and fascinated to discover that the younger generations have to go to the Bahamas to discover what the article calls “johnnycakes.” All due respect to Marjorie Rawlings, but it did not come from the islands.

Most Southerners, Black, White and Native Americans all across the South, were raised on this dish from the 1950s back to the arrival of Columbus, but we called it “cornbread.” And it had to be “corn.”

Native Americans had no Old World wheat at all (wheat originated in Mesopotamia). Corn or maize, however, did originate in the New World, and the corn-based recipe is the classic.

I too was raised on cornbread that my mother made from a simple recipe she copied from my grandmother (who was born in 1874 and also was one-quarter Native American, so it’s an authentic recipe). That recipe is similar to the one provided by Santi Gabino Jr. with two big differences — his very modern addition of sugar and wheat — the original had no sugar and no wheat; it was literally “cornbread.” It was baked in a bacon-fat-greased cast-iron skillet, cut into wedges, and served with butter (not with jam or honey, except maybe for Sunday breakfast); it could also be crumbled into a glass of buttermilk.

The crumbled version was not to my taste, but my Dad doted on it, and I made cornbread for him when my parents were in their 90s and unable to make it for themselves. It’s an ancient Native American bread, and I’m glad to see that it’s being revived by the young folks!

Dr. Richard J. Gibson



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here