Corn bread has left its mark on many

September 03, 2003

I left Ohio and went to school at the University of Kentucky for the tree-lined walkways and the rolling hills. I stayed in Kentucky for the sweet tea and corn bread. But mostly the corn bread.

Such a crumbling southern fare cannot be mastered in the much chillier northern climates. I think it is the sweat on the forehead, the fine Kentucky bourbon on the breath during it's conception that makes bluegrass corn bread what it is. And that is nothing short of a butter and honey-covered miracle.

Corn bread started as a food of the American Indians and later became the saving grace of the newly arrived and starving pilgrims, who would have greatly preferred wheat flour and mutton over the coarsely ground corn. This was pre-KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken). KFC is another great Kentucky tradition, but I don't think the pilgrims had a lot of success with deep fryers at that point. Hence, born of necessity, corn bread suffered under the lowly names of corn pone or ashcakes, flavored with salt and flakes of the grinding stones. And probably small, smashed insects, but let's not dwell on it. Protein is protein.


Corn pone later fed the minds of great men. George Washington ate three small corn cakes each day at breakfast, slathered in cream and honey. Daniel Boone trekked across America, a solid piece of corn bread fueling his passage through the Cumberland Gap. I think he also killed him a bear before he was even 3, but that might have been a guy from Tennessee.

I'm sure some great women have also eaten corn bread, but they are harder to find in the history books. They seem to be the ones cooking it, but never getting credit for it. Maybe the women were too busy trying to invent deep fryers. They knew buckets of KFC would make their lives easier. They invented Slim-Fast soon after.

From ashcakes to a Cracker Barrel staple, corn bread has definitely improved over the years. There are even corn bread movements to further the conquest of the golden squares of southern lovin'. Jeremy Jackson, author of "The Cornbread Book," wants to make corn bread the official bread of America. (

Though a miraculous invention of rib-sticking goodness, there are limits to a corn bread's power. It cannot vote a Democrat into the White House in 2004. It probably can't bring back Elvis. Maybe a good peanut butter and banana sandwich, but not corn bread. I haven't been around long enough to know for sure, but some of my older colleagues assure me that corn bread does not cure baldness.

Now, if you're too skinny, I think it can cure that. In fact, if you're too skinny you need to move to Kentucky. We'll hook ya'll up with some corn bread and sweet tea. But mostly corn bread.

Emily Burton is a staff writer

for The Advocate.|8/31/03***

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