As a child I wrote short stories with long, drawn out descriptions of food. This would have been forgivable had I written the rest of the story in the same amount of detail (apparently plot was never particularly important.) This uneven focus has continued into my adult life. Seeing a commercial or even hearing a passing mention of food can make me fixate on it to the point that I feel physical pain if I don’t eventually eat that particular thing. I also watch cooking shows when I’m hungry so that when I finally tear myself away from the TV—salivating, stomach churning—the food I eat will taste even better. I think I might be a crazy person. Or a sadist.
To Kill A Mockingbird at least pretends to have a plot (just kidding. Racial strife, yo. It’s important.) Food works on many levels: as metaphor for racial segregation (the black folks leave their offerings on the back porch, the white folks knock on the front door), as a reflection of socioeconomic status (affluence based on ingredients afforded by income) and as representation for Southern hospitality; the way you could expect the neighbors to drop by with a Lane Cake or lemon squares in times of tragedy. So much of life in Maycomb can be represented through food. I get a lot of satisfaction from this. It mirrors that first bite I take after watching Giada’s giant forehead make carbonara and say “mah-zo-ray-a” between perfectly enunciated English words. You know, just in case you forgot she was Italian.
Perhaps Calpurnia sensed that my day had been a grim one: she let me watch her fix supper. ‘Shut your eyes and open your mouth and I’ll give you a surprise,’ she said. It was not often that she made crackling bread, she said she never had time, but with both of us at school today had been an easy one for her. She knew I loved crackling bread.”
Ingredients: 1 1/2 cup yellow or white corn meal, 1 cup all purpose flour, 2 cups buttermilk, 1/4 cup sugar, 2 tbsp baking powder, 2 eggs, 1 cup pork cracklings, 2 tbsp bacon fat or crisco (makes about 6 servings)
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Coat baking pan in bacon fat or crisco (I ended up cooking the bacon for the fat, crumbling it up and adding it in with the cracklings)
2. Mix dry ingredients. Pour in buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk, use powdered buttermilk + water) and stir. Add eggs and cracklings. Mix well.
3. Pour into pan and bake for 25-30 mins. Cool for 5 mins. Drizzle with butter, honey or maple syrup.
I don’t know what to think about crackling bread. I prefer my cornbread less…meaty I guess. Don’t get me wrong, I doused this in butter and pure Vermont maple syrup and it was amazing. I just don’t like pork that much.
I debated making my own cracklings, but ultimately—after wandering the meat section wide eyed and confused—I stumbled upon prepackaged cracklings and snatched them up. Going forward I would like to make everything from scratch. Just consider this introductory recipe my Sandra Lee-semi-homemade slip up (you know, boxed recipe + extra ingredient. Oh Sandra. You crazy lush.) See, if Calpurnia had employed this kind of half-assed strategy then maybe she’d have more time to make crackling bread.