Tuesday, September 05, 2006

What Corn Bread Says

Beans grabbed cornbread by the toe
Beans said "Cornbread let me go"
Cornbread said "I'll lay you low
I’m gonna fight you, you so and so"
Meet me on the corner
meet me on the corner tomorrow night
That’s what Beans said to Cornbread
you so bad, you always wanna fight

- Luis Jordan, Beans and Cornbread

When it comes to roots food, corn bread is about as subterranean as it gets. The stuff runs deep. You can sense it in the bread itself. Its firm and has a warmth that speaks of basic sustenance and fundamental prosperity.

Corn bread is older than the States, older than European settlement of America in fact; more American than America. It has its roots in Native American Indian cooking where maize formed an important part of many diets. It has become is a staple of African American cooking and also synonymous with the South.

A reader recently (that’s “recently” on Southern time by the way, i.e., several weeks ago) wrote in suggesting a piece on the corny stuff. It’s a very good idea. One worthy of my poking around the county for some spots that serve it. As one might suspect, the Burbs are not exactly one big blackened skillet cooking up corn bread and serving it out hot. But here are three pretty different shops with their own take on corn bread:

At Q, the corn bread is warm, slightly sweet and radiates a grainy down to the kernel corn flavor. This is a corn bread that pleases. It has a substantial crumb that holds together well. The firm but moist inner cake is yellow and covered by a brown smoother paper thin top. A few roughly cut squares come with each entrée. (
Click here for The WesFoodie’s bit on Q)

Yvonne’s Southern Cuisine serves a more traditional Southern version. Its not as sweet as the Yankee type bread. And not as yellow. This corn bread is served in pieces of various sizes and rectangular shapes. It has a more pronounced crumb and a drier mouth feel. People tell me the Southern stuff grows on you.

Now there’s nothing more hoi polloi than corn bread so don’t get all hoity-toity on me when I tell you that the corn bread at Boston Market has a devoted following. Its very moist and its the sweetest of this troika for certain. BM serves it up in individual “loaves” of yellow cake. The crumb is a bit thinner than that of Q’s and Yvonne’s bread and the top can be a little sticky (this can be a good thing).

For those who want to try their hand at recreating a bit of the South in the Burbs here is a link to “
Aunt Martha’s” corn bread recipe via NPR channeling Joseph E. Dabney's Smokehouse Ham, Spoon Bread, and Scuppernong Wine: The Folklore and Art of Southern Appalachian Cooking. Save some for me, please!

Q Restaurant
112 N. Main St.
Port Chester
(914) 933-7427

Yvonne's Southern Cuisine
503 Fifth Avenue, Pelham. (914) 738-2005

Boston Market
Various Locations

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