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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Proof is in the Mixin' Bowls! by Gail Roughton

Home Is Where The Heart Is

A current Facebook funny video's making the rounds (courtesy of  the public Facebook page It's a Southern Thing; anyone who likes a good laugh should check it out) which oddly enough, seems to make folks think of me, though I can't imagine why (and yes, that's sarcasm, 'cause the video features a "southern" Alexa, complete with southern accent). A writer friend of mine from Kansas tagged me with it on Friday and even though I'd seen it, I watched it again 'cause it's just so dang funny and has so much truth in it.  But it wasn't till the next day when I was doing Saturday morning chores that I realized just how much truth.  (Yeah, I think of some pretty strange things while I'm cleaning.)  

One of the scenes has the lady of the house checking the fridge and instructing Alexa to add biscuits to the grocery list.  So Alexa responds, "Adding flour, baking powder, sugar..." Not exactly what the lady of the house had in mind.  "No, no, no! Canned biscuits." To which Alexa exclaims in horror, "Why on earth would you do that?  Are your mixin' bowls broken?"  

Biscuits do happen to be one of my signature dishes, but while I swept the floor, I suddenly realized I'd once responded almost exactly the same way to someone, though biscuits weren't involved.  A couple of years ago during the holiday season, my publisher, who shall be nameless but whose initials are Jude Pittman, emailed me for a recipe for cornbread because, as she explained, she wanted to make dressing but couldn't find the pre-packaged mix she usually used for cornbread on the shelves of her Canadian grocery store. Horror-struck at the thought of cornbread from a package, I immediately e-mailed back, "There's absolutely no reason to ever use a package mix for cornbread!  All you need is two cups of cornmeal..." And off I went, spouting forth a basic cornbread recipe along with pretty much every variation I could think of.  

Now don't get me wrong, I don't labor under any delusion that every southern woman is a master cook (certainly I'm not) or always bakes from scratch (certainly I don't, except for cornbread and usually biscuits) and for certain sure I've never seen my daughter make cornbread from anything but a package mix. But I do think every region has its own traditions, passed down through the generations, and I absolutely believe cooking and recipes are very big players in forming the character of a region, whether same be New England, Pennsylvania Dutch, Mid-Western, Southwestern, Western, Pacific Northwest, or Southern. Or Floridian or Californian 'cause sometimes those states do tend to be separate entities all by themselves. Certainly cooking and recipes are integral plot ingredients in cozy mysteries, and I definitely use food throughout my writing to "flavor" the words for an extra touch of southern. 

Pretty much nothing's more southern than cornbread, so just in case anybody's in need of a quick cornbread recipe that throws together just about as fast as any package mix, here you go:

2 cups self-rising cornmeal (though you can add in 1/3 to 2/3 cup of sugar if you like, and also you can use 1 cup cornmeal and 1 cup flour if you prefer. Also, if you're not using self-rising, you're goin' to need a dash of salt and some baking soda.  A little baking powder wouldn't hurt anything either.  Which is why I never buy anything but self-rising cornmeal or flour 'cause it's just too complicated if you don't.)

3 tablespoons oil (though you can go as high as a 1/3 to slightly under 1/2 a cup if you're using flour and sugar along with the cornmeal. Also, you can use melted butter instead of oil but butter disappears fast enough at my house as it is so I don't.)

1 egg (or two, depends on your mood and whether you're using flour and sugar instead of just cornmeal)

1 1/2 cup buttermilk (approximately, 'cause changing up the number of eggs and adding flour and sugar into the mix is goin' to change the amount of liquid used and if you've gone with the almost but not quite 1/2 cup of oil and 2 egg option, you need to use 1 cup of buttermilk. Also if you don't have buttermilk, you can use milk but it doesn't take as much milk 'cause milk makes the batter thinner and trust me, it ain't goin' to taste as good either, so you have to eyeball it as you mix.)

Mix together and bake in either an 8 by 8 pan or muffin pan (12) at 425 for 15-18 minutes, though if you've gone with the flour, sugar, and more oil option, bake at 375 for 30-35 minutes,  depending on your oven and how golden-brown you want it, 'cause the texture's going to be different.

And if you want some killer jalapeno cornbread, throw in 1/4 cup diced jalapenos before mixing, though if you do, you definitely need the 1 cup corn meal, 1 cup flour, 2/3 cup of sugar, almost but not quite 1/2 cup oil, 2 eggs, 1 cup buttermilk, (don't forget the 1/4 cup diced jalapeno), bake at 375 for 30-35 minutes (my perfect time is 33 minutes) version.  

Confused? You've just been "southern reciped". And that's why I never ask for anybody's recipe for anything.  I look up a black and white recipe and then make my own modifications.  (However, that last paragraph detailing the making of jalapeno cornbread is truly awesome as well as being exact in measurements.) 

But you don't have to cook for a taste of southern, just go settle in at the Scales of Justice Cafe, located within the pages of Country Justice. And for links to all my novels at all online sites, just visit my author page at BWL Publishing. Y'all come back now, hear?

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