The Cornbread Gospels Paperback – 16 Oct 2006
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About the Author
Crescent Dragonwagon is the James Beard Award winning author of seven cookbooks, including "Dairy Hollow House Soup & Bread Cookbook", "Passionate Vegetarian", and, most recently, "The Cornbread Gospels". She is also a contributing editor to "Relish" magazine and has appeared on" Good Morning America", "Today" and NPR s "The Splendid Table". She lives, grows, and cooks her beans on a farm in Putney, Vermont.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Let's get the negatives out of the way first:
1. There are no pictures of the finished dishes. I REALLY like pictures.
****EDIT 1/3/2010**** In fairness to Ms Dragonwagon I would like to point out that she added pictures of some of the finished recipes here on the Amazon book page. They are really good photos and will give you an idea of how some of the recipes will look after they are prepared. I'm still cooking up a storm from this book and I'm sure you will too if you decide to try it. Enjoy!****
2. With the exception of the cover, the entire book is black, white, and a kind of pumpkin/orangie color. Not very exciting visually.
3. It is my opinion that much too much emphasis was given to the differences between cornbread as made in the South and cornbread as made in the North. Why go to so much trouble? Just put in the recipes and let me decide if I want to try them.
4. After a while (by about page 100) I really wasn't paying very much attention to the huge amount of information regarding cornmeal and history. Too, too much information.
Now for the positives:
1. It is very obvious that this book was a labor of love for this author. She knows her cornmeal from top to bottom. She even states in the book that this project was six years in the making and I can certainly believe it.
2. Each recipe begins with an anecdote concerning where it came from, who gave it to her or how it evolved over the years. These were simply fascinating to read.
3. Each recipe has obviously been tried, used, and tried again by Ms Dragonwagon. Even within the instructions for the recipes she puts in little nuggets of information to help with preparation, cooking or presentation. I appreciated that and it made each recipe seem very warm and personal.
4. These recipes are GOOD! I have tried four so far and absolutely loved each one, my hubby on the other hand only liked two.
DAIRY HOLLOW HOUSE SKILLET SIZZLED CORNBREAD - The first words out of hubby's mouth were, "Does this cornbread have sugar in it?" He didn't like it, I liked it but will not add the sugar next time. We are firmly entrenched in the no-sweetener-in-cornbread camp. On cornbread, now that's a whole other story. I must confess to liking this but I'm more lenient in food basics than my sweet darlin'.
JANE'S TEXAS-via-VERMONT MEXICAN CORNBREAD - I invited two friends over to taste test this with me. (Thanks Bonnie and June for being willing to sacrifice in the name of research!) We LOVED this cornbread and so did hubby when he got home. I paired it with.....
UNCANNILY GOOD SANTA FE STYLE QUICK GREEN CHILE SOUP-STEW - The recipe says it serves 4 to 6 generously. No, make that 10 to 12 generously. It was a fabulous vegetarian bean soup which just took wings and flew when combined with the cornbread mentioned above. For non-vegetarian consumption I would add some shredded chicken or a nice grilled polska kielbasa sausage.
PATSY'S CORNBREAD SALAD - I have this recipe in a pamphlet/recipe book from Lodge Manufacturing (makers of cast iron cookware) and it has always been a favorite of mine (hubby doesn't like this no matter what I do to it!). The difference here is that Patsy developed the recipe over time and hers has a different dressing and believe you me, that dressing makes that salad completely scrumptious! I'll never use bottled dressing again.
I am impressed with this cookbook. Yes it may seem to have a rather narrow focus but it isn't just about cornbread, it is about cornMEAL. That ingredient can be combined with others to make some pretty wonderful dishes. I can imagine myself using this book over and over and over for years to come. If you don't already have a well seasoned cast iron skillet, invest in one. They are relatively inexpensive and come from the factory pre-seasoned now so you get to skip that step. The cast iron skillet makes that indescribably delicious crunchy/crispy crust which makes cornbread a food of the gods. With this book you will have recipes to try out for months, and that's just counting the cornbreads.
This is not just a cookbook. It's stories wound around history, looped with facts and hints and tied together with recipes that will join your repertoire and never, ever leave. It's not just cornbread recipes, either! It's muffins and pones and pancakes and go-withs like greens and soups.
I, like so many people that Crescent Dragonwagon met in her travels, grew up with cornbread and have a deep affection for it; not just because I love it, but because of the memories it brings with it each time it's pulled hot from the oven. When I told my mom about this book, the first thing out of her mouth was, "Grandma made cornbread every day of her life." I didn't know that! I knew grandma made it, of course, but I didn't know it was a daily thing for her. I asked mom if grandma had a recipe or if she (and I looked around and lowered my voice at this) made it from a box. Thankfully, mom said grandma always used a recipe, "...yellow cornmeal-always, a little flour, some sugar..." Just as I'd suspected.
At any rate, when I read about the history of cornbread and how it at one time was thought by some to be "poor people food", or that others were looked down upon for eating it, it nearly broke my heart. Cornbread is beautiful to me, and to think that anyone would think different was just not right. I kept reading, not able to stop, and found that thoughts turned around eventually. I didn't know there was so much to know about cornbread.
I couldn't wait to get started on making some of those recipes, so I chose 3 and got started. The first one was, of course, the first (and I feel-best) in the book, "Dairy Hollow House Skillet-Sizzled Cornbread", the very cornbread served by C.D. at her former Eureka Springs inn of the same name. Let me tell you, I didn't think there was much reason to make any other cornbread at all - ever - after that one. Even my husband a true *gasp* cornbread-hater (I'll deal with him later, don't you worry) liked it.
The next two were "Leora's Sweet-Milk Buttermilk Cornbread" and "Ronni's Appalachian Cornbread". Those greens I made the other day were made especially to go with these cornbreads - and they were perfect. The next day, I made Kush from the leftovers, which I only think we had since I'd made 3 pans of cornbread! I just loved having my cast iron pan out for something truly worthy of being made in it.
There is no other book you will ever need for a cornbread recipe. Not ever. This woman has traveled far and wide and found versions that span the globe. Did you even have a clue that cornbread was global?
I have lots of recipes left to try (there's over 200!), and I plan to make as many as I can. I urge you to get your own copy of this book.