Can cornbread save humanity?
Before you write me off for being a lunatic, think about it. Nobody can think negative thoughts while eating hot cornbread from a skillet. Cornbread is powerful stuff.
I don’t know if you know this, but cornbread has already saved the nation once. In fact, cornbread is one of the reasons you’re alive right now. I’m being absolutely serious. Allow me to explain:
One of the first foods Native Americans taught the pilgrims—our uptight fundamentalist ancestors—to prepare was cornbread. Thus, our puritian forefathers’ diets were heavy on the cornbread.
It is a fact that cornbread kept our fledgling infant country alive during hard winters and prevented colonists from starving in dire circumstances. Cornbread was life.
So in light of this simple information, this means that, in a manner of speaking, without cornbread, there would be no America. Simply put, cornbread is more American than Chevys, Coke floats, baseball, and pugs dressed in bow ties.
And I’m talking about the real cornbread here, not the fare from a box. I wouldn’t feed box-cornbread to a Labrador. No, I’m speaking of corn pone cooked in a greasy iron skillet, smeared with so much butter your cardiologist disowns you.
Long ago, I used to work as a drywall man. One day my coworker, Bill, asked if I’d help drywall his basement. Males are always roping their friends into huge projects like this, often promising to pay them with beer.
The thing is, no amount of beer would have convinced me to help Bill. Because Bill and I weren’t friends. Actually, we were enemies. It’s a long story, and I don’t have room to tell it, but we had a falling out over a girl. So I responded by telling Bill to get lost.
Bill started begging. “Please? Nobody else wants to help sheetrock my basement. If you help me, I’ll get my mom to cook for us.”
“Nope,” I said. “Sorry. I’m busy.”
“She’ll make fried chicken.”
“You can’t bribe me, Bill.”
“And zipper peas.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
“What day were you thinking?”
I freely admit, I am a noted admirer of cornbread. Men like me appreciate cornbread the same way wine enthusiasts appreciate a Lafite Rothschild rebouchée au château 1874. And I don’t care what kind of cornbread you feed me: cracklin’ bread, johnnycakes, hoecakes, jalapeño cornbread, or hot water cornbread. Just put it on my plate, and pass the Lipitor.
I grew up with this food, and I have held the blessed hands which prepared it. These hands were steadfast, gentle, and belonged to elderly women who spoke in tongues and occasionally handled legless reptiles during the clapping songs.
These were women whose hair was piled atop their heads in 19-foot beehives, who wore cat-eye glasses, and made you pick out your own hickory switch when you used the word “Farrah Fawcett.”
Oh, what these souls could do with flour and lard. They were our virtuosos. Composers. These females were to cornmeal what Michelangelo was to marble.
They had names like Nadine, Rayline, Earline, Maurine, Jolene, Arlene, Bobbie Jean, Irma Jean, Norma Jean, Wilma Jean, and lest I forget, Sister Arenetta Sue Ann MacDonnough III, may she rest in her eternal joy.
So I agreed to help drywall Bill’s basement.
And I was in for a surprise. Because Bill’s mother was not the only person cooking that day.
Apparently there was a big function going on at her church that night, so his mother invited the entire Civic League to prepare food in Bill’s kitchen.
No sooner had I parked in Bill’s driveway than four Buicks pulled beside me, all crammed full of gray-haired women clad in polyester, wielding spatulas, and smelling like bath powder.
The women labored in Bill’s kitchen for hours while we hung drywall and the aroma of food wafted through the house like ghosts from my childhood. And I was a 4-year-old again.
Basic smells like this remind me how fortunate I was that my youth was spent among simple people.
I experienced the tail end of a computer-less era that has vanished. But I am grateful to have known rotary phones, stovetop percolators, TVs that received only two channels, encyclopaedia sets, and comic books.
Ours was a slow existence, when kids lived outdoors, and a boy’s primary means of communication with the outside world was a Schwinn. But those days are gone.
Anyway, that night at Bill’s supper table, I was covered in drywall dust. The meal was perhaps the best I’ve ever had. The cornbread came in a skillet. There were two additional varieties of cornbread present, including lace cornbread, and “cheesy cornbread sticks,” which are illegal in 19 states (California, New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Oregon, New Jersey and 13 others I think).
I ate so much that I fell asleep on my friend’s sofa in a glycemic coma. When I awoke, it was past midnight, and I was draped in a quilt. There was an old woman sitting beside me, knitting by lamplight. It was Bill’s mother.
Bill’s mother accompanied me to the door when I was leaving, half asleep. She gave me a cooler filled with leftovers wrapped in foil. She hugged me, kissed me, and left a coral-colored smudge on my cheek. Then she whispered something in my ear about forgiveness.
Before I left, I gave Bill a firm handshake and told him I was sorry we’d ever let a quarrel come between us. Then we embraced.
He said, “Does this mean we’re friends again?” Which, of course, is exactly what it meant. In fact, we remain pals to this day. Bill sat on the front pew at my wedding and cried like a newborn. And I did the same thing at his saintly mother’s funeral.
I’m telling you. Cornbread is powerful stuff.
Raised in San Antonio, Jack Dennis’ early experiences were as a newspaper reporter and private investigator. With a Texas State University bachelor’s degree, Jack studied journalism, education and psychology. He was the founding vice-president of Sigma Delta Chi, the Association of Professional Journalists at the University. Jack has received numerous awards, including Investigative Reporter of the Year from Rocky Mountain Press Association, David Ashworth Community Award, and Leadership in Management.
Some of the people and groups Jack has interviewed include:
Elvis Presley, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Willie Nelson, B.B. King, George Strait, Roy Orbison, Justin Timberlake, Steven Tyler, Freddie Mercury, Kenny Rogers, Kenny Loggins, Jackson Browne, Steve Wariner, Tanya Tucker, Scotty Moore, Fats Domino, Patty Page, Tommy Roe, Emmy Lou Harris, Johnny Rivers, Charly McClain, Kinky Friedman, John McFee, Guy Allison & Patrick Simmons (Doobie Brothers) , Randy Bachman (BTO), Jim Messina, Todd Rundgren, Alvin Lee, Gary Puckett, The Ventures, Freddy Cannon, Augie Meyer, Christopher Cross, Whiskey Myers, Sha Na Na (John “Bowzer” Baumann), Flash Cadillac, Jerry Scheff, John Wilkinson, Darrell McCall, and more.
Politicians & News
George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Lady Bird Johnson, Greg Abbott, Rudolph Giuliani, Larry King, Jack Anderson, Tom Bradley, Connie Mack, and more.
Clint Eastwood, Mike Myers, Taylor Lautner, Cameron Diaz, Jerry Lewis, Eddie Murphy, Antonio Banderas, Julie Andrews, Selena Gomez, Tippi Hedren, James Earl Jones, James Woods, Jim Nabors, Martha Raye, Rosalind Russell, June Lockhart, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Howie Mandel, Meg Ryan, Cheri Oteri, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, James Drury, Melanie Griffith, Nathan Lane, Alan Thicke, Lou Diamond Phillips, Clint Howard, Tony Sirico, Cesar Romero, Michael Berryman, Tracy Scoggins, William Windom, Warren Stevens and more.
Buzz Aldrin, Alan Bean, Wally Schirra, Dave Scott, Gene Cernan, Walt Cunningham, Scott Carpenter, Gene Kranz (NASA Flight Director), Ed Mitchell, Richard Gordon, Bruce McCandless, Vanentina Treshkova (first woman in space, Russia), Alex Leonov (first man to walk in space, Russian), Al Worden, Dee O’Hara (nurse to astronauts) and more.
Sports: Joe Torre, Roger Staubach, Bob Hayes, Billie Jean King, Manuela Maleeva, Drew Pearson, Bob Lilly, Tim Duncan, David Robinson, George Gervin, Tony Parker, Shannon Miller, Cathy Rigby, Bruce Bowen, Wade Boggs, Fernando Valenzuela, Bernie Kosar, Dale Murphy, Jim Abbott, Dick Bartell, Mike Schmidt, Dan Pastorini and more.
May Pang, Bob Eubanks, Vernon Presley, Vester Presley, Charlie Hodge, Joe Esposito, Rick Stanley (Elvis’ step-brother, Harold Lloyd (Elvis’ first cousin), Doyle Brunson, Kara Peller, Hank Meijer, Norman Brinkler, Stanley Marcus, Jerry King, Mac King, Nathan Burton, Zach Anner, Louie Anderson, Owen Benjamin, Steve Byrne and more.
As head of Facilities for a major retailer (H-E-B Food/Drugs) for 20 years, Jack co-founded Professional Retail Store Maintenance Association (PRSM) and was elected President to establish PRSM magazine. Jack is a writer, speaker, golf-concierge and happiness coach. He has researched and studied happiness for over 40 years.
Jack was a prolific writer for Examiner.com, with over 1,900 articles written in six years. His articles and stories have appeared in AXS Entertainment, The ROWDY Country Music, Memphis Flash, and numerous magazines.
He is author of “Miracles of Justice,” a true courtroom drama novel about social injustice and miracles.