“Cornbread Festival” – by Debbie Ambrous

November 18, 2017 – Cornbread was promised, and cornbread it will be!  No croissants, beignets or baguettes will be served.  Our calendar was marked for the Homegrown Cornbread Festival at the Pioneer Museum of Alabama in Troy, Alabama. (Check at www.pioneer-museum.org for more information.) Nothing was stopping us from this fun festival. Let the guitar-picking and knee-slapping begin!

Free samples of cornbread were offered on long tables in the museum, and the newly-crowned Little Miss Cornbread was there to pose for me, still a bit bashful with her titled attention.  Jim and I sampled enough cornbread to keep our appetite under control until later.  Sausage was smoking in a log smokehouse, and Jim finagled his way into getting samples while I only had pictures, a face-full of smoke and smudged sunglasses from poking my head into the smokehouse. Down the hill, we found two fellows presenting authentic woodworking craftsmanship.  Turned table legs were on display, and the two men, an older and a younger, were working vigorously with wood shavings scattering on the floor.  Wood shavings, sawdust and the noise of sanding and saws were part of my upbringing since my dad’s cabinet shop was next to our house.  Dad’s cabinets and other woodwork are still in many homes and businesses in my hometown.  My brother continues the tradition with the business my dad started.  The heavy wooden doors with old paint remnants caught my attention while the colorful memories drifted through my mind like the smoke billowing from the chimney up the hill.Hot pink shoes with a matching shirt boasting “Simply Southern” set the mood in the log cabin with the chimney smoke where cornbread was cooking on a black, cast iron stove.  We sampled the fresh from the frying pan cornbread, paying attention to the cook’s warning that it was hot, hot!  Folks gathered inside in front of the fireplace, sitting at a picnic table, and I thought I remembered the same smell inside old farmhouses I visited with my parents when I was little.  Or, maybe my mind was tricking me.  Either way, it was a pleasant sensation.

Outside, in the yard, children climbed trees and ran around like children should.  Jim and I, just big children, climbed aboard for a mule and wagon ride.  The mules plodded their way down the path, through the old covered bridge – Poole’s Bridge – which was brought to this location in addition to the other old timbered buildings donated for the outdoor museum.  Thousands of old covered bridges, timber tunnels, once spanned streams and rivers.  Only a dozen remain in Alabama and fewer than 900 in the United States.  The covers once served to protect the floors and provided shelter for weary travelers from bad weather.  The Poole Bridge features the Town or lattice truss which was developed by Connecticut architect Ithel Town in 1820.Our wagon was raided by a youngster with a painted face when we made our return trip up the hill. Then, we strolled around to see the craft displays of items for sale. (Yes, that’s Jim in the group.)  A lovely lady in pioneer dress and bare feet was seated under a tree, working on pretty hair ornaments.  She could have just stepped into our day from the past, except she had a pretty pedicure with lovely, painted toenails and a smart phone in her sewing basket.

Our friendly lady with the flashing eyes is Nancy Conklin and you can find her work on Etsy – Alilla Bazaar.  Be sure to check her handiwork since it is simply beautiful!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jim and I were amazed at the museum which was filled with everything from dugout canoes to quilt displays.  Entire rooms were arranged with antique furniture. The bedroom with the Bible on the nightstand and a picture of the lovely lady who once read it touched my heart. Carriages and farm equipment filled a large room with a cat sleeping in one of the carriages.  We definitely plan to return since there was so much to see that we couldn’t do it justice in one day.

The Adams General Store is last, the dessert of this story The case of empty bottles on the front porch reminded me of a time when I could get a few pennies in my pocket for returned bottles.  Think about that next time you see discarded aluminum soda cans littering the roadside.  I believe we could call the old general store an early Walmart without the excess and ugly exterior.  I say such a weird thing because the general store had such a vast amount of stuff for sale inside.  The small building we visited had shoes, hats, cloth for sewing, cosmetics, gloves, Jack’s cookies in a jar, BC power for headaches, Philip’s Magnesia for you know what, cough syrup, salt, cheese, coffee, onions, mule collars and chicken feed.  It seemed that half the shelves were covered with tobacco products like Prince Albert in a can, rolling papers and Red Rooster snuff with no health warnings yet.  No surprise that they sold caskets with one on display in the rear of the store!  The front corner of the store was the Post Office.  That is only the beginning.  However, folks didn’t go home with plastic bags crammed full of goods in the rear of their SUV’s back in the day.

Jim was extra nice on our outing which seemed like a mini-vacation.  He was almost too nice since I don’t have any quotes for you on this blog story.  I inquired on the ride home, “You didn’t say or do anything outlandish, or even funny, that I can write for my story.”  Long quiet spell with rumination under the suede hat until he said, “A fellow can’t just produce genius on command, too much pressure!” 

I leave you with that thought, hoping it doesn’t spoil your lunch, or whatever you are doing.  I will share two cornbread recipes for you to enjoy.  One is from my Aunt Margaret (deceased) who was married to my daddy’s brother.

The other is from my sweet friend Phyllis, who is such a good cook and unfortunately has this awful flu presently.  I hope she is feeling better very soon!!

Enjoy the recipes and come again for more of France next time from this Alabama gal who loves her native state and France as well.

AUNT MARGARET’S JALAPENO CORNBREAD

1-1/2 cups self-rising corn meal mix

1 carton 8-oz. sour cream

1 medium Jalapeno pepper

1 medium bell pepper

1 cup grated cheese

1 small can of creamed corn

Chop the Jalapeno pepper (removing the small seeds, since seeds and membrane are hot) and chop the bell pepper.  Mix all ingredients together.  Spread into a 10-inch cast iron frying pan, or you could use an oblong baking dish.  Bake in oven at 400 degrees for 45 minutes.

CORNBREAD BY PHYLLIS

2 cups medium grind corn meal

1 tsp. salt

½ tsp. soda

1 ¼ cup buttermilk

1 cup water

Mix all ingredients together.  Shape into two oval pones with hands and place in deep, greased iron skillet, adding enough oil about ½ inch for frying.  Cook on top of stove, flipping over pancake style until done.   Or, you can bake in the oven with less fat, oil the cast iron pan and bake the pones at 450 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown.  (Phyllis, forgive me if Jim has taken liberty with your recipe!)