When I was about 12 years old, my Dad, who always loved a good road trip, took my brother, Kevin, and me to Alabama and Georgia to visit family. It was a long trip in a car that had THE worst back seat in the world!
The seat was divided in half by a large hump, sort of like having two bucket seats. Kevin and I took turns trying to sleep in this horrible back seat while we listened to static on the radio and my Dad slapping himself in the face to stay awake! The combination was enough to make for a couple of very crabby kids!
Dad liked to drive straight through wherever we were going. Maybe he just liked to drive. But, the torture he put us kids through by doing this was agonizing! He never turned the radio off. Between major cities, we would have to listen to endless static played as loud as possible. Dad would intermittently slap himself across the face to stay awake once the static ceased to work for him. I don’t think he did this to keep from having to put us all up in a motel for the night. I think he just wanted to get to his destination. Needless to say, Kevin and I would turn into a couple of brats and we’d have Dad wishing he’d left the two of us home!
Finally, 2,000 miles and several face slapping nights later, we arrived at Aunt Kat and Uncle Jigs adorable country home. We walked in the house to see Aunt Kat busily shuffling around the kitchen. The aroma of ham and cornbread filled the air. Uncle Jigs greeted us with a big smile and took us outside to show us his bus. He was a school bus driver. He kept his big yellow bus parked on the side of the house.
Like every good southern cook, Aunt Kat made us a lunch we’d never forget. I was used to having a bologna sandwich and a glass of chocolate milk, but in the south lunch is just as important a meal as dinner. The table was gracefully covered with a taupe linen tablecloth that was still warm from the sun. Huh! A tablecloth? Not something I’d been accustom to with my bologna. The plates were kissed with tiny pink roses and bright green leaves. Seemed elaborate as a lunch table to me, but it made me feel so special that someone would put together such a beautiful table just for lunch, and just for us. But, as I had come to realize during this trip, in the south every meal is an event.
Aunt Kat served us ice cold sweet tea in green glasses with little circular indentations in them (I think my Dad still had a set of these glasses in his kitchen cupboard!). This is a glass pattern that seemed to bless EVERY table in the south. Aunt Kat let me add the napkins (cloth of course!) and the flatware that had obviously been loved for a long, long time. She wouldn’t let me do anything else! A good southern host she was! She smiled and shuffled back and forth from her cute little kitchen to the dining room with such joy. She was so happy that we were there.
We sat down to eat and joined hands for blessing. As we began to pass each dish around the table, I noticed some strange looking beans. When the dish came to me, I sniffed it….yuck! Aunt Kat giggled and said “haven’t you ever had black-eyed peas before youngin?”. I responded “no” as I scooped us the smallest serving I could get away with. No, I’d never had black-eyed peas before and, to be honest, I’ve never had them since. I ate the small amount of the mealy little peas that I put on my plate just to be cordial. On the positive side, I slapped three of the largest slices of ham onto my plate, a square of corn bread and something I hadn’t seen before – Spoon Bread. Wow! Aunt Kat’s corn bread was sublime, but this stuff called spoon bread was even better.
The spoon bread was like corn bread on steroids! It was light and fluffy; a sort of cross between cornbread, polenta, a soufflé, and corn pudding. It had a silky, almost custardy interior and a crunchy exterior. It was like having dessert for dinner! Aunt Kat had mixed in some corn and scallions which made my Dad happy since he made sure we ate our vegetables! I found a way to scrape the remainder of my black-eyed peas onto my brothers plate, without anyone noticing. Kevin almost ratted me out, but he was currently on my Dad’s nerves so he quietly accepted my offering. I devoured my plate of spoon bread and ham!
Kevin and I helped Aunt Kat clear the lunch table and serve up vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup while Uncle Jigs showed off his tool shed to my Dad. Kev and I were pretty happy when Aunt Kat refused to let us do the dishes. Of course Dad had to respect this southern hospitality :).
So, this is my version of Aunt Kat’s spoon bread with corn and scallions ( I used leeks in my recipe). This is a great recipe for your Thanksgiving table. I hope you enjoy spoon bread as much as I do!
- 3 large eggs (separated)
- 2½ c milk
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 cup yellow corn meal
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 c corn kernals
- 2 medium leeks
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a medium casserole dish with cooking spray. Line the dish with parchment paper to keep from sticking. Set aside.
- Separate the eggs. Slightly beat the egg yolks. Set aside.
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add 2 cups of milk, cayenne pepper and salt and bring to a boil. Sprinkle in the cornmeal stirring constantly and cook until smooth. About 3 minutes.
- Stir in the remaining ½ cup milk, baking powder and egg yolks.
- In a mixing bowl, whip the egg whites under stiff. Fold egg whites into the cornmeal mixture one large spoonful at a time until combined and fluffy.
- Pour half of the batter into the casserole dish. Sprinkle corn and leeks over the batter. Pour remaining batter on top.
- Bake until golden brown, about 35 to 40 minutes.
- Serve immediately.