Wednesday, March 16, 2005


Unpredictable Oklahoma weather brought us sunny and near 70 on Monday, and snow on Tuesday

The ground was warm enough that falling snow melted before it ever reached the ground, so what we saw was rain.

Still, those who worked in the tall office towers on the top floors saw snow falling.

It wasn't cold enough to want to hunker down with a big bowl of red, but cornbread and beans sounded really good.

We make a variety of cornbreads - Southern style, Northern style, Mexicali, sourdoughed, and yeasted. Some are sweet and some are savory. The only binding between them all is ground corn meal.

Last night, we opted for a Mexicali version - creamed corn, extra sharp cheddar, melting Mozzarella, ground corn meal, eggs, milk, butter, and freshly chopped chilies. This cornbread was topped with more cheese, chopped chilies, and diced tomatoes. When it came steaming from the oven, we split it open, slathered it with spicy butter and topped it with pinto beans and more cheese.

I'll upload a picture as soon as I get to the computer with the photo software on it.

We bake our cornbreads in enameled cast iron, and that means having to heat the iron pans before we fill it with the cornbread batter. A baking stone stays in the oven to help even the temperature in it. On the rack above it, we place the cornbread pan, and let it heat at 400º for 20 minutes with butter in it. When we take it out of the oven, we give it a swirl to let the butter coat it well and then pour in the batter. It sizzles and forms a crust almost immediately.

The first time I ever made this cornbread, we lived next door to a Mexican family waiting for citizenship. Mrs. Martinez had a huge brood of children, all living in their half of a one bedroom duplex. She cheerfully cooked for all the neighborhood children - piles of tortillas, mounds of refried beans - and this cornbread.

I loved this cornbread. In the mornings, I would stop by her place, and she'd tuck squares of it in my leather German luncbox, along with a gooshy chunk of white cheese. I'd eat it for lunch. On my way home at night, she'd wave me over and let me have any left-overs from earlier in the day, because Mrs. Martinez would never serve hours old cornbread to her family. She thought it was a gaucho thing, to eat cold cornbread.

I didn't care. I loved it.

One day, Mrs. Martinez took me into her kitchen and showed me how to make this cornbread myself, scraping thye corn off the cob and mashing it to cream it up, shredding the cheeses, peeling and chopping the chilies, preheating the iron cornbread pan, and mixing it all up to bake.

Some days, I'd rather have this cornbread than cake.

I owe a lot of my Texican cookery to Mrs. Martinez.

I ought not to be surprised by it, but there were many people who took the time to teach me to cook as I grew up. Men showed me their secret barbecue recipes, and women shared their special time-saving techniques in the kitchen.

Back then, practically everybody cooked most of their meals themselves. Eating out was for special occassions.

In some ways, I'm sort of sad to see that it isn't so anymore. Too many people eat out, or buy frozen meals to nuke at home.

I know the Cracked Cauldron will be a favorite place for many people to eat and get take out.

I wonder if Manager would like the idea of eventually offering cookery classes to neighborhood kids? Every kid needs to know how to cook one special dish.

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