Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Spoon Bread

I was browsing the local Virginia section of Kroger trying to pick out some gourmet Virginia Peanuts for the family in California when a package of spoon bread caught my eye. I had absolutely no idea what spoon bread was, but was intrigued when I read on the package that it is a traditional dish from the 18th century with the consistency of bread pudding and the flavors of cornbread. The company that makes this 18th Century Spoon Bread mix, is named Byrd Mill and has been in existence since 1740. Turns out that Patrick Henry actually used to come to the mill as a child. I find very cool to be able to pick up a genuine piece of history at the local supermarket.

I would like to tell you how I made spoon bread, but truth be told I didn't cook it. I handed it off to the boyfriend, but I can tell you that the baking mix contains old fashioned white cornmeal, natural unbleached flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. The mix started off on the stove, milk and eggs were added at some point and we had a discussion on how to beat out all those lumps. The directions were not very clear so we poured it in the mixer. I know that colonial cooks didn't have Kitchen Aid mixers, but as long as were on the subject they didn't have baking mixes either! The batter was then poured into a baking dish and finished in the oven for about a half hour.

Spoon bread is actually really good. It's no wonder that history tells us it was a favorite of our first president, George Washington and that people during the revolutionary war lived off the stuff. The dish is dense, slightly sweet with a silky smooth texture and a mild corn flavor. Like the name suggests, you eat it with a spoon. You could actually cut slices out of the casserole dish, but I dug right in. Spoon bread might be known as Southern food today, but the origin is actually Native American. Records show that during the winter of 1607 the Powhatan Indians took pity on the starving settlers of the new world in Jamestown, Virginia and taught them to plant and cook corn. Thank goodness they did or we wouldn't have spoon bread. Or the United States for that matter!

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