MANDY FLYNN: Thinking out of the box about cornbread

FEATURES COLUMN: A Christmas sign leads to a New Years resolution

Mandy Flynn

Mandy Flynn

While many people sit and contemplate what their New Year’s Resolution will be this year, I rest peacefully knowing what mine will be. This year I will learn to do something so incredible that my family will be eternally grateful.

I will learn to make cornbread.

Not just any old cornbread. Cornbread that does not live in a box. Cornbread that is not cooked in the oven. Cornbread that is cooked on top of the stove, in a pan. The almighty of cornbread.

My mother calls it lace bread because, when done exactly right, the edges turn crispy light brown and resemble crunchy pieces of lace, while the center is warm and soft. I’ve heard some people call them johnnycakes, which confused me terribly as a child because my grandmother and my mother would often call the toilet a johnny. It never occurred to me that it may be named after a man named Johnny who especially liked cornbread, I guess because I was a child and when I heard the word johnny, I immediately thought of the bathroom.

I never said I was a smart child.

But I liked cornbread then and I like it now and until this year I have only made it out of a box and cooked it in the oven. My family ate it and didn’t complain, but I knew they were secretly wishing it was lace bread like my mama makes. Real cornbread that comes out of a real bag of cornmeal. I have always passed the paper bags of cornmeal in the grocery store with a glance of admiration, wondering if I would ever have the nerve to try it. I even bought a bag one time and was so proud when I put it on the little side shelf of the refrigerator so I could see it every time I opened the door. It’s still there. If cornmeal has an expiration date, this one died a long time ago.

People often say it takes something bad happening to make you want to change. I believe it. Though I had been longing to make read cornbread for some time, it was a frozen biscuit that made my mind up for me.

It was Christmas morning and I was making breakfast for my family. I was the first one up, milling around the kitchen getting things ready. I pulled the traditional bag of frozen biscuits from the freezer and plopped them on the counter. Maybe I should take a few out to thaw before I cook them? And so I did.

Only, two biscuits somehow escaped the counter and landed like frozen hockey pucks on the kitchen floor. As their thuds reverberated throughout the kitchen, I turned to pick them up.

Only, I couldn’t get there fast enough. I was too late.

The dog beat me to it.

She looked at me only a second, both cold pucks of dough clenched in her teeth. Quite impressive, I must say, that she could get both of them in her mouth at once. But I digress. I had to get them out of there. But she growled from behind the biscuits and retreated to her corner of the kitchen, tucking one biscuit underneath her as she began gnawing on the other. She growled at me as I came toward her.

I was horrified. Forget the five-second rule, I was more worried what would happen to the dog after ingesting all that raw dough. Would it make her sick? Swell in her warm belly so much that we would return home from visiting family to find her swollen and smelling like dough?

Surely it couldn’t be good for her. Had I ruined Christmas?

I decided not to tell the family. Thankfully, the dog is okay. No signs of pain or biscuit belly. Christmas had been saved. It was a sign.

It made me realize once and for all that I need to learn how to make an alternative bread source. I need to learn how to make cornbread. Cornbread that does not live in a box. Real cornbread. And I will do it.

And the dog will stay outside.

Email Mandy Flynn at flyn1862@bellsouth.net.