come and gone

It's Oscar night.

The buzz of Oscar-worthy party snacks is filling the airwaves and cyberspace and this house, and can no longer be ignored. Never mind that we don't have a TV and probably won't be watching the ceremony tonight, some celebration food is still in order.

Chocolate Orange Popcorn, to be exact.

Using a rasp grater, finely grate about 1 ounce of high-quality dark chocolate. (I especially like Green&Black's Maya Gold, which comes in convenient 1.2 ounce bars. One bite for me, the rest for the popcorn.) Again using the rasp, zest two clementine oranges. Set aside grated chocolate and zest. In a 4-quart saucepan set over medium-high heat, melt 3-4 tablespoons of whole kernel unrefined coconut oil. Put three popcorn kernels in the pan, put the lid on, and listen for them to pop. When all three have popped, add enough popcorn kernels to thickly cover the bottom of the pan, put the lid back on, and shake the pan to coat the kernels with the coconut oil. Listen for the popping to start, periodically shaking the pan as the popping speeds up, to help the unpopped kernels to fall to the bottom of the pan. Once the popping has just about stopped (or the lid has started to lift off the pan, depending on how much popcorn you've got in there), turn off the heat and tip the popcorn into a large bowl. Add the grated chocolate and clementine zest, and use two large spoons (or spatulas) to gently toss together the popcorn and flavorings until combined. Season well with kosher salt, and try to resist eating the whole bowl by yourself.

It's so addictive, you'll find yourself making it again and again, long after Oscar fever has come and gone.


a true connection

I went to New York two weeks ago.

It was different, very different, from my last trip.

For one, I barely saw the city, save for my final night there when I escaped my hotel to wander around midtown and Grand Central Terminal. I was traveling alone, separated from my entire family for the first time in . . . what feels like forever. And, as much as this trip was focused more on food than any I've ever taken before, it turned out to not be about the food at all.

I was there to attend the Cookbook Conference, which exceeded my expectations and opened up my world in all sorts of ways I hadn't anticipated. I met some of my food writing idols, people whose work I have admired for years, and discovered that the conference provided the perfect jumping off point for making real connections with them — having real conversations — instead of feeling like a starry-eyed fan fawning at the feet of untouchable celebrities. (Although, trust me, there were still times I felt like that. When Judith Jones is standing a mere five feet away from you, how can you not?) I met wonderful, inspiring people I had only before known online, which means that the Internet, and Twitter especially, now feel a lot more friendly and personal to me. And I learned so much, about so many things I hadn't even realized I was craving insight on. Practical things, like using social media to promote your brand, and the differences between ebooks and apps, and why literary agents are more necessary than ever in today's modern, digital world. And more academic subjects, also, like using cookbooks as a means of understanding a particular moment in time, and the social and cultural values hidden in the recipes, and how the cookbooks we chose to buy reflect the identities we are trying to embody.

It was so, so wonderful to be there.

But in the midst of all the cookbook and food writing love, a little nagging issue began forming in the back of my mind. By the end of the conference it was a big nagging issue, one I couldn't help fretting over. And one that no one seemed able to help me with.

In a world barreling at break-neck speed towards the future, one that is embracing and promoting technology in all aspects of our lives, in a time when a respected publisher can tell an audience to get used to the size of their smartphone screens, because soon that's how we'll be reading all books, what does that mean for the cookbook? Cookbooks, which are designed to appeal to our senses, to entice us into the kitchen, to encourage us to roll up our sleeves and actually make something - what does it mean for them to become just another functionality of our devices?

The first time this thought crossed my mind, in a brief moment of panic during one of the conference panels, I scribbled in the margin of my notebook: The disconnect between the digitization of cookbooks (apps, ebooks, etc.) and the tactile, sensual act of actually cooking (print cookbooks bridge this gap much better). What does that say about how we feel about and approach cooking? Don't all these devices further the theme of speed, a convenient, detached, sterilization of modern life? Will the romance of cooking disappear?

The more I thought about this, the more I mulled it over, letting it get comfortable and take up residence in my mind, the less panicky I felt. I don't think we're going to lose the romance of cooking. I don't think our approach to food will become sterilized. But I do think that print cookbooks serve a special role in our lives, one we can't afford to lose.

The physical presence of a bound book gives it a permanence in our lives that a digital file would be hard-pressed to replicate. There is no sense of history, of nostalgia, of common experiences weaving through generations, binding us to each other, in an ebook. The quickly-scrawled notes in the margins that tell a reader of cookbooks how the cook had approached the particular recipe, what their family had thought of the end product, are lost in an app. The feeling of flipping through pages, especially ones wrinkled and splattered, looking for a favorite recipe that your fingers instantly recognize by the way the pages spread open more fully from years of use - how does this translate to a screen? And the sense of intimacy, of a true connection to the foods and stories and people behind the recipes, doesn't naturally come through when one is consuming the pages via high resolution touch screens.

I also think the real-life applicability of cookbooks is being affected by technology. When your favorite volumes reside on a digital device, one you take pains to protect from moisture and oils, nevermind hot pasta sauce and egg yolks, you are unlikely to prop it in the midst of your dinner prep area, for guidance and advice as you work to get a meal on the table. For those who bemoan the rise of coffee-table cookbooks as mere status symbols, tomes which are clearly never meant to get down and dirty with us as partners in the actual making of food, well, I think ebooks and apps are getting even more removed, farther away from the kitchen counter.

And how are we supposed to loan a friend a favorite cookbook if it's just a file? Heck, how are we supposed to pass down our most treasured, worn volumes to future generations? Somehow, preserving the past via digital copy doesn't feel very authentic to me. It feels remote, like something that will be hard to establish real bonds with.

Clearly, I don't know what to do about this issue. And maybe I'm just old-fashioned and sentimental, and none of my concerns will ever pan out. Maybe there's really nothing to worry about. Maybe the food revolution we're in the middle of, the one drawing so many people back to the kitchen to cook real food, the one propelling giant lawsuits against corporations like Monsanto, maybe this tide of awareness and caring means that my worries are unfounded. I don't know.

I do know that when I asked two conference panelists from two different publishing houses what their thoughts were on the issue, I got two blank stares. One stammered that she was sure someone was working on the problem (just not her), and the other wondered if maybe the job of maintaining the strong physical link between real cooking and the texts that guide us there has fallen to food bloggers. At which point he got a blank stare from me. (I don't mean to minimize the positive impact blogging can, and does, have on the food world. It's just that I was essentially bemoaning technology's invasion of the recipe and food writing industry, and we food bloggers do the majority of our work on the Internet. I don't see how that is the solution.) It was the only truly discouraging part of an otherwise delightfully inspiring conference.

So, where does this leave me (and you, if you share my feelings)? Fumbling and floundering around, mostly. Continuing to embrace technology while harboring fears of just what all this boundless enthusiasm might beget down the road. Hoping that we are not headed into a future where the printed cookbook is a relic. And cherishing my own cookbook library all the more, determined to help it grow even bigger, heavier, more voluminous. While I still can.

This weekend, I say we all go out and buy cookbooks.


wanting to be there

One morning awhile back, at work before anyone else, in a kitchen quiet except for the sounds of my own activity, I listened to part of a recent episode of This American Life. (Do you listen to that show? It's wonderful.) Most of what I heard was about the Brooklyn Free School, a school where (to paraphrase the way it was being promoted on the show), "kids make the all rules."

Kids make all the rules.

To most adults, that sounds like anarchy. The only "rules" a kid would make would necessarily be in the realm of ice cream for breakfast, TV all the time, and no bedtimes, right? Because isn't that what kids, left to function without rational adult influence, would naturally gravitate towards? A life of wild abandon, of no consequences and lots of loafing and inordinate amounts of junk food?

Turns out, not so much.

According to the radio show, the students at the Brooklyn Free School do a surprisingly good job of policing themselves, making sound decisions for the good of the collective whole, and promoting ideals of mutual respect and consideration, all within an environment dedicated to learning. They have control over their daily activities, control that has been enthusiastically given to them by the adults in their lives, and it is a responsibility they apparently don't take lightly. Granted, the kids aren't without adult guidance and assistance, but the school appears to function smoothly without the authoritative, top-down administrative style of so many public school systems.

It was really inspiring to listen to.

Kalen's school, while very progressive, is not a free (or democratic) school. But it incorporates many of the same empowering values and models I heard illustrated on the radio. And there is so much respect for the individual student, for his or her readiness and abilities, natural inclinations and inherent thirst for knowledge, that there is a wonderful, school-wide atmosphere of simply wanting to be there. A lot.

It's infectious. A really great place, and Kalen is thriving there.

One thing I love about his school is the way it mirrors some of the ways we function as a family. The kids certainly don't make all the rules in this house (as inspiring as the Brooklyn Free School was to hear about, I am not the kind of parent who could live like that), but their thoughts and feelings get a lot of respect from us adults, with their opinions carrying weight when it's time to make decisions, and they are encouraged to think things through for themselves, to make choices that feel right to them and that they can live with. It's a lot more egalitarian here than it could be, I know, and I hope it results in our boys growing up to be confident, independent, considerate adults. I hope I hope I hope.

It was in this spirit of allowing child-led decision making on issues that affect them that we ended up with grilled cheese sandwiches, a period of very loud noise, and way too much blue food coloring for Kalen's birthday party last month.

He turned six — SIX — which means, as Josh has pointed out, that he is now closer to being ten than one. He has turned the corner, rounded the bend, barreling down the road towards big kid-dom, without so much as a backwards glance at his quickly receding babyhood.

It's quite thrilling to watch, really.

He's got this amazing mind that never shuts off, and he comes up with some remarkable ideas. He's a builder, a creator, a problem-solver, an artist and an inventor. In this regard, he is very much a 44-inch tall replica of Josh. Not a day passes without him working on at least one "project," as he calls them, and he's usually got three or four going at once.

He can also be a very serious child, with the longest attention span I've ever seen, and he is  a voracious reader, and not just with books. He is constantly paying attention to the world around him, and noticing signs, flyers, newspapers, computer screens, ads . . . and he is reading everything. As one who remembers a childhood so full of books that I was often chastised for not going outside, for not playing enough, I think I know where he's coming from. Words, quite simply, are fascinating.

And, whether by nature or school/family influence or a combination of both, he likes to be given choices. So when it came time to plan his birthday party, I didn't hesitate to ask him what he wanted.

"Grilled cheese sandwiches."

"Okay, and what else?"

"Nothing, just grilled cheese sandwiches."

"Um, okay . . ." (We ended up supplementing two platters of grilled cheese sandwiches with a big pot of tortilla soup. After some initial consternation because he hadn't chosen it, Kalen was okay with it.)

Instead of party favors and traditional games, Kalen had a better idea. "I know! Each kid can make an instrument! Some can make drums, and some can make noise makers, and then all the grown-ups can watch while we do a parade around the house. Then everybody can take their instrument home!"

Which was an excellent idea, so completely befitting for him, so perfectly Kalen. So his birthday party featured craft time, which was received with great enthusiasm, and soon the dining room was full of paper and stickers and glue and chopsticks and plastic containers . . . and noise. Most kids chose to make noise makers, which, per Kalen's detailed instructions, consisted of lots of dried beans sealed inside a container. Of course that's what everyone wanted. Who wouldn't? (To any of our friends who, in close retrospect, would like to answer that with an emphatic Me, I am so sorry. I find that designating offending toys as 'outside toys' helps.) I thought it was awesome. It was so great to witness a room full of kids, all joyfully engaged in making stuff. I realize we still have lots of birthday parties in our future, but right now, I think this one is my favorite.

And of course, no birthday is complete without cake. Which brings us to the blue food coloring portion of this post. Legos are a very big deal at Kalen's school, and he has quickly jumped on board the obsession train. Naturally, he needed a Lego cake. He gave me the Lego I was to use as a model, and the first thing that jumped out at me was how blue it was. Like really, all the way, deep dark royal blue.

I told him I might not be able to match the color. I needn't have worried.

I'm not even going to tell you how much food coloring I whipped into that buttercream. I don't want it to be public knowledge. But I will tell you that gel food coloring darkens a lot overnight, and if you dig around in your pastry draw and find one labeled 'royal blue,' well, by golly, that's just what you're going to end up with. That, and a lot of guilt and the overwhelming need to apologize to all the parents for turning their beloved offspring's mouths such an unnatural color.

Anyway, in addition to the color, Kalen decided that it would be really cool if "the cake looked regular, but when you cut it, it was chocolate and vanilla." You're right, Kalen, that would be cool. It's your birthday, so let's do it. (If you're ever in the same situation, and looking for a time-saving trick, it's good to know that if you've got a big pan and you're using two similarly-weighted batters — I made two butter cake batters — you can just pour one batter on top of the other. They won't mix, and will bake just fine, and you'll end up with a dual-colored caked without using multiple cake pans or the need for slicing and stacking.)

In retrospect, it could have been a lot worse. He could have asked for a Lego cake that looked like an actual Lego creation, not just one building piece. He could have wanted multiple colors. He could have insisted that little Lego people be involved. He could have asked for something that would have guaranteed a day of head-banging frustration for this cake-decorating-challenged mama.

Certainly, I got off lucky. And the lack of ornate decoration allowed the focus to stay on the cake itself, which was delicious. My go-to birthday cakes have always been adaptations of Rose Levy Beranbaum's butter cakes from The Cake Bible. Long ago, when I first got that cookbook, I read the section that explains the science behind Rose's reverse creaming method, and it was an Aha! moment for the way I approach gluten-free cake baking. Her rationale for beating the dry ingredients with the butter first, instead of creaming the butter and sugar together per the standard creaming method, is to minimize the formation of gluten proteins that will toughen the cake.

Clearly, we don't have to worry about that.

But something about her method made sense to me. I felt like I wanted to coat all my gluten-free flours (especially rice flour, with its tendency towards grittiness) in a cushion of fat. And I wanted to beat the eggs into the batter for long enough to, in Rose's words, "develop the cake's structure." I wanted the soft, tender cakes that Rose promised, no matter that mine had to be gluten-free.

So, although I truly don't know the science behind why her method, designed to minimize gluten formation, would work for gluten-free cakes, I'm here to report that it does. Oh, it does. Every time I make a butter cake it receives wonderful compliments from everyone who tries it. And not the good-for-gluten-free variety of compliments. No, I get told that it's so soft, so flavorful, that it's the best cake they've ever had, all before they realize it's gluten-free. And when people find out its 'alternative' status, well, there's a lot of incredulousness. And requests for more.

You know it's a good cake when the non-gluten-free people in your life prefer it to the traditional gluten-full version.

I ended up making the vanilla butter cake twice for Kalen's birthday. He needed a batch of cupcakes to bring to school on his actual birthday, and he surprised me by choosing vanilla over chocolate when given the choice between the two. Although I'm barely eating any sugar anymore, I couldn't help but have half a cupcake that night, as we sat around the dining room table toasting our newly-crowned six-year-old. And oh man, that cupcake . . . even I was unprepared for how good it was. Exceedingly tender and soft, with a very fine crumb, and such an intense buttery-vanilla flavor. It took all my willpower not to eat more.

Sometimes I think of vanilla cake as "plain." And I've had many vanilla cakes that live up to that characterization. But not this cake. This cake is, quite simply, perfect. And it's a good one to have in your arsenal, especially if you find yourself needing to meet the requests of a child with very particular tastes, one who knows exactly what he wants.

Because sometimes, on the days when it matters the most, you have to let him take the reins. And it's nice to be able to trust that everything will turn out just great.

Gluten-Free Vanilla Butter Cake
Adapted from The Cake Bible
Yields 2 9-inch round layers

Be sure to use high quality vanilla and butter, as the flavor of both really come through in this cake. This recipe scales up and down beautifully, which I find helpful for when I need just a small batch of cupcakes or a large, 12-inch size celebration cake.

242 grams whole milk, room temperature
116 grams egg yolks, room temperature
10 grams vanilla extract
300 grams Tara's gluten-free pastry flour
300 grams granulated sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
1½ teaspoons xanthan gum
¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
170 grams unsalted butter, room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Prepare two 9-inch round cake pans by greasing them, lining the bottoms with parchment circles, greasing again, and flouring. (If you don't have parchment, just be sure to grease and flour the pans really well, and your cakes should release just fine.) Set aside.

In a small bowl, gently mix together about ¼ of the milk, the egg yolks, and the vanilla. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the pastry flour, sugar, baking powder, xanthan gum, and salt, and mix on low just until blended. (You can also do this with a hand-held electric mixer.)

Add the butter and remaining milk to the flour mixture. Mix on low speed to moisten the flour, then increase speed to medium (high if using a hand mixer) and beat for 1½ minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add the egg mixture in three additions, beating for 20 seconds after each addition, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans, using a spatula to smooth the surface. (I like to put my pans on the scale and weigh out the batter, ensuring even layers.)

Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until a tester inserted near the center comes out clean, the top springs back when lightly touched, and the cake has just begun to shrink away from the sides of the pan. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then invert cakes onto racks to finish cooling. Invert again so that the cakes are right-side-up, to prevent cracking.

Cakes can be kept at room temperature, tightly wrapped, for up to two days before frosting.


pleasant in the morning

I've been waking up early for about two weeks now, with the intention of getting work done before anyone else is awake to distract me. Sometimes I make it downstairs around 5am, other days, like today, it's closer to 6:00. Either way, it's still dark, but feels a whole lot more soothing and inviting than, say, the darkness at 2:30am does.

These morning hours feel like they've been waiting, silently, for someone to join them in this gentle pause before the day explodes. And now I'm here, and we keep each other company.

"What do you actually do down there?" Josh asked me dubiously the other day, mildly suspicious of my willingness to rise at such an hour.

The first thing I do, of course, is make tea. Because, though I'd like to think it's me these hours of stillness were waiting for, I'm pretty sure it's actually the tea. Choosing a mug, boiling the water, trying to keep track of the time so that my favorite jasmine pearl tea doesn't over-steep, and then sitting, in the dark dining room illuminated only by the glow spilling across from the kitchen light, two hands wrapped around the warm vessel and sipping slowly - these are the quiet, deliberate activities that early morning is made for. Tea is the bridge, the companion that gives me a place in the darkness, that eases the dawn out of the night, that guides me over to the computer so that I may sit here typing without a sense of jarring wrongness, that clears the haze from my mind and eyes so that I can notice things.

One recent morning I spent a long time noticing how clean my kitchen was.

Let's be clear right from the start that this was due to no effort of my own. After our impromptu dinner party broke up, parents stuffing young ones into winter jackets and boots and herding them out into the night, headed for their respective bedtime routines, Josh had parked himself in the kitchen and cleaned. In the time it took me to putter about the living room, putting away straggling toys, and cajoling our own boys to begin preparing for sleep, Josh had almost everything washed and put away. By the time the boys were each snuggled into their beds, lights out, there was no sign that twelve people had shared a meal in our dining room.

The man is good.

I can, however, take credit for the reason we had so many people over in the first place. And by 'credit' I mean 'blame for something slightly wasteful that could have been frustrating had it not been for the last-minute save of a dinner party.'

I made an enormous, gigantic batch of chili con carne.

After Kalen, Wylie and I each had a bowl of it the first night, without even making a dent in the way the chili filled the huge stockpot, I knew I was in trouble.

Our freezer is completely full right now. With precisely what is a bit of a mystery. The top layers, the ones you can see without moving things around, are populated with lots of frozen berries, various types of stock, leftover ice cream from Kalen's 6th birthday party (which I keep meaning to tell you about. Soon.), cubes of frozen kale pesto, artist's palates of acrylic paints the boys aren't ready to wash away yet, and a massive pork shoulder. Underneath? Well, we'll find out as we start peeling back the layers, using up what we've stored to make room for new food.

With that batch of chili, though, it appeared that I had jumped the gun. There was nowhere to put it, and even with a diet of nothing but chili it was clear it would be a week before my family saw the bottom of that stockpot.

I love it when these slightly illogical actions of ours, the ones that cause our loving husbands to ask incredulously why we never thought to consider if there was a final destination for our excess, lead to loveliness.

Because loveliness it was when two of our favorite families answered our call to action, and a cold Sunday night turned warm and festive-feeling. There were skyscrapers to build and dress-up games to play. There were jokes to be told and business ideas to hash out. There was a sweet, sweet 7-week-old baby to snuggle. There was a brilliant salad dressing made with Greek yogurt and salsa, and a ridiculously easy and delicious dessert involving bananas sautéed in coconut oil. And there was warm, cake-style cornbread to dip into our generous bowls of rich, fragrant chili. By the end of the night that chili, the problem that had lead us to that point, was all but gone.

A late January dinner with friends. The best possible solution to the best possible type of problem to have. It's even worth another round of intentional problem-causing, I'd say.

And this is the point where I imagine you are all expecting me to tell you how to make your own mythically-large pot of chili, for a cold winter's night potluck or for Superbowl Sunday or for your own, not-nearly-so-full-to-the-brim-as-my-mine, freezer.

I hate to disappoint, but no. It's not my recipe to share; all I did was follow the rock-solid instructions from the fine people over at Cook's Illustrated, who included it in The Best Recipe. (And, I presume, in The New Best Recipe, although I don't have our copy in front of me to confirm.) I'm sure the recipe is available on blogs and forums across the web, but if you want the recipe (and believe me, you do) without picking up a new cookbook, might I suggest you follow this link where you can get a free 14-day membership to the Cook's Illustrated website, including access to their recipe. (And no, no one has asked me to push you in that direction. I just think it's nice to respect copyright issues.) I increased the batch size, obviously, but you might want to be more conservative in your chili-making. However, I do highly recommend following the recipe's advice to get dried chiles and toast and grind them yourself, as it adds a wonderful depth of flavor to the chili. Plus, it smells really great when you're doing it.

So yes, I think you should make some chili, whether the same kind I made or your own favorite recipe. Because you'll then naturally look around for things to accompany it, and (this is where my real contribution to the whole endeavor comes in) I'm here to tell you that you would be very, very wise to land on cornbread.

The cornbread, meek and innocent as it may seem, is actually quite important.

I realize there are strong opinions out there about cornbread. I've witnessed it right here, in my own family. When a Northern girl marries a Southern boy, the cornbread debate is bound to come up. And I'm not here to make a definitive, final case for any of the different styles. Both Northern and Southern styles share the love in this house. (Though I would like to give a shout-out to custard cornbread, which is so old-fashioned I hardly ever hear about it anymore, but which is so uniquely good I might need to help it stage a come-back.) So if you have a favorite version, the one you grew up eating or maybe the one that trumped all others in a cornbread challenge, you can keep it, no defense necessary. And make it, filling your kitchen with it's unmistakable sweet nutty scent, so that it can sidle over and take its rightful place next to your bowl of chili, a delicate contrast to the chili's hearty richness and heat. Any cornbread would be tickled pink to be there.

However. Making cornbread to accompany your chili is not the only reason you should be making cornbread. You should also be making it to have leftovers. To eat for breakfast, to be precise. And in this very particular application, not just any cornbread will do.

You need cake-style, Northern cornbread.

This probably seems polarizing, I know, but hear me out. If you're going to eat leftover cornbread the next morning (next to your fried eggs, preferably), you need to heat it up. And not just warmed in the oven, but toasted. (Please pay attention, because this is where the case for Northern cornbread really picks up steam.) When you're toasting the cornbread, you're not merely warming it up to refresh it. You're preparing it for butter. But if you slather a pat of butter across the smooth top of your cornbread, you'll end up with a slick sheen across the surface, and greasy drips down the side.

This is not what we're going for.

You need a piece of cornbread that is thick enough, tall enough, to be split horizontally, with each half retaining its integrity as bread, and not just crust. Every Southern cornbread I've ever had has been too thin to accomplish this. But this ability is vital, because you need to toast the interior of the bread. You need an exposed crumb to get all crunchy and toasty, with bits here and there starting to singe brown, so that each bite is a study in smooth versus prickly. You need a tender surface that you can schmear butter into, not merely across. You need that absorption factor.

You need Northern cornbread.

I think, in fact, that you need my mom's cornbread. That's always been my favorite for toasting, and for good reason. It's nice and thick, which we've already established as a priority. But also, it's very moist and rich, so the toasting process doesn't risk drying it out. It's just a little bit sweet, which is pleasant in the morning next to a cup of something hot. And, unlike many Northern cornbreads, it's already gluten-free; no adaptation from me is needed.

Surely, you can stick to your current favorite cornbread for most applications. But if you think there's a chance you'll have leftovers, and you'd like to try eating them for breakfast the next morning, I really urge you to give this one a go, at least once. Because, really, I think we've all got room for one more cornbread in our lives.

Mom's Cornbread
Yields one 8x8 pan

2½ cups yellow cornmeal
1 Tablespoon packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 liquid cups lowfat buttermilk
1½ Tablespoons oil, melted butter, or bacon fat (I admit to preferring the bacon fat. Sometimes I do a blend of bacon fat and melted butter. But canola oil works great, too.)

Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Generously butter an 8x8 baking pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, brown sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda.

In a small bowl, combine the eggs, buttermilk and oil. Add to the dry ingredients and stir until well-blended. (It will be a very loose batter.) Pour into prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes, or until firm with the top beginning to turn golden brown. Serve warm, at room temperature, or toasted with butter.
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