OF MICE AND MINESTRONE by Joe R. Lansdale preview: “Of Mice and Minestrone” and “Kill Ya Dead Jalapeño Cornbread”
Kill Ya Dead Jalapeño Cornbread
I know some people like sweet yellow cornbread, and it’s true that I’ve been known to indulge myself on some occasions. But real cornbread, the old style like Mama used to make, wasn’t even called cornbread. It was known as “corn pone,” and it sure didn’t have no sugar.
Full disclosure though, I can’t really tell you what the true difference is. Mind’s been busy with other things, solving the world’s problems and whatnot, but I know my mama was adamant that they were in fact, different.
Mark Twain even went so far as to suggest, “You tell me whar a man gits his corn pone, en I’ll tell you what his ’pinions is.” So as you can see, cornbread, or corn pone as it’s known, has highly permeated Southern culture. It was Twain who also said, “The North thinks it knows how to make cornbread, but this is gross superstition.”
1 tbsp shortening
1 cup cornmeal
1 slight tsp salt
1 cup boiling water
Jalapeños to taste
Ample bacon grease (Just use what’s in the Folgers coffee can on the back of the stove.) *Ample can be defined as how much grease your body can handle today
It should be said that if you plan on using jalapeños straight off the vine, you should conduct a taste test on your batch to see what you’re dealing with on the spice scale. Remember, without any sugar in the recipe, there’s nothing to cut the heat from within. I suggest having a big glass of buttermilk nearby to keep those seeds from sneaking up on you, lest you find yourself yelling s’wanee
and passing out right at the kitchen table.
Start off by melting the shortening in a heavy iron skillet, then put the cornmeal and the salt in a different bowl. Use another pot on the back burner to get some water boiling. Take a cup of boiling water and pour it over the cornmeal and the salt. Believe me when I say it needs to be hotter than a billygoat with a blowtorch. Go ahead and add the melted shortening (and chopped jalapeños if you’re using them) and stir it up with a long wooden spoon. Once things cool off, portion it out evenly into little cakes. Keep it sort of thick, don’t flatten it out. We aren’t making pancakes over here. Next, put you some bacon grease in the skillet, about 1⁄4 of an inch, and turn the heat to medium. Let it get hot, then place the cakes in the skillet until they fry up brown. Should take five minutes or so, and for Pete’s sake, don’t forget to do both sides.