Mama’s best spoon bread
September 13, 2005
When I was growing up, we had baked potatoes almost every night, along with meat or fish, a vegetable, milk and usually pudding for dessert. Rice with Sunday’s midday meal was a rare exception to the potato, and in those days a roasting chicken was more expensive than a prime rib roast.The rice, I remember, was never steamed but rinsed and tossed into a large vat of boiling water, no doubt depleting the product of whatever nutrients it originally contained.Maybe twice or three times a year my mother’s starch equivalent at the table was spoon bread, a dish I loved and one of the few I called home to get the recipe for when I went off on the frolics and detours of early adulthood.There wasn’t anything secret about the recipe for my mother’s spoon bread, but it had been handed down over generations, and I’ve never yet found its duplication in a cookbook. I hadn’t made spoon bread for several years, but this summer I trotted out the recipe for a summer dinner and it met with such success that one of my guests asked me to bring spoon bread to a communal dinner party of her own a couple of weeks later.Of course, no problem, but on the day of my friend’s event I couldn’t find the old, stained, browned recipe card. NOT in my recipe box, NOT in my piles of papers in my bedroom and computer room, NOT behind the bed, NOT ANYWHERE. My 98-year-old mother was in no condition to remember it, and I had the sudden sense of loss that if I had accidentally tossed that recipe card out with the trash it was gone forever.Well, I’ll wing it, I thought. Having prepared it a couple of weeks ago I knew what all the ingredients were, but I wasn’t sure about the proportions. I threw together a concoction that could be charitably described as inedible and the next day, with renewed purpose, tossed the house and finally found the recipe in a salad bowl on top of the refrigerator.I hasten to get this recipe in print lest I lose it again:Slowly, pour two cups of hot water over one cup of white cornmeal and cook, stirring, until mixture is very thick. Remove from heat, add one teaspoon of salt and two tablespoons of butter and SLOWLY add two cups of milk. Beat two eggs and stir them in. Shake two teaspoons of baking powder in a sieve over the mixture, stirring it in gently. Use a flour sifter if you have one – I can’t find mine. You can’t just beat in baking powder; you have to Introduce it.Put the mixture in a buttered casserole dish and bake at 325 degrees for an hour. It doesn’t sound like much, but it is fluffy and light and delicious, and I feel safer now that the recipe is in my computer and in your hands. Su Lum is a longtime local whose mother’s, of course, was the best of all. This column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.
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