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Cornbread: the cornerstone of Southern cuisine

The humble cornbread sits at the very heart of Southern cuisine. Whether you prefer to eat it with buttermilk late at night or alongside some soup beans or collard greens for dinner, most everyone south of the Mason-Dixon line has had the pleasure of having the hearty bread with a meal. 

On Saturday, the Pickens Arts and Cultural Alliance (PACA) held their second annual Cornbread Reunion festival and what fun for the entire town. Along with a cornbread contest, PACA hosted musical guests all day, artists with all types of wares including metal jewelry, handmade afghans and scarves, paintings and decorations like angel ornaments made from sea glass found on a beach in Italy. How cool is that for a small town like Jasper? 

The Cornbread Reunion was filled with good, old-fashioned fun for the whole family and accompanied by downtown merchants who jazzed up downtown with music and super deals. 

And what cornbread festival would be complete without a  cornbread cookoff? Retired pastor Max Caylor walked away that day with first place for his jalapeno and sausage inspired recipe. Many recipes were classically-inspired, lacking any form of sugar or flour. For us traditionalists, cornbread is a simple, not sweet bread. And flour? You should go north if you use anything except ground cornmeal.

We couldn’t be more proud of PACA and the artists for all their work in putting together a wonderful day. And a special thanks too to all the downtown merchants who supported the event by opening their doors, providing street music and featuring great deals throughout their stores. Many retailers reported terrific sales that day, with festival-goers moving between the artist vendors and area retailers.

If you visited the festival, you could sample cornbread or eat country fried ham and griddle cakes, garden gumbo, three-berry cobbler with fresh peaches, and of course, sweet tea. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday - supporting both our downtown merchants and our local artisans and craftsmen.

In the words of Little Jimmy Dickens in his song Cornbread and Buttermilk: “Keep a-eatin' that cornbread and buttermilk, a country boy's delight

I eat it ev'ry mornin', I eat it noon and night

Some people like fried chicken while others like their ham

But cornbread and buttermilk made me what I am.”

We hope that one day our little festival can grow and rival the National Cornbread Festival that will be taking place next spring in a small town just west of Chattanooga. Or at least we could be a good warm-up to that larger festival.

Not proposing anything, just thinking out loud here, would the community be better served with a festival of humble southern food, rather than hard, cold rock?

And while the jalapenos and Amish cornbreads ruled the day Saturday, we’ll take ours the old-fashioned Southern way - no sugar, no flour and preferably in a bacon greased-up cast iron pan.