Cornbread with Corn Kernels or Nah?
by The Vision Staff
So, when we saw Imani’s inflammatory Facebook status, we decided to all weigh in, discuss our family’s Thanksgiving traditions, and highlight the differences between Thanksgiving foods within black communities themselves.
I’m truly shook. The other day I found out that skinfolk participate in this atrocious practice of putting corn in cornbread. Look. My daddy side of the family from Georgia and I never found an offending kernel on my plate, so don’t try telling me it’s a Southern thing. I interviewed my grandma just now and she said “You gonna make me scream.” Case closed. It’s over. It’s cancelled. I don’t know who started it but it’s truly gotta go. Petition to replace turkey with chicken, also. Y’all know that meat be mad dry and you don’t wanna say nothing because they worked hard on it. But you know, deep down inside, don’t nobody like it. Turkey is inherently dry. It’s okay to admit it. We’re in a safe space. Black Lives Matter, also. Political debates at the table are gonna be intense this year. Some of us may have that one uncle that voted for Trump. It’s okay. No one’s gonna eat his potato salad, regardless. It’s karma.
Thanksgiving is the one day of the year when the world’s most trifling foods come out from wherever they’ve been hiding and take up residence on our kitchen tables. Consumption of chitterlings, neckbones, pig’s feet, or hog maws is an extremely valid basis for the termination of our friendship. Whichever way you pronounce it, pecan pie is trash. And whose auntie keeps bringing that crusty green bean casserole?! Unacceptable. Cranberry sauce is a staple, sweet potatoes are not a dessert, and corn DOESN’T GO IN CORNBREAD. Oh, and ham is better than turkey. Don’t debate me.
Our Thanksgiving is a balancing act between Nigerian and American foods. No box recipe is to be trusted because “they” always put too much butter and sugar in things and “we” are not cheese people. I ask my mom if we have a sauce pan and she scowls at me. “Those are just fancy words. Grab a pot.” There’s no cornbread, cranberry sauce, or pie, but we have enough rice and stew to feed an army. Nothing is spicy enough until you’re crying and sneezing, so cayenne pepper is spread around like incense.We’re blending peppers, frying meat and stewing turkey like there’s no time to waste, even though we all know the people coming at 2 aren’t going to show up until 4. My mom painstakingly makes a salad that no one will touch. We’re running out of serving spoons and I’m forced to consider an ice-cream scooper for the mashed potatoes. My brother pretends to sleep through the preparations, but if I sit down for any length of time “ADUNI” echoes through the house. My dad’s sister is here from Atlanta, but beyond that, our church family is gonna fill the seats in the dining room, living room, and basement. There’ll be at least 6 kinds under the age of 6 that I’ll be in charge of. Maybe it’s less of a balancing act and more like a labour of love.
In my family, no one except for my dad likes turkey, so in recent years, instead of “fixing” a whole turkey, my mom goes to Honey Baked Ham Co., gets a pre-sliced spiral ham and a little container of turkey for my dad. My grandmother passed away two years ago, and we’ve been trying to get the collard greens right ever since, but we’re getting there. She was famous for never eating anyone else’s macaroni & cheese except for her own, and I’ve definitely nailed her recipe on several occasions. Jellied Oceanspray Cranberry sauce that we can slice is a staple for us as well. We call our stuffing “dressing” and my grandmother’s recipe uses a combination of stovetop stuffing mix and actual cornbread that we bake in the oven with corn meal (not jiffy); we serve the rest of the corn bread at thanksgiving, but it’s not the main attraction. (Although I do have black relatives in North Carolina who put corn kernels in their jiffy cornbread. Doesn’t taste bad, but I’m not the biggest fan of jiffy to begin with when I can have actual corn bread from corn meal [either baked or “hot water cornbread” fried in the skillet]). Add in my grandmother’s recipe for sweet potatoes, and that’s pretty much it besides store bought-pies and Welch’s sparkling grape juice! We prepare the same menu for Christmas too.