Ok, so many people might not pay attention to the subleties of cornbread. But as a woman with deep roots in the US South (Virginia on my mother's side), I do pay attention.
Growing up, the only kind of cornbread that we ate was prepared using cornmeal -- either Indian Head or Quaker. We mixed it with flour, a bit of sugar, baking powder, oil, milk and an egg. The result was glorious. Pale, dense cornbread that went well with greens, fried fish, fried chicken, or just on its own with a smear of butter (and for me, a bit of jam -- usually that we had also made ourselves).
I was horrified and scandalized one Sunday when I picked up a piece of Nanna's (that's what we all call her) cornbread. It was bright yellow, crumbly and sweet! I knew something was wrong immediately. I confronted her. She admitted -- not without a bit of pride -- that she made it with Jiffy cornbread mix!!!! I felt betrayed. She is a woman from the deep, deep US South -- Alabama! How could she do that?? She said that she had been using Jiffy for years and had long ago abandoned making homemade cornbread with cornmeal. I was devastated!
Go to Boston Market or other eateries and you'll find the same kind of cornbread. It's too colorful, has little texture and is way too sweet! It's almost like dessert, instead of an accompaniment to a meal.
There is nothing like the pale yellow color of real cornbread. Or the taste that merely hints of sugar. It's dense and robust and can stand up to serious food.
I admit that I have left behind one marker of my Southern roots -- using a real, old-fashioned cast iron skillet to make the cornbread. This is mostly because it hasn't been a high enough priority to get one. My mother had one and it served her and the rest of her family well!! Hmm . . . Guess I should look for one, huh? And also the cast iron cornsticks pan.
I don't have lots of time to cook, but I can not see myself abandoning real cornbread.
Here is the recipe from the Quaker cornmeal box. It is delicious, quick, and very easy to make. Enjoy!
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Quaker or Aunt Jemima enriched corn meal
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1 cup milk (can be made with either whole or low-fat)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 egg whites or 1 egg, beaten
Heat oven to 400 F. Grease 8 or 9 inch pan. Combine dry ingredients. Stir in milk, oil and egg, mixing just until dry ingredients are moistened. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown and wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.