It just isn’t done.
Yes, the Internet is filled with arguments about cornbread with sugar and cornbread without sugar. I conducted an informal poll which showed that those who put sugar in cornbread represent the unwashed, uncultured, and wholly ignorant segment of society. In fact, they don’t even deserve to be considered part of society.
Some clowns add wheat flour to cornbread. This group is descended from a grandmother off in Peoria who got roaring drunk one morning and reached for the wrong flour sack.
Unfortunately, there are heretics everywhere. Shun them. A site called Genius Kitchen provides a recipe for Old Fashioned Southern Cornbread. Pshaw. They list one teaspoon of sugar. Who are these people?
In my novel Eulalie and Washerwoman, Eulalie says that the people who buy homes in a new subdivision after the African Americans were run out will be the kind of people who put sugar in their cornbread. If you’re not from the South, maybe you didn’t know she was mocking the lah-tee-dah faux culture people who don’t know their butts from a hole in the ground.
You probably know that I’m a white male. What this means among other things is that these days, is that “my kind” is slandered by everybody. Being from the South adds another level of malice to that slander. So, you probably won’t believe me when I tell you that sugar in cornbread is not necessarily a “white thing.” I don’t know any Southern white people who put sugar in their cornbread unless they moved here from the North.
Cat Cora, an Iron Chef from the Food Network lists cornbread’s ingredients as 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the pan, 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 3/4 cup yellow cornmeal, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 cup buttermilk (shake before measuring), and 2 large eggs. Okay, I’ll quibble about the kosher salt, but the main thing we don’t see here is SUGAR.
Most great Southern cooks–and that includes my wife–don’t need a recipe for cornbread any more than they need a recipe for real Southern biscuits. But Cat Cora’s is pretty darn close to what quality people make without a user’s manual when it comes to cornbread. I should mention that you need a cast-iron frying pan, but you can skip that if you don’t know what that is. Unfortunately, young people often need a recipe for cracklin’ bread, corn pone, johnny cakes, and hushpuppies because they weren’t brought up right when it came to kitchen skills.
(Note to my reader in England: When I say we eat hushpuppies with mullet [a tasty fish], we’re not eating baby dogs or Hush Puppies shoes.)
Here’s my advice if you want quality cornbread: The next time you’re served cornbread at a restaurant, see if it tastes sweet. If it does, shout out as loudly as you can: “Who’s the bastard who f_cked up my cornbread with sugar?”
If your parents or spouse serve you sweet cornbread, I suggest leaving our the words “bastard” and “f_cked up” while making the point that you refuse to eat that kind of swill in the future.