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  • Writer's pictureVirginia Cornue and Linda Lombri

Celebrating Corn(bread) for Kwanzaa

Corn is the primary symbol for both decoration and celebratory dining during this week of Kwanzaa. Called Muhindi (The Corn), it is one of the seven symbols of this holiday and is symbolic of children and the future which they embody.

So, in honor of Kwanzaa, we are sharing our traditional iron skillet-baked corn bread recipe -- straight from the pages of our new and expanded Culinary Clues around the World 2.0.

Kwanzaa's week-long celebration is marked by seven principles or Kawaida, a Swahili word meaning "common" that are listed below. Cornbread was certainly the common bread in the rural South and remains a favorite quick bread. This recipe is a simple one and is savory rather than the cake-like versions routinely available commercially. This more savory version is delicious and perfect to soak up the pot liquor of a mess of collard greens. And when it gets a bit stale (if there is any left!), crumble it in a glass of cold milk. Yummmm...

While you are slathering slabs of hot fresh baked cornbread with unsalted butter (or substitute) and homemade jam, study the following Kawaida principles. They are wonderful guides to a good life.

  • Umoja (Unity): Strive for and maintain familial, community, national, and ethnic unity.

  • Kujichagulia (Self-Determination):: Define and name ourselves, as well as create and speak for ourselves.

  • Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): Build and maintain our community, share our brothers' and sisters' problems and solve them together.

  • Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): Build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and profit from them together.

  • Nia (Purpose): Make building and developing of our community our vocation so we may restore our traditional greatness.

  • Kuumba (Creativity): Always do as much as we can, in the ways we can, to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

  • Imani (Faith): Believe with all our hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

Grandma’s Traditional Iron Skillet-baked Cornbread

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup yellow cornmeal

4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup sugar (omit if desired)

1 cup milk or dairy free equivalent

1 egg

1/3 cup butter, non-dairy substitute butter or cooking oil

Preheat oven to 425° F and heat 9” cast iron skillet on top of stove. Melt the butter in the skillet as it is heating. Coat the skillet with the melted butter, substitute butter or cooking oil.

Sift dry ingredients and set aside. Beat the egg and mix in the milk. Add to dry ingredients gradually, mixing until the batter is blended and slightly stiff. Add more milk, if needed. Do not over mix.

Melt the butter or substitute butter in the skillet and pour into the cornbread batter and stir to combine; it should sizzle. Quickly pour the batter into hot skillet and place in pre-heated oven. Bake for 20 minutes or slightly longer until golden brown. Test for doneness with straw or thin knife blade. It should come out clean when inserted into the cornbread.

Cool cornbread in skillet for 5 minutes or so. Place a dinner plate on top of the skillet and corn bread. Invert and turn cornbread out on a plate. Cut into pie shaped wedges. Best served piping hot and topped with butter or substitute butter, jam, honey or molasses.

This recipe can be found in our new and expanded CULINARY CLUES AROUND THE WORLD 2.0, available in eBook and paperback at Amazon as well as eBook (only) via Apple. There are also some great recipes in the Nigerian and Haitian sections of this book that are perfect for the Kwanzaa festivities.

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