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Voices from the National Cornbread Festival

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Producers Jennifer Deer and Shea Shackelford visited the National Cornbread Festival, held recently in Tennessee, and captured a unique mix of voices, music and flavors of Southern culture.


And if you're looking for a little something to go with that glass of whatever, we're going to suggest corn bread. That's a little unusual but very timely. The National Cornbread Festival took place a couple of weeks ago in South Pittsburg, Tennessee. You missed it, but some radio friends did not.

Unidentified Woman #1: Oh, I love it. You can't live without corn bread. And you've got to cook it in that skillet, too.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man #1: And what kind of bread do we have, corn bread?

Unidentified Woman #2: Molasses.

Unidentified Man #1: Molasses. Molasses corn bread.

Unidentified Woman #2: Yes, sir.

Unidentified Man #1: Oh, that's wonderful.

Unidentified Woman #2: Thank you.

Unidentified Man #1: You guys are great cooks. We love that.

Unidentified Man #2: This is Hoot-n-Holler. Hoot-n-Holler corn bread. Get ahold of a pepper and you know why you holler.

Unidentified Man #1: Oh, that's great. You're right. We've got some jalapeno in there.

Now what about Grandma?

Unidentified Woman #3: Here's the way my mama made corn bread. She heated a cast-iron skillet real hot with a good bit of grease in the skillet, but she took that skillet out of the oven and poured that hot grease into the corn bread batter and let it kind of sizzle in there.

Unidentified Man #3: I like all kinds of corn bread, but Jiffy corn bread mix off the shelf, I got on that in college. Everybody in college ate Jiffy because--for two reasons, it was cheap and it was sweet.

Unidentified Man #4: Chelsea(ph) is going to make for us this morning the apple surprise corn bread. Chelsea, what kind of ingredients?

CHELSEA: ...(Unintelligible).

Unidentified Man #5: Really, really is interesting. This is probably the best part of it. This is better--watching the kids is more fun than watching the grown-ups. And they're really serious. They're just real serious about what they're doing.

CHELSEA: After it cooks 25 minutes I have to check it and if it's not good enough, I have to cook it five more minutes.

(Soundbite of bell ringing)

Unidentified Woman #4: (Singing) Oh, I never, never ...(unintelligible).

Unidentified Woman #5: Pinto beans, turnip greens, corn bread.

Unidentified Woman #6: You take the pinto beans and you get you a little bit of mayonnaise. This sounds gross but it's absolutely fabulous. And you mix that up and you eat your onions and your corn bread with it, mm, it can't be beat.

Unidentified Woman #7: Corn bread basically was poor man's food that everybody loved. To this day my favorite meal is pinto beans, corn bread and buttermilk.

Unidentified Man #6: How you doing, sweetheart?

Unidentified Woman #8: I'm great. How are you?

Unidentified Man #6: I'm doing fine.

Unidentified Woman #8: What have you got going here?

Unidentified Man #6: We've got a grist mill operation going. That's a 1921 McCormick-Deering International Harvester one-line engine.

Unidentified Man #7: In fact, I grew up in the hills of West Virginia and we took corn to the mill. We took two bushel. The miller kept a bushel and he ground a bushel and you brought that home with you.

Unidentified Woman #9: I don't want Southerners to lose their recipes and the things that their mamas and their grandmothers did. So I thought--I'm hoping this whole festival will make people go home and figure out how to make the corn bread that their mama or their grandmother made and not lose that.'

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Woman #10: Thanks for coming. Have a wonderful time. And remember, eat more corn bread.

(Soundbite of music, applause)

CHADWICK: Mm. The National Cornbread Festival, an annual event in South Pittsburg, Tennessee. And thanks to producers Jennifer Deer and Shea Shackelford.

NPR's DAY TO DAY continues. I'm Alex Chadwick.

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