Tim O'Brien's 'Cornbread Nation'

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What happens when you mix corn with music? We learn the result in What's in a Song, our occasional feature from the Western Folklife Center about a song and its history.


A dash of grunting alto sax. You get a recipe for this week's What's in a Song, our occasional series from the Western Folklife Center about one song and its story.

Mr. TIM O'BRIEN: My name is Tim O'Brien and I'm living here in Nashville Tennessee. Cornbread Nation is sort of a metaphor for the south. There's a sort of invisible line that goes across the country east to west that's roughly parallel to the Mason-Dixon line, but people know about cornbread south of that line.

(Soundbite of the song Cornbread Nation)

It starts out with just a list of the different kinds of cornbread.

(Soundbite of the song Cornbread Nation)

You know, its kind of poor people's food. Biscuits is like more high class food. And also baked bread, that's even more high tone.

(Soundbite of the song Cornbread Nation)

My friend, Ronni Lundy published this cookbook called Shuck Beans, Stack Cakes and Honest Fried Chicken. In that book she has the recipe for real corn bread so that's another verse. Save a can of bacon grease soak a bowl of beans...

(Soundbite of the song Cornbread Nation)

Don't work to hard when you're mixing up the batter. I mean, that's the real thing, when you make something with baking soda you want it to be kinda lumpy. I think it cooks better that way for some reason.

(Soundbite of the song Cornbread Nation)

Talking about drinking liquor made form corn: moonshine.

(Soundbite of the song Cornbread Nation)

Look for the bead, that means you want that corn liquor to bubble up good. And I guess if it doesn't bubble up, then you know not to drink it, it might not be good for you. I mean it might be worse for you than some other corn liquor.

(Soundbite of the song Cornbread Nation)

The song really goes over well live and people in the South, they really understand what its about and they kinda take it as their own, you know, they kinda say, well, we know what that's about. Some of these Yankees might not know but know.

(Soundbite of the song Cornbread Nation)

HANSEN: What's in a Song is produced by Hal Cannon(ph) and Taki Telenides(ph) of the Western Folklife Center. If you're near Elko, Nevada this weekend, stop in at the Western Folklife Center's National Cowboy Poetry Gathering for workshops on country cooking cowboy style, because as Hal Cannon says, you haven't lived until you've eaten cornbread hot out of a Dutch oven.

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