Corn Pone


Ah, the tail end of February.  Believe it or not, now’s the time to really start thinking on summer’s food.  It’s the time to purchase a CSA share from a nearby farm, but more on that in a minute.  And it’s fine time to wrap your mind round garden-growing.  More on that in a minute too.  Beyond that, aren’t we just longing to eat the foods of summer by now, anyhow?

First, let’s get to a few juicy bits of food news.  As you know, I’ve been talking up a local website for a while now called theperennialplate.  It’s a site run by local chef, real food advocate and documentarian, Daniel Klein.  Each week he makes a short documentary on a local farm or food, but does so through the back door, so-to-speak.  You’ll have to watch one of his videos to understand, but you’ll only want to watch more, trust me, and you should.  Here’s kudos to Klein and his project and to just getting absorbed into the great, liberal online reader  Huffington Post.

As well, something on the Slow Food page caught my eye this past week.  Michael Pollan, who famously authored The Omnivor’s Dilemma, has put out a call to all to contribute food rules for an expanded version of his successful book Food Rules which came out two years ago or so.  If you missed out on Pollan’s Food Rules, it is a slim book wrapping up all he learned about real and not real food post-The Omnivore’s Dilemma in the way of rules of sustainable eating.  I love that idea of sitting down with your family and/or friends and compiling a new list of food rules you live by and believe are important.  Try it, perhaps you’ll strum up one or two that Pollan can use in his upcoming book.

February means it’s time to imagine that winter has peeled it’s white off your backyard and to begin planning your garden.  (I’ll be carrying on about my garden next month and our possible chicken coop and attempt at keeping chickens this summer.)  However, if you don’t garden, it’s a perfect time to consider getting a CSA share.  A CSA, for those who don’t know, is a type of farm that allows you to purchase a share of their farm and in return you receive a weekly box of produce through their growing season.  It’s a wonderful way of not only directly supporting a local grower but of accessing fresh fruits and vegetables all season.  It’s also a great way for the more adventurous and ambitious to discover new types of vegetables or to experiment with gluts.  I recommend finding a CSA near you by visiting or the Land Stewardship Project.  Really, now is the time to purchase your share!

This month I thought I’d highlight another local product I do love very much.  Whole Grain Milling’s hi-lysine cornmeal.  (Actually, you can visit for a little tour of WGM’s farm and philosophy; it’s quite wonderful.)  I buy their cornmeal in the bulk section of my local food-coop and you can too.  Let’s try an unusual recipe from the lovely southern cook Edna Lewis:

Corn Pone

Corn Pone was a delicious equivalent of the ash cake and is legendary in our history.  A beautiful poem was written by one of our early great poets, Paul Laurence Dunbar, entitled When Mammy Says de Blessing and de Cone Pone’s Hot.  When there was need for a quick hot snack, we would light the cookstove and stir up some cornmeal and make a number of corn pones, sometimes adding cracklings to make them more interesting, but they were just as delicious plain.  The rather stiff batter would be shaped with both hands, fingers closed, to make a large egg shape—the shape of your hand.  The pones were about 3 inches wide, and were placed an inch apart on a baking sheet.  Baked in a fairly hot oven, when done they were golden brown in color and very crusty outside, which made them more delicious.  We would cut them in half and butter them.

2 cups water-ground white cornmeal

1 teaspoon Royal Baking Powder

½ teaspoon salt

2/3 cup cold water

½ cup milk

1 tablespoon melted lard or butter

Sift the meal, baking powder, and salt into a mixing bowl.  Add the water and milk.  Stir well, add melted fat, and let the mixture rest for 10 minutes.  Then take the batter and shape it into pones by cupping both hands together and patting it into form.  Place each pone upon a baking sheet an inch apart from the others and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes—no longer or the bread will dry out.

from Dunbar’s poem:

When de cabbage pot is steamin’
An’ de bacon good an’ fat,
When de chittlins is a-sputter’n’
So ‘s to show you whah dey’s at;
Tek away yo’ sody biscuit,
Tek away yo’ cake an’ pie,
Fu’ de glory time is comin’,
A n’ it’s ‘proachin’ mighty nigh,
An’ you want to jump an’ hollah,
Dough you know you ‘d bettah not,
When yo’ mammy says de blessin’
An’ de co’n pone ‘s hot.