Mamma was born October 3, 1944. She was the apple of Granddaddy’s eye just as much as he was hers. Mamma grew up an only child, but has fond memories even from her crib. They lived on top of a steep hill that to this day the old car Mamma learned to drive in still sits. She tells the story of when she came home from school one afternoon with the measles. The school bus dropped her off at the foot of that long, winding driveway and all Mamma could think of was how in the world she would make it to the top. Mamma has faced many long winding roads to the top and has conquered each and every one of them with the most beautiful grace I can imagine.
Merriam Webster defines grace as a way of moving that is smooth and attractive and that is not stiff or awkward. Now, I must warn you that the Corbin/Logan girls have never been noted for their physical grace. I, for one, am a faller from way back. Mamma showed Betsy and me how to live with a different kind of grace. She taught us that it is more about character. The word grace has been stuck in my head for a while. Even as I write these words, I struggle with how I want to deliver my thoughts on the subject.
I grew up in the south and thankfully still live in the south. I am very lucky to have a rich family history that happens to be southern. My history, however, is not steeped in what some folks value as southern tradition. The whole southern gentleman thing just makes me giggle a little. Teaching little girls how to hold a tea cup just right makes me downright quesy. Sugar-coated, southern hospitality often comes with a seemingly warm hug. Why ‘bless your heart,’ that southern belle was just looking for the right place on your back to stick the knife. Make no mistake about it! Living in the south represents none of those myths for me. Any good, southern girl can dig in the dirt, cook up a mean pot of beans and cornbread all the while “standing up and acting like she has some sense.” Being southern means looking someone in the eye when giving a firm handshake. It means making a casserole when someone has died. When someone is in need, you wash your feet, comb your hair and jump in the truck to go help out.
I am very thankful for my southern raising. I am also thankful for the most graceful woman I know, my Mamma! Happy Birthday Sandra Corbin!
This weekend I will head to Oxford, Mississippi for the Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium. Last spring, I asked Jennifer Justus of Food Lovers’ Guide to Nashville if I should go. With a resounding yes, she explained that “I would feel like I had finally come home.” This year, the SFA theme is Women At Work. I can’t wait to catch up with a few friends and make new ones. Nashville’s own Lisa Donovan of Husk and Buttermilk Road Sunday Supper will present on the subject Pie or Cake. I am much more a pie kind of girl, but maybe my mind will change after her presentation. Sunday, the men will take the stage as they pay homage to Edna Lewis. Edna Lewis is one of my absolute favorite writers. She was the granddaughter of an emancipated slave that helped settle Freetown, Virginia. She told her family’s story through food in The Taste of Country Cooking. What some refer to as Southern Cuisine, I call just good ol’ country food. Lewis went on to become a well- known author and the first winner of The James Beard Living Legend award. With all the grace in the world, I have a feeling Edna Lewis would agree with me that there are a few parts of our southern heritage we would just a sooned not to have happened. Follow me on twitter @mdcorbin and on instagram @melcorbin as I enjoy my first SFA weekend with a great group of folks who give a damn!
Meanwhile, everyone needs a good go-to cornbread recipe. I am an eyeball it kind of cook, but roughly this is the one Mamma taught me as a little girl:
2 cups buttermilk
1 egg beaten
1-2 cups self-rising cornmeal
Get your cast iron skillet with a little bacon grease to the hot and popping stage in an oven about 400 degrees. Mix the egg, buttermilk and 1 cup of cornmeal thoroughly. You may need to add a little extra cornmeal to get the consistency of pancake batter. “I like a little extra salt in my bread,” says Mamma. Pour mixture in hot pan and bake until golden brown. This will be approximately 20-30 minutes.