Thursday, April 30, 2009

April 27, 2009 Cornbread Supper: Hot Night, New People

Lemon Polenta CakeSmall group, great food, including homemade Cream of Tomato, made by Rona's heretofore rumored but unrevealed handsome bro from beautiful Wayne County -- he whose fine corn has graced at least one cornbread in every Cornbread Supper so far. The tomato soup, made from Bro's homegrown, home-canned tomatoes, using his mother's recipe-less method, proved plenty popular.

After seven Cornbread Suppers, one fact stands out: People like tomato soup! Children, particularly - though there was only one at this week's Supper -- have lapped up the different versions of homemade tomato soup that have appeared at the Suppers.

This week, we also had, according to our cooks' left-behind food labels:
> Cabbage stuffed with deer sausage harvested near Lawrenceburg - watch out for toothpicks
> Creme fraiche - a raw milk (NOT PASTEURIZED) product. Cultured similar to sour cream.
> Organic mango with Kentucky mint
> Arepas with homemade mozzarella dot topping (I think!)

And though there are no little left-behind labels, people brought these foods, too:
> Homemade Derby Pie-that-has-to-be-called-something-else (because of a trademark on the much less good but legally official pastry)
> Beet-celery-onion salad

Of course we also had cornbreads, three (or four) this week, each made with a thought to avoid the usual 500 degree oven required for the great crust on the traditional cornbreads. (But the cook failed to realize how long the oven would run at 350 degrees and 400 degrees!)

> Spoonbread, half traditional and half with Blue Moon green garlic (which disappeared first)
> Corn-Asparagus-Bacon casserole, made with Wayne County homegrown corn, courtesy of the famous bro, asparagus from the Campsie Place urban garden, and Stonecross Farm smoked country bacon.
> Lemon Polenta Cake (pictured), made with this recipe, doubled, in a 10-inch springform pan, baked about 70 minutes at 350 degrees, using Weisenberger's beautiful bolted yellow cornmeal. Served with fantastic 2008 Reed Valley Orchard blueberries cooked with some homemade Reed Valley Orchard blueberry butter

At every Cornbread Supper, new people come. Yes! That helps fulfill the Suppers' purpose of connection, community-building, and conviviality.

This week, for the first time, the Slow Food Bluegrass announcements about the Cornbread Suppers attracted one intrepid explorer who came without knowing anyone (yet) and who brought a lot to the evening. We welcome all who are interested in Slow Food, good food, good farming, and good company to come to the weekly Cornbread Suppers. Mondays at 6 PM.

April 20, 2009, Cornbread Supper - Trying Out Cornbread Bread Pudding

When in the course of human events the cornbread supply in the freezer builds up to a critical mass -- and Thanksgiving is on the other side of the calendar -- what to do? We decided we could invent Cornbread Bread Pudding, and with a little help from the internet, though without an actual recipe, we built a new dish. Quite popular, moist and savory, and very likely to appear at intervals at Cornbread Suppers. Specifically, we made this dish with homegrown Wayne County corn (frozen, of course), Blue Moon green garlic, fresh Elmwood Stock Farm Eggs, Weisenberger Unbolted White Corn meal, and local buttermilk.

Other cornbreads:

* Couche-couche - vegan, crunchy (from American Corn by Maria Polushkin Robbins)
* Drunken Corn Bread - sweet, yellow, vegetarian (also from American Corn) (which Rona still cannot get to produce the promised layer of custard, though it is tasty and definitely has a moist layer)

Other wonderful foods people brought (from left-behind labels) - some of the total for the nearly 40 diners:
> 3 pea toss with almonds & mint
> Jessamine County goat cheese
> Vegetable Lo Mein
> Beet Salad (includes celery and red onions) vegan
> Spicy chickpeas; vegetarian, not vegan
> Vegetarian Pakistani Lentils
> Not Vegetarian Beans w/Bacon

And....drum roll...HOMEMADE PLAY DOUGH!!!

With the recipe!

The Best Play Dough Ever
4 cups of flour
1 cup salt
4 cups of water
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup cream of tartar

Mix all ingredients in a sauce pan. Cook and stir over low/medium heat until play dough is completely formed and no longer sticky. Allow to cool slightly before storing in an air tight container or zip lock bag.

Brought to us by the same wonderful people who also bring stunning Tomato Bisque, corn pudding, Pakistani lentils, and a budding anthropologist, a five year old documentarian.

April 13, 2009 Cornbread Supper

Two amazements, or three: People brought fantastic Easter dinner leftovers: roast lamb from Tanya and Wendell Berry's farm, ham, corn souffle dishes, carrot cake. LOTS of people came, nearly 40, including a dozen children. And they came in spite of our promoting a competing event, the amazing Will Allen, who spoke to an overflow crowd at the Lexington Public Library at the same time as the Cornbread Supper.

And the cornbreads of the evening were....
* The "All In": Green Garlic, Feta, Bacon, Corn, Parmesan
* Traditional: Hot, crispy, white, not sweet, and made with grape seed and olive oils this week so it is (ovo-lacto) vegetarian
* New England style Corn Muffins made with Logan Turnpike Mill meals fresh from Blairsville, GA (Thank you, sweet neighbors)!

April 6, 2009 Cornbread Supper

Cornbreads all came from Maria Polushkin Robbins' small, wonderful, 1989 book, American Corn, first introduced to Rona by a friend during Cornbread Supper 1:

* Drowned Corn Bread (vegetarian, sweet, with a custard on top -- in theory!)
* Couche-Couche (which sounds a lot like fried cornmeal, and came out beautifully, like crispy fried cornbread in lumps. Yep - not to be missed!
* Spoonbread: Because the oven has to be at 400 degrees anyway! And most particularly because Ambi Stone of Elmwood Stock Farm gave Rona and Steve a wonderful gift of "homemade" Hickory King cornmeal from Jennifer Gleason's Sunflower Sundries in Mt. Olivet, Kentucky

People brought lots of tasty things, and we have only a spotty record from a few little labels people left behind:

> Cranberry walnut - contains egg
> Pumpkin choc chop muffins, oatmeal-cranberry muffins
> Veggies -n- dip
> Transparent Pie
> Vegetable Lo Mein

And yes, it was a big night for big, glorious tulips.

March 30, 2009 Cornbread Supper

Smaller group, 26 people, and more food! The wonderful Chef Mark Williams, leader of Slow Food Bluegrass and Executive Chef at Brown-Forman in Louisville, has begun pointing people toward the Cornbread Suppers as slow food events, and yes, we are. Convivial, committed to food that is good, clean, and fair without being food police-y about it, and certainly interested in increasing support for and connections to the people who grow our food.

Cornbreads for this evening:

> Traditional (with olive oil this time, vegetarian)
> Corn-Bacon-Chive
> North Country Sweet Corn Muffins

And the other food! Goodness gracious! People left behind these little labels:

> Sweet/Sour cabbage - some bacon
> Weight Watchers: Pear, Carrot, and Celery with a bit of ginger (vegan)
> Chicken
> Spinach salad w/cranberries, croutons, blue cheeses, lavender black pepper vinaigrette
> Boiled Peanuts
> Applesauce from Wilson trees
> Rhubarb jam
> Indian cauliflower - ginger-garlic-coconut-cashew - Splendid Table
> Pesto with roasted peppers and olives. Some Parmesan cheese
> Ziti pasta vegetarian
> Corn Pudding (veg w/dairy)
> Mystery Grapes
> Oberholtzer Sorghum
> Local ricotta with creme fraiche and lemon zest and organic sugar

Oh yes, and the children found some Play-Doh that has to be 15 years old. Soft, fresh, smelly, and worth mixing all together.

Read Rona's in-depth interview with Chef Mark Williams at

March 23, 2009 - Second Supper - but are we counting?

We continue to have children at the suppers! Wonderful. Seven this week, and 25 taller people, too. The cornbreads included black pepper parmesan (vegetarian) and traditional (bacon fat, nonsweet) and an Italian-inspired lemon cornmeal olive oil cake, served with local strawberry/raspberry compote and whipped cream.

People brought wonderful things to eat and drink: Greens casserole, couscous salad, grilled salmon, homemade applesauce, beans of several delicious types, homemade whole wheat bread, homemade butter, chocolate chess pie and other desserts - plenty of wine, too - leftover unopened bottles for next week!

In the beginning: Cornbread Supper 1: March 16, 2009

One hour before the first Cornbread Supper, a cold, grey, spring rain ended, and buttery Kentucky spring evening light graced our debut. The crowd of 39 people included 10 children five and younger.

Cornbreads included traditional buttermilk and a green onion/bacon variation. Guests brought wines, spicy bean stews and soups, vegetables, and good cheer. Lucky early birds got to taste a famous homemade Lexington delicacy, Maestro's Biscotti. Tender. Meltingly tender.

Rules? Expectations? Dress Code? Kids? Drinks?

What kind of event are Cornbread Suppers?

Weeknight, comfortable, convivial, slow affairs. Something like this:

  1. Regular, repeating - We want Cornbread Supper on Mondays at 6, to become a standing option for you, so we host Supper weekly with any number of participants.
  2. Optional potluck: It's a potluck IF you have time to bring something. If you don't have time, you can count on us each week to serve a hearty dish of cornbread/grits/spoonbread/hush puppies/tamales/corn-on-the-cob -- simple corn-based nourishment that will get you through. So if you want to come, please come with or without food contributions.
  3. Child friendly: Children are most certainly invited and wanted.
  4. Open door/Big Table: Invite and bring other people. (Starting with your loved ones for whom we don't have email addresses; all are welcome.)
  5. Drinks: We'll have water, of course, and occasionally may also add in wine or other good things that come our way. Feel free to bring drinks you like or would like to share.
  6. Dress code - sure - wear something. Whatever you are wearing will suffice.
  7. Food code - Let's try for simple, good, share-able. Of course we will be delighted with local, seasonal, homegrown -- so good for us and our community -- but all contributions welcome. We'll work to make sure some of the Basic Corn Feature each week is vegetarian (ovo-lacto, probably not vegan). Meat dishes and those who eat them (as we do) are welcome, of course. See "What Should I Bring" if you want a little more guidance. 
  8. Co-hosts welcome - If you think you might like to be part of a co-host group for the suppers, let Steve or Rona know. It is great when people pitch in, and there may be times when the suppers could move around to other houses.

You're Invited to Cornbread Suppers -- And Why We Do Them in the First Place

Here's how Steve and Rona answer the big question: Why Cornbread Suppers??

We host a weekly shared supper, and invite anyone who wants to come (YOU, for example) for these reasons:

1. To offer a standing option to make one weeknight meal convivial

2. To establish a "Cornbread Salon" where the people behind all manner of good projects and ideas can connect

3. To lighten burdens and add joy

4. To nourish body, mind, spirit, and community

Background: For a long time, we have wanted to host a weekly gathering for friends, neighbors, and acquaintances. Steve co-hosted a weekly potluck and music gathering at the time he and Rona met. Rona liked that gathering, the music, and the openness of the hospitality very much.

Why cornbread? We got the Cornbread Supper idea from this excellent story by Judy Walker in The Times-Picayune. Then we learned more about how well corn, cornbread(s) and Kentucky fit together - and we got out the cast iron skillets, turned on the oven, and opened the front door.

If you want to know more about the expectations, rules, and "culture" of Cornbread Supper before trying it out, here's your information.

All are invited. No RSVP necessary. New people come most weeks.