What's Cooking?

Cornbread – a tradition through the ages

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Deena Bouknight

A visit to the Macon County Historical Museum is a treasure-trove, step-back-in-time experience not to be missed by anyone living in or visiting this community. The exhibits provide visual learning for historical eras going back to the 1700s, from cultural aspects that involved Native Indian tribes, explorers, and settlers to how Macon County citizens were involved in previous wars.

However, visitors can also be treated to past centuries’ cooking utensils and apparatuses in different areas of the museum, and old cookbooks are featured as well. One cookbook that is not old, but that offers popular traditional recipes dating back more than 150 years, is titled “The Civil War Cookbook,” by William C. Davis. In it is a recipe for cornbread, which was a staple and still is in many Southern households.

A DISPLAY in the Macon County Historical Museum features a Rebecca Washington wood cookstove, cast iron pans, wooden spoons and other cooking utensils, utilized by households before the advent of electricity.

Made in passed-down or new cast-iron skillets and cornstick molds is the traditional way to make cornbread. It was a dish that proved filling, nutritious, and achievable by many soldiers on the move during the 1861-1865 war.

The book shares: “The cornbread we eat today bears only a passing resemblance to that eaten during the Civil War years. In those days it was bland and rather tasteless, so add a little sugar to this traditional recipe if you feel the need.”

Favorite family recipes might add nuances to a cornbread recipe – a bit of hot pepper, some cheese, some herbs, and more.

Following is the cornbread recipe featured in the book, available to peruse at the Macon County Historical Museum on Main Street in Franklin:


  • ½ cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 TBS milk
  • 3 TBS butter, softened

Combine the cornmeal, flour, and salt in a bowl. Add the eggs, milk, and butter, and mix well. Pour batter into a well-buttered (or oiled) cast-iron skillet, corn-stick mold, or a 9-inch by 9-inch baking pan. Bake at 375 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, or until lightly brown on top.