Polly Want Some Cornbread?

As someone who savored all 1,120 pages of Crescent Dragonwagon’s kooky and charming James Beard Award–winning cookbook, Passionate Vegetarian, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of her new book, The Cornbread Gospels. For those unfamiliar with this cookbook author, yes, “Crescent Dragonwagon” is her real name (but it’s not her birth name). And yes, she does have a bizarre YouTube video on her website, in which she cooks up cornbread for a gang of feathered friends. And yes, there’s probably an intense hippie-dippy vibe through her 200-recipe tribute to all things cornbread, but I’m making room for it on my already crowded cookbook shelf because this is a woman who knows her stuff.

Apparently, Dragonwagon rounded up these recipes at family reunions and potluck dinners across the country, and at the annual National Cornbread Festival in South Pittsburg, Tennessee. (Mark your calendar for April 26 and 27, 2008, people.) And in her travels, she came up with a wide variety of recipes for cornbread, muffins, fritters, pancakes, and “go-withs.” Sez the Amazon.com description of her book:

Cornbreads from below the Mason-Dixon line (Skillet-Sizzled Buttermilk Cornbread, Truman Capote’s Family’s Alabama Cornbread) meet those from above (Durgin-Park Boston Cornbread, Vermont Maple-Sweetened Cornbread). Southwestern offerings—Chou-Chou’s Dallas Hot Stuff Cornbread, delectable homemade tamales and tortillas from scratch—meet internationals like India’s Makki Ki Roti.

Like Dragonwagon’s previous cookbooks, The Cornbread Gospels is as much of a bedside reader as an instructional text. Arkansas’s Morning News says:

Sidebars pepper the text with the history of cornbread, literary quotes and helpful information on how to season a cast-iron skillet.

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Interesting tidbits special to each region (adding crumbled cornbread to a glass of milk in the south) authenticate her experience as a northern native and southern transplant who is able to incorporate her love of cooking and history into this treasure of regional cornbread and soul food recipes.

The San Antonio Current also raves about Dragonwagon’s cornbread accompaniments, such as her “Portuguese Caldo Verde, a hearty stew rich with kale, chorizo, and beans.” Hungry yet? The Dallas Eats blog shares Dragonwagon’s recipe for bobota, a Greek cornbread that’s drizzled with orange-honey syrup while it’s still warm from the oven.

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