"It is economics that's behind why northerners (generally) eat cornbread w/sugar in the batter and southerners (generally) don't," says weewah. "In the South, cornbread was eaten as a bread with your meal and you used it to sop up juices. Cornbread was used for basic sandwiches and as a base to pour your beans & ham hocks or other stewed dishes on (crumbled on green beans etc.). You do not want sweetened cornbread for this—I can tell you sweet cornbread will spoil a dish of pinto beans instantly—ugh."
"I have a lot of Northern-type friends and they insist on sugar in cornbread. But then they aren't accustomed to eating the cornbread mixed with their main meal. They eat it as muffins, a sweet cake, plain or with butter," says weewah. "I like sweet corn muffins just fine, but they are not the utilitarian cornbread that is indispensable in Southern dining, to be used as a sop and an accompaniment to your main dishes."
"Well, to me putting sugar in your cornbread is like putting ketchup on steak," says vafarmwife. EWSflash likes both. "I discovered some pastries in Nogales, Mexico that were shaped like a wide, fairly flat cupcake, and they were sweet and wonderful and savory at the same time, and I love them so much I always buy them when I can get to a panaderia here—distinctly cornmeal or corn flour tasting, but with a lovely sweetness," says EWSflash. "That's for dessert. Either way, when I make cornbread in a cast iron skillet with a bunch of bacon fat as the pan grease, I get way more compliments when I make a sweet cornbread than not. I love the totally savory cornbread, too."
Discuss: Cornbread: Sweet or Savory?