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Skillet Cornbread: 1935

October 1935. "Making cornbread with relief flour. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia." Medium format negative by Arthur Rothstein. View full size.

October 1935. "Making cornbread with relief flour. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia." Medium format negative by Arthur Rothstein. View full size.


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Southern vs. northern cornbread

In the South, cornbread is generally made with white field corn and is not sweetened--but of course the tea is. In the North, it's generally made with yellow field corn and is sweetened--but the tea generally is not. Regional thing, really. I'm a Yankee who prefers southern cornbread and unsweetened tea.

I'm pretty sure that at least four of the iron skillets I own were used by my grandmother when she was a little girl during WWI. If you ruin the seasoning, you put it on a hot bed of coals to remove the old and start anew. I've reconditioned my skillets several times this way. Love those old skillets, but cringe at that stove.

It's not history till you forget it

My mom cooked on a stove much like that (a Kalamazoo) and made enough pan bread to feed an army. I now have her cast iron pans and still make lard grease corn bread when I'm feeling nostalgic. Sadly that's about the only use I get out of those old pans.

Still make it that way

While I am too young to have been in the Great Depression, but not young enough to call the recent recession the Great Recession having seen others, I did grow up in the lower economic class and remember Brown (pinto) Beans wth Ham hock and cornbread cooked in the oven on a hot Lodge cast iron pan.

I still make cornbread from scratch in my own well seasoned Lodge cast iron pan in the oven. It never lasts past the second day, and always cut in pie shaped wedges. Whereas I grew up in Colorado and California where homemade was the norm, my husband grew up here in the Pacific Northwest and never had it from scratch before. Now he will not touch boxed varieties and I have now become very well versed in the different mills for both my flour and my cornmeal.

Never though have I liked it mixed with milk, I am the oddball in my family I suppose Reminded me too much of mush.

Culture shock

I was a kid from the upper mid-west stationed in the Air Force down in Louisiana in the early 1980s when I learned about "seasoned iron skillets." I ran my roommate's skillet through a commercial dishwasher and he wasn't too pleased.

Cornbread vs. Johnnycake

A friend with southern family roots told me that "real" cornbread should not contain any sugar. He stated that if it contains sugar, it's a "johnnycake", rather than a true cornbread.

Certainly the cornbread recipes printed right on the bag of any brand of cornmeal include sugar. This would imply that the producers of cornmeal have a different definition.


The best part about this photo is the comments it inspired! Thanks sharing all of the family lore.

The Delight on the Left

Technically, is more like Johnnycake rather than Cornbread.

Irish soda bread

Mom always used to make it in an 8" cast iron skillet in the oven. With raisins and caraway seed. My son continues the tradition.

Day old cornbread and milk

My dad loved breaking up day old cornbread into an ice tea glass then filling it up with milk with a good tablespoon of sugar then scooping it with a spoon like a sundae. He also liked white bread spread with mayo and sprinkled with sugar. He was born in 1922 in Louisiana.
His mother, my grandmother, taught me that cornbread was baked in the oven in a skillet but corn pone was always cooked in a skillet on the stovetop. It was thinner and faster to make, stirring as it cooked.

Brings back memories

My paternal grandmother cooked on a coal/wood stove not unlike this one (a bit more upscale, it was porcelain-ized and bigger).

She always had a skillet of cornbread on hand. That would find its way into several meals each week, as did her white bread loaves. Great Northern beans were cooked up with buttermilk that made a thick, rich sauce.

The cornbread was NOT light and sweet like the stuff you get served in restaurants today. It was dense, very coarse-textured, soft when freshly baked but dry and hard next-day. Pouring the ham and beans over it softened the squares and made a rich, tasty and filling meal that was only upstaged by the fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy that was traditional Sunday fare.

There was so much good food served in that farmhouse.

Mouth watering comments

Beans, cornbread, buttermilk. I believe the comments in this thread are making me as hungry as our recent Thanksgiving spread. As an added treat my wife will cook a few cracklins into the cornbread.

Relief or not

I'll bet it tasted good! My father and grandfather would have put it in a glass of buttermilk (ugh!).

Cornbread & Buttermilk

My granddaddy (b. 1898 in west Texas) would crumble day-old cornbread in a tall glass of buttermilk for breakfast. His mix was 50/50 with the consistency of oatmeal. When the grandkids were at the breakfast table we were allowed to crumble our cornbread in "sweet milk".

I never heard - or maybe just don't remember - if my grandfather referred to this concoction by name; I only remember him call it"cornbread and buttermilk". As a consequence of this delicacy there was rarely any two-day-old cornbread in the kitchen.

I can still remember the big black skillet left on the counter on a wire trivet with a clear Corning glass lid from a long-broken casserole dish covering the pan. If the crust overlapped the skillet rim, my grandmother would trim it away with a sharp knife (there were never any other kind in her kitchen) so the glass lid would fit snugly. Those crusty trimmings always went into granddaddy's buttermilk.

GE percolator coffeepot gurgling and hissing - the trinkle of a long-handled iced tea spoon stirring the cornbread in the tall glass - cue the rooster.

Goober Pea

Corn bread...yum

As a tween I rode the GM&O Gulf Coast Rebel from St. Louis, MO to Waynesboro, MS to stay a couple of weeks with my grandpa and aunt for a couple of weeks. Home-made cornbread and black-eyed peas were a staple. Over sixty years later I wonder where to get that cornbread - the stuff sold over the counter just doesn't satisfy.

My First Time

Being married to a southern gal, I got my first taste of this delicious meal (Ham Hocks and all) when my Mother-In-Law cooked it for us right after we were first married.

Like 'Oliver' I asked for more.

She even used a family cast iron skillet that we still had up until recently. Yum!

Best poor folks food ever

Agreed on beans and cornbread. Always on the restaurant menus around here too, the only question is brown beans (pinto beans) or white beans (navy beans). A small local place changes that for their special a couple of times a week. The older people will crumble up the corn bread in the beans, most younger people don't. You can choose to have raw onions on the side, that is about a 50/50 choice.

Black, slick, and

seasoned so well, they are now non-stick. Great grandma's
cookware still sees regular action in our Ozarks kitchen on old Route 66. "Cast iron skillets..." says my wife (a "chef-caliber" cook), are the ONLY ones to use for "...cornbread, apple pie and Southern fried chicken."
And, having had those mouth-watering dishes cooked in everything from teflon to aluminum foil, I...whole-heartedly...agree.

Where are the pintos?

Having spent a few years in the Dust Bowl, I know for sure that almost all the natives around here survived the Depression and other lean times with dried pinto beans and cornbread and they never stop lovin' this staple. With a chunk of fatback or ham hocks and a chopped onion thrown in for flavor and cooking the beans almost all day, it does make a savory and filling delicious hot meal with a tantalizing aroma. If visitors were expected, they would just throw in another cup of water or two while cooking the beans. Even if and when their families became affluent, they still consider beans and cornbread a most satisfying comfort food, similar to red beans and rice in N'Orleans and it is often on the menu in restaurants.

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