July 2018
The Herb Lady

Home Cooking

I’m cooking again. After my husband’s death, I more or less gave up the art. And there is art in cooking. During these years, I have eaten, of course, and tried to eat proper, healthy food. I didn’t ever really feel satisfied after a meal. I often kept nibbling. Recently, I had a strong urge to cook and dedicated Saturday as the day for this project.

The first Saturday, I cooked roast beef, butter beans, carrot salad and Mexican cornbread (without hot peppers). I shared it with a neighbor friend, and I ate the same foods for several days. Some went into the freezer for another day.

The next Saturday, my menu was chicken potpie, oriental salad and Mexican cornbread.

Again, I shared it with my neighbor and followed the same process of freezing for a later date.

Next Saturday, the menu will be ham, field peas (pinkeye purple hulls), corn on the cob, okra and tomatoes plus fresh tomatoes, cucumber slices and green onions; plus the usual Mexican cornbread, of course.

I was just thinking about the plants that go into the preparation of these meals (the animals providing my meats were fed plant diets). Do these plants belong in the "herb" category? Why not? I’ve decided to consider them herbs.

You’ll wonder why Mexican cornbread instead of corn pone. It’s because whatever "they" have done to today’s corn, it does not provide decent cornmeal for corn pone. It does make wonderful Mexican cornbread, though, and it is so easy to put in the freezer to be heated when desired.

"Mother, make us some of that cornbread like you used to make," my children ask.

"It’s impossible with today’s cornmeal," I answer.

They remember the days of their youth. Often their friends dropped by at suppertime, knowing full well a corn pone would be on our table, and they would be offered a piece.

Yesterday, I purchased some cornmeal. A young man happened to be working on the "baking goods" racks. He and I spoke.

"I’m looking for plain meal."

"It’s all plain meal."

"No. Some of it is self-rising. Plain meal has no baking powder, soda, salt and definitely no sugar."

He looked confused.

"I don’t understand," he remarked.

"You’re just too young to know."

We laughed.

If it were possible, I would go to the corn crib, pick out desired corn ears, shuck them and shell a bushel. Then I would take it to Linton’s Mill to be water ground into meal. I would have the pleasure of talking with Mr. Buster while he performed the chore. Then I would bring my meal home, measure the desired amount, sift it, add salt (no sugar – never any sugar in my cornbread), then add water and stir until it was the proper consistency. Next, I would put the mass into an oiled iron skillet, cover it with a light film of oil and place it into the hot oven of a wood stove until browned. Man, would this be good eating!

Those days are over, but home-cooked food is still the best. I’m glad I am once again practicing the art.


Nadine Johnson can be reached at PO Box 7425, Spanish Fort, AL 36577, by calling 251-644-5473, or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..