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Pa Tat’s Cornbread

May 1, 2010

Cornbread.  As I get older, remembering things is harder than it once was. But, there is one memory from my childhood that is still as vivid as the day it happened.  My great grandpa, Talton (Tat for short), had come in from the corn field for his midday snack. He was wearing his usual denim overalls with a striped cotton shirt underneath and once-black, now-gray work boots; his skin burned red, from both his native mother and the Arkansas sun. I was afraid of Pa Tat; he seemed so gigantic to my little self.  He often swore, always carried Skoal in his bottom lip, and spoke to me only when I did something “dang foolish” or when he needed his spit cup brought closer. On this day, however, as he sat in his rocking chair preparing to relax with his food, he suddenly patted his left thigh and held out his arm to me. Stunned but excited I eagerly leapt into his lap, nestled my bones into the crook of his arm, and fell in love. This one moment of bonding led to a lifelong idealization of what came next.  Ma Candy (Melviney to those who cared little for their lives), brought out a big crockery bowl of  last-night’s cornbread smothered in fresh buttermilk with a large spoon propped alongside. Pa Tat received the bowl, gently handed it to me to hold, and scooped up a spoonful of the contents and smacked it between his tongue and the roof of his mouth. He approved. The next spoonful he guided toward my mouth and not even my dislike of both cold cornbread and buttermilk stopped me from gobbling it up. We sat like that for many minutes until the bowl was empty. Papa patted my back; I took his cue and  slid off his lap and into the kitchen to return the dishes. Standing at the wash pan, I heard from the other room, “Youngun. Git me my spit cup. ” I had never been happier.

Check back soon for the recipe.

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