Cornbread & Milk: It’s a Mountain Thing!

PHOTO: Cornbread & Milk, courtesy Kim Holloway Stalcup
PHOTO: Cornbread & Milk, courtesy Kim Holloway Stalcup

This article was written by Kim Holloway Stalcup, who is the 8th generation to call Cherokee County, NC home. Her love of Appalachia led her to start the blog, Appalachian Mountain Roots, where she shares her love of Appalachian history, communities, food, crafts, traditions…her roots.

Earlier this week, I made a big pot of deer chili and a cake of cornbread to go with it. The chili was good but I only had one thing on my mind when I pulled that sizzlin’ skillet from the oven – I was going to get to enjoy a big glass of cornbread and milk for a snack that evening. It is so good and can be a meal all by itself. In fact, I’ve enjoyed it for a meal countless times. You know those days when you’re just a little hungry but a sandwich just ain’t going to cut it? A glass full of crumbled up, warm cornbread with sweet milk poured over it…yeah, that’ll hit the spot. This is something that has been enjoyed in Appalachia for generations.

My Granny and Pa are the ones who introduced me to this delicious tradition. They usually used sweet milk (regular whole milk) but also enjoyed buttermilk. I’ve never been able to drink buttermilk so I always use sweet milk.

In Ronni Lundy’s incredible cookbook, Victuals: An Appalachian Recipes, she says:
“Give us this day our daily cornbread…” could be the standard grace for tables all around the mountain South.” She is absolutely right. It is a regular item on the table throughout southern Appalachia. I’m so glad, aren’t you?!

Growing up, we ate cornbread with just about every meal. I never thought much about it until I went away to college. We had spaghetti in the cafeteria and I mentioned that I would like to have some cornbread to go with it. You would have thought that I had grown a second head! My college friends quickly informed me that my bread preference should be garlic bread not cornbread. Like I said, we ate cornbread with just about everything, including spaghetti.They didn’t know how good of a thing they were missing.

Are you a fan of cornbread and milk?

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    • B.R. Edmonds, We had graveyard stew in Tennessee too, but ours was made with thick bread buttered, torn up, and covered in warm sweet milk. We also had cornbread and milk. If it was a sweet cornbread (Johnnie cake,) We used sweet milk. If it was normal cornbread, we would use buttermilk if we had it.

  1. It strikes me as weird drinking your cornbread and milk. My dad ate it out of a bowl with a spoon, so that’s how I do it, too. Had some just yesterday.

    • Barermender, we dont really drink it just crumble it in your glass of milk and eat with a spoon!! Just saying

      • Lol, yep always in a glass even if a bowl holds more. It just tastes better out of a glass. Never thought of using a bowl. Lol. I like hot cornbread, cold milk (not buttermilk) and onions.

  2. It was Sunday night supper at my grandmother’s house in Midway, TN because the noontime meal was a big country dinner. Buttermilk was used and it was made from the fresh milk then soured. They milked the cows on the farm by hand, grew the corn grounded at the local mill, and fresh eggs from the hen house. Organic and no additives. No wonder they lived long lives!

  3. I grew up eating cornbread and milk. Mom liked regular milk but Dad preferred buttermilk. Onions optional.
    I wonder about sugar in cornbread though. My northern friends put sugar in it but in my area we don’t. My late yankee husband and I had several discussions concerning this. I always won by pointing out it is called corn-BREAD, not corn-Cake. What do others think? I am curious about this.

    • It aggravates me to no end when they put sugar in it. Like you said it cornBREAD not cake. Totally ruins it.

  4. Northern Indiana Amish also eat cornbread and milk but in a bowl with buttered cornbread on the side, only way I eat it

  5. I grew up on cornbread and milk, too. My folks grew their own field of corn and had the local “Oil Mill” grind it up. They always had a fresh cow or goat for unadulterated milk, too. And no sugar in real Southern cornbread!!! Sugar’s a Yankee Thang…hahaha.

  6. My aunt used to make a big bowl full of it and us kids would line up one by one to get a big bite. I miss those days. I’ve never mastered their cornbread.

  7. My parents were from Bakersville, NC. I was born after they moved to Cleveland, OH, but eating “crumb-up”, either in regular milk or buttermilk, was a regular event with them and my NC-born siblings. Being the only Yankee-born child in the family, I just never warmed up to crumb-up. But I loved Mom’s cornbread hot out of the oven and slathered with butter!

  8. Besides the cornbread we often had Fried corn pone and covered in butter . My mom had . . . streaked meat , covered it in corn meal , and fried it and if poke salad was in season then we had that with the streaked meat and thousands of kids in between 1929 and 1942 would have starved had it not been for mothers who had grown up under the same conditions inthe mountains and were there to put a meal on the table where there seemingly did not appear to be one available thank GOD for mothers who were mothers in the greatest sense of the word and thank GOD for making it through the depression era

  9. Enjoyed your story. My family had cornbread a lot when I was growing up. We often had it with spaghetti!! We still ask our mom, who is 80 years old, to make a skillet of cornbread when we make spaghetti. I’ve seen my dad eat many bowls of cornbread and milk, but I never really acquired a taste for it.

  10. Mmmmmm!! Dreams of my childhood always included a big glass of cornbread and buttermilk. And if we had eaten all the cornbread at our meal, the next thing we would use was saltine crackers. So yummy! I was craving it just the other day, and my friend liked at me as if I had lost my mind!

  11. We had cornbread every single supper time. The leftovers went in the bread plate covered with a lid. Leftover biscuits too. The next day, what wasn’t eaten was given to the dog. We didn’t buy dogwood – ever. I am from a farming family in western NC. In the spring my daddy would go to work alone- to plow what fields we were going to plant. Many times I have seen my mama pack a cake of cornbread and a 1/2 gallon of buttermilk for him to take with him. He would eat his lunch and break time from it. Those were wonderful days gone by.

  12. Such wonderful memories! The recipe I haven’t been able to find is the biscuit bread. I believe is was cooked in an iron skillet and appeared to be fried rather than baked. My Mom was only 42 when she passed so I never got the recipe. What I wouldn’t give for some of that bread! Does anyone know what I am talking about?

  13. Molly, my mom would make what she cal!ed lazy bread. She would heat oil or shortening in the iron skillet in the oven, like she was making cornbread. But instead of cornbread she would make a runny biscuit dough, then pour it in the hot skillet and bake it. The bottom would be crusty, but the top would be very tender. After it baked, she would cut it into wedges like cornbread.

  14. I’m from Lee Co. VA which is the last County in Southwest Virginia. we commonly had cornbread for dinner and I remember meeting up with my dad in the kitchen a few hours after dinner and enjoying a big glass of cornbread and milk with salt and pepper and sometimes even a green onion. My Dad has passed now and I wish more than anything I could enjoy a glass of cornbread n milk with him now. Sometimes the simplest of memories can hit you like a ton of bricks.

  15. My Mom would cook two pans of cornbread ,if not three, there was 10 kids mom and daddy, every day. We ate corn bread every day, People here in Virginia eat more biscuts than corn bread, anyway I have eaten frozen cornbread with my Dad for breakfast a few times. .Corn bread and milk, sweet or buttermilk is sooooo good, when nothing else seems to suite your stomach, try some. It works every time. Thats just simply good old southern eating,can’t beat it

  16. My Dad did this, in a glass with a spoon. He grew up in S.E. Missouri. It was definitely a treat for him. I have never tried it but am a fan of cornbread made with buttermilk and NO sugar poured into a hot greased iron skillet, spread batter thin (so more crispy bottom crust) Yummy with sweet butter.
    Anybody have story about drinking hot coffee out of the saucer? Had an elderly great uncle who did that every morning, Missouri man too. I guess to cool the coffee?

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