I wish I could sing.
I wish I could, but I really, really can’t. Years ago I met a very old bluesman in Chicago, and told him I couldn’t sing.
He responded, “Never say you can’t. If you want it badly enough you can do anything.”
So I sang for him.
He didn’t say anything. But I could see it in his eyes; I broke him. I had destroyed a fundamental belief. That night, he discovered what the blues truly were. He played no more that night. I don’t know that he ever made music again. That was the day I realized that I had a weaponized voice.
Because of this, and other experiences, I rarely sing around humans. But I love music. There aren’t many music styles I don’t like. Some of my favorites are 80’s new wave, classic rock, big band, and ragtime. And I adore zydeco.
Zydeco is a mixture of blues, and rhythm and blues from the Louisiana bayou. It is the absolute best road trip music there is. It’s also physically impossible to hear it and be sad or motionless. It’s a party for your ears.
A big zydeco star is a guy named Beau Jocque. One of his biggest hits is a song called, “Gimme Cornbread”.
For many years nobody ever told me to, “Gimme cornbread”, unless they wanted me to pass somebody else’s to them. Sadly my cornbread had more in common with yellow cake uranium than a sweet, moist, yellow quick bread. It was dry and uninspired. It could be choked down, but only by blanketing in lethal amounts of butter. Even then it was a dismal, depressing experience.
When I finally possessed a well-seasoned cast iron skillet I wanted to test its nonstickability with a batch of cornbread. But I desired to make some cornbread that was worthy of the time and care I had lavished upon my frying pan.
I looked around and found a recipe. The cornbread wasn’t dry, but it wasn’t terribly special. So I started tinkering. What I ended up with was moist, tender, tasty, and like me, just a little off-kilter.
Brown butter shoe-peg cornbread
1 cup self-rising cornmeal
½ cup self-rising flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon cold butter
3 tablespoons brown butter
1 ¼ cups non-fat buttermilk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup frozen shoe peg corn, thawed
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon vanilla
Generous grating of fresh nutmeg
*Browning butter: Melt butter over medium-low heat in saucepan. Continue to cook until it foams, subsides, and foams again (approx. 5 minutes). Finally the foam will begin to brown. At this point watch carefully until solids are caramel-colored. Remove from heat and let cool enough to mix with eggs.
Preheat oven to 400. Place the cold butter into a 10-inch cast iron skillet, or 8X8 baking dish and put in oven.
In a bowl, mix together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Combine cooled brown butter, buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla. Pour them into dry ingredients and mix. Fold in corn. Spread in pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until set and just cooked through. Don’t overbake. Serves 6.
I guess I could purchase some pricy Auto-Tune software. But that’s the audio equivalent of photo shop. It wouldn’t be real. It doesn’t change the fact that I long to sing like a nightingale but instead sound like a crow with a throat condition.
But I can make a tasty pan of cornbread.
And that’s the truth.
Thanks for your time.