How many recipes do you have to test out before reviewing a cookbook? I have to confess, I wanted to write about The Cornbread Gospels the day I got it, before making a single recipe--it was that much fun to read. Crescent Dragonwagon's new book is a treasure trove of recipes, stories, and cornbread lore, worthy of a place on the bookshelf by the bed as well as on the cookbook shelf.
Dragonwagon certainly has the resume to put this cookbook together. As chef/founder of the Dairy Hollow House Inn (and the Writers' Colony at Dairy Hollow) she has been making cornbread in all its varieties for over twenty-five years. (She's also the author of The Passionate Vegetarian, as well as dozens of books for children.) After living for years in Arkansas, she now makes her home in her native Vermont--so she's got both Northern and Southern styles down. An aficionado of the hot stuff, she'll do southwestern-style cornbread, with jalapenos and the like, as well. She'll take you back to various Native American and Native-inspired dishes, including a tortilla how-to. And she's found recipes for cornbread from so much of the old World (Greece, Portugal, South Africa, India...) that you may forget that corn originated right here in this hemisphere. (Don't worry, though, there's plenty of good history in the book to remind you.)
But what about the recipes? So far, I have to confess, I've only tried three, but they were all keepers. There's a yeasted dough for rolls (Glazed Maple-Cornmeal Rolls), a fabulous multi-grain muffin (Janice Carr's Mixed-Grain Muffins), and a blueberry muffin so lemony sweet and tasty that I baked it as a cake (Lemon-Blueberry Babycakes; I left off the "Crumble-Bumble" streusel). I'm still waiting for the right occasion for the Neighborly Sweet Potato Muffins, the Miss Kay's Dark Secret Cornmeal Cake (it has cocoa in it), and Vermont Maple-Sweetened Cornbread, among many, many others. There are recipes for things to go with the cornbread, too--greens and soups and stews that look fabulously warming. (There are a few recipes here if you can't wait to find the book...)
I've never been one for single-ingredient cookbooks, though I've got a few cookbooks that focus on one particular part of a meal (soup and bread are my favorites). But this one satisfies both body and mind; I'll be coming back to it often.
[full disclosure: I received a free copy of the book for review from the publisher after writing this blog post]