Sunday, April 29, 2012

The National Cornbread Festival

I never realized until after I moved to the south just how much of my impressions of it had been formed by repeated viewings of "The Golden Girls". Even though we lived in Tennessee and Kentucky when I was little, I still somehow had the picture in my head that the south was an endless stretch of verandas and cornbread and charming old men named Big Daddy and ladies with lace handkerchiefs delicately fanning themselves in the heat. Blanche Devereaux, nee Hollingsworth, colored my entire perception of the region south of the Mason-Dixon Line despite the fact that I had actual life experience that should have disproved it.

Now that I live down here, I have to report that I have, sadly, not met anyone named Big Daddy. I have also, to my knowledge, not spent any time on a sweeping veranda, although that may be because I still can't tell a veranda from a porch. (I'm also somewhat unclear of the difference between a veranda, a porch, and a lanai. Blanche had an impressive vocabulary, but wasn't much of an educator.) I rarely see people delicately fanning themselves, since most of us just head for wherever the air conditioning is, but there is, very often, cornbread.

Yesterday, in fact, there was an entire National Cornbread Festival, and Kristin and I drove to it so that we could meet my friend Sandy there and eat delicious cornbread.

The National Cornbread Festival is held in South Pittsburg, Tennessee. I had never been there, but from what I saw around the festival tents they have kind of a charming, slightly nostalgic downtown:


coca cola mural


Yesterday it also included an old-timey antique police car, but I feel like that was just on display for the festival:

police car

Either that, or they have very little crime in South Pittsburg.

Anyway, we were greeted at the gates of the festival by the Mayfield Dairy's giant cow statue:

mayfield welcomes you

I love that cow statue, as I always love giant, absurd, tacky things. They used to set it up in the Kroger parking lot every year when school started again, and I used to stop on my way to work to take pictures of it:



but they stopped doing that, and it's been a while since I've seen the giant cow statue. Kristin and I decided to have our picture made with it:

with cow

and then we headed into the festival, where we saw so many things. In addition to the antique cop car and a lot of vendors, there were people dressed as chickens:

chicken man

the creepiest clown show I've ever seen:

scary clown show

creepy dirty doll

and that includes watching IT when I was younger. Seriously, what the hell was up with the creepy dirty dolls around him? They didn't dance or move or play instruments like an animatronic nightmare. They just sat there being creepy.

Blocking that out for a moment (the way I'm going to block it out for the rest of my life if I ever want to sleep again), we also noticed some odd signs in the arts and crafts area:

ain't made in china

I didn't think anything of it when I saw that first one, other than, "That's kind of an odd way to emphasize that they are homemade, or made in America, or whatever,", but then there were more. Multiple vendors had signs that could probably be described as anti-China, except for this one that was probably intended to be anti-China but instead appears to be a double negative:

not not made in china

By saying that they're Not No Made in China, aren't they actually saying that everything in their booth was made in China?

More importantly, did we go to war with China while I wasn't looking?

We were too busy playing games and sampling cornbread yesterday to dwell on it. We waited for a while to take a free spin on the Martha White prize wheel:

Martha White booth

where Kristin won a spatula:

martha white prize wheel

I won a measuring cup, Sandy won a timer shaped like a muffin, and then we sampled their free cornbread:

free cornbread

Later we ate carnival food for lunch, sampling a wide selection of bad things and marveling that we could, apparently, have eaten anything deep fried:

fried everything

and then we played a giant Operation game for charity:

giant operation game

Kristin and Sandy did pretty well, but with my shaky hands I was a guaranteed loss.

Eventually, Sandy and I got in line for Cornbread Alley, where we could sample nine kinds of cornbread for four dollars:

cornbread alley entrance

cornbread alley

but Kristin decided that the line was too long and she didn't want any more cornbread, and went to go play games on the midway instead:

astro wheel


festival midway

while Sandy and I took our plates of samples to the tents to eat and judge:

seven kinds of cornbread

You'll notice there are only seven kinds on my plate. I gave my Butter Pecan Muffin to Sandy (she said it was dry) because I'm allergic to pecans, and we both ditched our Pineapple Cream Cheese Cornbread Cake immediately upon exiting the alley because the guy handing it out was coughing, sneezing, and wiping his nose on his arm (not his sleeve; his bare arm) right before he handed it to us. I'll stick to cornbread that won't leave me in quarrantine, thank you.

In the picture, the Toasty Hushpuppy is in the center (loaded with chopped jalapeno peppers; it was good, but really spicy since all I had to drink was water), and then, clockwise from the far left: Sour Cream and Onion Cornbread (my favorite, but I didn't vote for it because the Boy Scouts made it), Razzle Dazzle Cornbread (a sweet cornbread with raspberries, which was really good but a little sticky), the Rodeo Pup (made with Ro-Tel and canned corn mixed in; it tasted pretty good), the Deep Fried Sweet Potato Tot (which was good and full of nutmeg and cinnamon, but Sandy said hers was way too greasy with fry oil), the Cornfetti (also good, but the grated carrots were a weird texture in the rest of the bread), and the Cornbread Pizza (which was kind of gross; I couldn't taste the cornbread at all through the thick layer of tomato sauce).

I picked up the recipes for all nine types, and after we finished we walked around a little more and then headed home.

1 comment:

Jeannie said...

That sounds like so much fun. I am terrified of clowns, even though I loved IT as a kid, and that display is going to haunt me tonight, I am sure.