Friday, December 29, 2006

We're A Cornbread Nation

The holidays continue best in the company of friends. And cornbread.

Tonight some friends came over and we had a massive pot of chili, much goofing around, beverages, games, and a gift exchange. Right now I'm enjoying the Rascal Flatts cd my ex-husband gave me....good tunes, talented young fellas. Between these guys and REM there is hope that string instruments will find their place in the American mainstream. I'm still working on the bluegrass version of MacArthur Park, you know.

Anyway.

What separates all of us can melt away when we come to the table. It's one of the reasons I love to prepare a meal to be shared by a likely or unlikely bunch. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. But I always try. There's a healing aspect to it, and life and food are meant to be enjoyed in good company.

In my life and work I'm fortunate to share the table in one way or another with many fascinating, amazing people. They come from all walks of life, political views, religious beliefs, musical backgrounds and tastes, intellectual spaces, artistic talents, professional disciplines. All over. I do my best to make every encounter matter.

In my smaller world, I encounter more people who share a deep passion for bluegrass music, and often hold very different political or social views, certainly religious views. But there is always that binding agent, GDAE. And deep down we all want the same things -- warmth, love, health, a decent place to live, happiness, safety for ourselves and our loved ones. We just often come at these things from different places.

Tim O'Brien (yes, yes, I know, "Jennie, why not call this blog, "Why I Love Tim O'Brien" instead?) describes this invisible line that runs across the country dividing it somewhat in north and south. I think too of a friend who once, during a dinner at the UN, was in the men's room with a fairly high-ranking official. He remarked how it occurred to him at that moment that it's really not worth getting all worked up over important people because, well, as the potty training book says, everybody poops.

I like the cornbread nation analogy a little better -- we all have to sit down and work it out. This title track from Tim's 2005 release is a little bit of a departure from the usual stuff of trad and bluegrass, delivering instead an edgy blues-infused Southern anthem complete with electric guitar.

Whereever you are I hope you'll sit down soon with friends and maybe even strangers to take in supper at the cornbread nation.

Cornbread Nation

Corn pone, spider bread, hush puppy, dog bread
Ash cake, bannock bread, johnny cake, spoon bread
Dish it up, pour it on, give it all you got
Put the fat back in a cast iron pot
Richmond to Forth Worth, Davenport to Natchez
Burly 'bacca fields to your snowy cotton patches
No matter where you're headin' when the train leaves the station
You still take your supper in the cornbread nation

Save a can of bacon grease, soak a bowl of beans
Chop a yella onion, wash the grit off the greens
Sift a little soda and some powder in the meal
Pour in the buttermilk to get the right feel
Hot water, cold water, doesn't really matter
Don't work too hard when you're mixing up the batter
Hot corn, cold corn, friends and relations
Sittin' at the table in the cornbread nation

Up in Kentucky where I was born
Up in Kentucky where the Colonel's in the corn
They shake up the jar, look for the beads
Take a little sip, no more than you need
You can scrape it, you can chew it, you can roll it into dough
You can sip it, you can brew it, you can let the liquor flow
Hot corn, cold corn, friends and relations
Sittin' at the table in the cornbread nation

Corn pone, spider bread, hush puppy, dog bread
Ash cake, bannock bread, johnny cake, spoon bread
Dish it up, pour it on, give it all you got Put the fat back in a cast iron pot Richmond to Forth Worth, Davenport to Natchez
Burly 'bacca fields to your snowy cotton patches
No matter where you're headin' when the train leaves the station
You still take your supper in the cornbread nation

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