Away, away down south in Dixie

150 years ago today, North Carolina succeeded from the Union to become part of the Confederacy.  Crazy!

By mere coincidence, I am currently reading a book about the Civil War, mainly the Reconstruction period.  I’ve learned so much about what went on that no one covered in any history class I’ve taken: most of the south couldn’t vote in the 1868 election and Virginia’s statehood was revoked — it was referred to as “Military District One” — North Carolina was “Military District Two.”  Insane!

Anyway, while I was reading this book, I found a word I had never heard before: hard tack.  It’s a cracker-like biscuit that they ate on the battlefield, a staple of a Union soldier’s diet.

And with all things Civil War, there was the southern equivalent: johnny cakes.  As a carpetbagger myself, I feel more southern now than I do with my northern roots.  Sure, I will never say “soda” (it’s pop, people!) or buy supplies for the forecasted blizzard (2 inches of snow! In an afternoon!  Agghh!), but I love the southern lifestyle here.  So as a good southern wife, I decided to make johnny cakes using a real Civil War recipe.  The General had to work at the crack of dawn the next day, so I thought this would be a perfect for him before going into battle.

Well, they sort of worked.  Two things occurred to me with my 1st bite of johnny cake, fresh out of the oven:

  • I know why the south lost the Civil War.  It’s because of these cakes.  They are disgusting.  Flavorless, dull, slightly bitter and all around terrible.  Even honey didn’t help.
  • I should only serve these to people I don’t like.
It wasn’t a failure on my part, surprisingly; it was the fact that I used very bland ingredients — they didn’t have a whole lot on the battlefields for food.  I’m sure it would have been improved on an iron skillet in something that had previously cooked pork over an open fire, but my modern day stab at johnny cakes wasn’t good at all.  Much like Gettysburg for the south.
A friend suggested finding a recipe that uses eggs and sugar and other good tasting stuff.   Maybe someday I’ll get the the taste out of my mind and try again.  After all, the south is suppose to rise again, or something like that.
Here’s the recipe I used…..it sounds good, but they come out without cohesion and gnarly – I forced mine into balls.  You’ve been warned.

Civil War Johnny Cakes
2 cups cornmeal
2/3 cups milk (I had to add a bit more)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoons salt
Mix ingredients. ((the recipe calls for making “8 biscuit sized dodgers – whatever that means)).  Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes or until brown.  You can also fry these.

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