cracklins cornbread and coming home

every day a journey
notes from maggie's farm

“Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.”                                    -- Matsuo Basho

Cracklins Cornbread

As with so many things cajun, there is some debate as to the correct spelling of cracklins.  It would seem, grammatically, that cracklings would be the proper spelling.  And that's likely why it isn't spelled that way in most of the family-owned groceries, where they are most often sold.  They don't stand on ceremony much in those parts.  It's usually just cracklins.  


1 cup white stone ground cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon lard
1 cup pork cracklin's (purchased, or homemade.)
1 egg
a pinch or two of cayenne pepper, garlic powder
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat an oven to 425 degrees. Stir together meal, salt, and baking soda in a bowl; set aside. Place the lard into a 9 inch cast iron skillet, and place into the preheated oven until the skillet is hot and the lard has melted.
Meanwhile, beat the egg in a bowl with buttermilk; stir in the cracklin's. Add cornmeal mixture, combining until moistened, then pour the batter into the preheated skillet.
Bake in the preheated oven until the top of the cornbread is brown, and it feels firm to the touch, about 30. Cut into wedges; butter and serve.

Now if that doesn't just taste like home...

"Hey, sweetheart.  I'm coming home."

I'd left town without any firm date upon which I'd return.  It indulges a bit of a rebellious streak in me to be somewhat vague about my plans.  My partner encourages this in me.  I don't get away too often, and he agrees that since everything is taken care of at home, might as well take as much time as I can, want, need.  So, I do.

When you're relying on the kindness of others as your host, sometimes it's best just to feel things out, you know? Things pop up-- someone doesn't feel so good, plans change, opportunities arise.  Being rigid regarding how long I would stay might make things uncomfortable. I didn't want to overstay my welcome. But I also wanted to wring every ounce of adventure I could from my travels. I would be in Louisiana, where I likely picked up such laid back attitudes, so it was a natural fit.  Besides, I thought, I was going on retreat, and retreat should end when one felt fully 'retreated'.

So it was, that I arrived in rolling green of southern Mississippi for the retreat proper, taking a 4 days and night deep breath, disconnecting from the digital world, catching up with precious friends, and enjoying the peaceful haven of the former convent's grounds.  It is a yearly thing, with familiar faces, and a few new ones that all manage to become familiar faces soon, because, beyond the spiritual benefit of the retreat, well, we just adore one another.  Everyone should have people like that in their lives.  I hope you do.  

Afterwards, my journey would wind along back roads for a few days, sharing time in decade's old stomping grounds of my own, with my daughter, who's adopted the same as hers.  I made it into New Orleans for a rain-soaked afternoon, and then back on the highways to Baton Rouge, for another stop along the pilgrimage.  Precious time with one of my best friends, a woman who is like a sister/mother/teacher/comedy act partner all-in-one for me, and her son, also a great friend. We marveled at how long it had been since I lived there, and how it just seemed like yesterday, too.  We cooked for each other, visited a few spots around town, gabbed about movies and music and sports, and politics, agreeing on almost every front.  It's a special kind of love, feeling at home in your own skin among those so dear.  

Why yes, that IS an alligator.  Seen an alligator on your travels lately?  Just pulled to the side of the road and shot a picture of it?  Louisiana, you are a crazy soup of fabulous.
And when everyone was busy, I drove. I drove all over the city, and a little beyond, too. For hours I just drove--the shortcuts I'd take to jobs, to high school friend's houses, to churches I'd spent so much time in, by several of the places I'd lived, by favorite coffee shops, by my beloved high school (which is no longer). I've been back to Baton Rouge several times since I moved almost 15 years ago, and each time I seem to have a yen for a different kind of reminiscing.  I drove through the campus this time, but mostly just frustratingly, as the traffic snarl that meant 45 minutes for a 5 minute drive impeded my flow.  I'd been to those special spots around my alma mater that were particularly meaningful for one reason or another on several former trips.  This time, I was simply connecting the dots between one personal landmark and another.  

It is said that you can never go home again.  And that's not all true.  You can go home again.  It's just that it's never the same.  And neither are you.  And in the time you were away, you made, for yourself, a new home.  

Baton Rouge has changed since Hurricane Katrina (they refer to the days before as Pre-K), helped it grow roughly twice it's size overnight.  The burgeoning infrastructure of a city unprepared for a migratory onslaught is still wrestling with problems of overpopulation, including traffic, crime and health care issues the bulk of which not previously experienced. But, happily, there are still signs of the city I called home for many years.  And I soaked them all in until I felt full.  Until it felt familiar again.  Until I remembered.  And then it was time to go home.

Because the perfect ending for a vacation is having spent enough time, but not too much, to complete the adventure, and then being happy that you're heading home.  It's that sweet spot of bliss, right there, having been with people you love, having been loved, and going home to the one you love.

Perhaps the 3 hours I was trapped in traffic in the middle of the day in order to get out of town fueled the relief that was palpable in my voice, but once over the Mississippi River Bridge (upon which one of those hours was spent), I called to let my partner know....

"Hey, sweetheart.  I'm coming home."

Of course there would still be stops along the way home, although my loose plans had turned into, whatever, wherever, whenever due to the harrowing journey by car that a Friday afternoon in South Louisiana looks like these days.  Many of the stops I'd planned will wait for another day, but one place was not to be overlooked.

And it was there that I procured what many in the area still believe is the best to be had, boudin balls, and cracklin's.  Six boudin balls, (they weren't all that big and I'd been craving them for weeks!) and when asked how many cracklin's, I replied 'enough to get me home'.  Cause that's how we roll through those parts, we expatriates that learned to eat in Louisiana, but now call all manner of points beyond, home:  We load our coolers and tote boudin balls and cracklin's and hope beyond all hope for good coffee along the road back home, and the good sense to stop eating before we get sick.  

Luckily, I did.  I stopped just in time to have cracklin's left to fulfill the purpose for which I'd bought them in the first place. The boudin balls had no such purpose so they were ghost food by the time I reached the Austin city limits, headed back to the place I now call home.


  1. Oh I am sooooooooo going to try this recipe. I love me some good cracklin cracklin's. I think I might put one more pat of butter on it hee hee hee :) .

    1. A slathering of butter might be called for! I just recently made cracklin's from turkey. No! Really! And they were really very tasty! Maybe I'll do a post on that one day. Thank you for visiting me!

  2. Your pictures are beautiful! I'm starting to yearn for a road trip:) The cracklin's cornbread looks yummy.

    1. Well when you make that road trip to Austin, please plan to stop for coffee, or a meal, or ANYTHING. (Ditto if you come the Hill Country way.) I remember when I first had this cornbread. I was a (way too) young housewife and my mother in law made it. I thought she was crazy (much of the time, she but she knew what she was doing with those cracklin's!

  3. I can't wait to try this recipe! I love cracklin's!

    1. Hey Rachael, Thanks for stopping by! You could adjust any favorite cornbread recipe by upping the milk just a tad and adding the cracklin's. I've even (don't tell!) added it to packaged cornbread mix, in a pinch.

      Have a great day!

  4. If I ever suspect my husband of falling out of love with me, I think I'll whip him up a batch of this corn bread to bring him on back. In fact, maybe I'll bake some up as insurance sometime soon. This stuff sounds like pure man-crack.

    1. Pork.
      Men. love. pork.
      I could rub a little pork fat behind my ears and have all manner of man and beast following me around in this country neck of the woods, but I save it all for the fella I love. All the pork fat. lol

      Thank you for dropping by, Mary Helen!


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