Cornbread and milk for supper

Published 5:59 pm Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Our Lions District Governor, George Suggs, is in the milk business and apparently a country boy as well. He served cornbread and milk at our last District gathering and that got me to thinking about my own country upbringing. As I told George, I was raised on cornbread and buttermilk and peanut butter sandwiches (because I could fix them myself; Mother cooked veggies etc. for mealtimes.)

In a program for the Polk County Historical Association, Rev. J. J. Powell mentioned having cornbread crumbled into sweet milk, and for variety they poured sweet milk over crumbled cornbread. I told him that our family used buttermilk as an alternate.

Now, the comeheres always ask me about sweet milk. You dont put sugar in it, like tea, DO YOU? Well, of course not . . . we say sweet milk to distinguish it from buttermilk. When you milk cows and thus have plenty of milk and can churn butter, you also have plenty of buttermilk. So much that most families cannot (or will not) drink it all, so it is fed to the hogs.

I earned a half gallon of sweet milk every day for milking Mama Rippys Jersey cow, Jean. She also gave me all the buttermilk we could use. My brother Bill would not drink buttermilk; he said it was meant only for hogs, just as collard greens are meant only for chickens. So I pretty much had to drink a lot of buttermilk while growing up. I also learned to like collards, especially when mixed with mustard greens. But I see no need to eat spinach when there are plenty of good turnip greens!

Sweet milk is not always good, though, because as Beauford Arledge writes in his new book, no one likes the milk when the cow eats the wild onions that come up in her pasture. I suppose pasteurizing the milk may cook off the onion fumes, for I have not noticed dairy milk tasting bad like that.

I still like good buttermilk, but I dont think much of what is generally available at the markets. Fran uses a lot of buttermilk to make our bread, and any of it is OK for that. However, we have found only one brand and kind of buttermilk suitable as a beverage. It has not been available of late because their box making equipment broke down and they have not put it in an alternate container as yet. Hurry up, yall, and get that thing fixed!

I really enjoyed reading Beaufords book about growing up in Green River Cove. It is not a scholarly history, but rather a natural flow of stories that probably give a more accurate record of who lived there and what their lives were like. Mama Rippy came out of Holberts Cove when her first husband was shot and married my grandfather, T. A. Rippy. Aunt Mildred that I have written so much about was their daughter.

We have attended several of the Arledge reunions at the Silver Creek Church because I really love the side of my extended family that I am not kin to. They are all in the book, and a lot more people besides. It shows why I say that most Polk County natives are kin somewhere back along the line!

Beaufords readers will learn about fording rivers, walking everywhere, later riding horses or mules, and still later buggies and cars as paths became roads. Oxen were as commonly used to pull plows, sleds, logs and wagons as horses or mules. Many dwellings had dirt floors; some were made of slabs. Water came from natural or man-made springs; dippers were usually gourds. The first industry for men was logging and sawing lumber; before that they raised corn and put in apple orchards.

Those may have been the good ol days, but life was hard. Many lives ended at graves marked only by a big rock . . . very few had hand-chiseled markers. But Beauford has provided a record so that a great many who are gone will not be forgotten.