Spooning Up Surprises

Uncle Tab and I make breakfast in his new home
Before we left for the Smokies, I baked a batch of currant lemon lavender scones for Uncle Tab. He’s fond of bread and coffee in the morning. I hoped the scones would comfort his broken heart for his late and beloved bride of sixty-six years.
           “Come out of the rain!” he hollered from his front porch in Lexington, Kentucky.
He served us a delicious salad. “Do you like it?”
            “Very good,” Mel said.
I nodded with my mouth full and noticed a stack of opened envelopes on the table. Sympathy cards, I supposed.
           After a good night’s rest, we lingered at the breakfast table. My uncle read his mail again and wept at the tender words for his loss. Never was it harder to leave him.
           “Don’t forget your scones in the freezer,” I repeated.
“I won’t. Stop by on your way back.”
           Regretting every word, I explained our schedule didn’t allow it. Truly, “stop by” to my southern uncles translates “stay the night.”
           The trees greened and Redbuds bloomed as we drove south to Berea in search of Boone Tavern. For years, my aunt and uncle raved about the historic hotel’s food and service.
           No weary traveler could miss the white pillars two stories high and the America flag waving before Berea College Square.   

           A sign with a semblance of 
Daniel Boone, a dog, and scout pointed to the tavern. I remembered Mom’s legend of this American explorer who marked the timber of the Cumberland Gap on his way to the western frontier.
“Dan’el Boone killed a bear on this tree,” she’d say as if the hero had walked her McCoy mountain.
An oil painting of the woodsman dressed in buckskin hung in the entrance to the dining room, a spacious hall fitted with chandeliers, linen tablecloths, and Chippendale chairs. No wonder Uncle Tab and Aunt Alma Leigh dined there. The rustic and elegant have held an appealing balance of southern hospitality since Berea College built the hotel in 1909.
Mel and I hightailed it to their Sunday brunch buffet. I resisted the biscuits and gravy in preference to the salad bar. When we returned to our table, my self-control caved at the sight of bready lumps on plates.  
Wide-eyed, I lifted my fork to Mel. “Taste this.”

A waitress carried a pan and spoon around the dining room. She stopped by our table. “Would you like more spoonbread?”
“That’s what you call it?” I asked.
“Yes, ma’am, a Tavern tradition.”
Well, dear Reader, why had I, a cornbread lover, never laid eyes on spoonbread before?
Because my granny, mother, and other kinfolk preferred cornbread and gritty bread.
Commonly called Awendaw by Native Americans, the Cherokee introduced spoonbread to Appalachia. I imagine Daniel Boone found the dish steaming over Cherokee fires he befriended during his explorations.
Next time we stop by Uncle Tab’s, think I’ll surprise him with a batch of spoonbread. I’d like to celebrate our 1% Cherokee DNA with him.


1 ¼ cups cornmeal
3 eggs
2 tablespoons butter
1 ¾ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups milk

Stir meal into rapidly boiling milk. Cook until very thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and allow to cool. The mixture will be very stiff. Add well-beaten eggs, salt, baking powder, and melted butter. Beat with electric mixer for 15 minutes (not a minute less). 

Pour into well-greased pan and bake for 20-30 minutes at 375 degrees. Serve from pan by spoonful with butter. Delicious with honey.