I am an experimental cook. Though my husband, Brian, will attempt enthusiasm, there is always an underlying look of fear on his face when I remark that I’m making some totally awesome meal that I thought of in the shower. To me, the perfect recipe is never quite complete until I’ve added my own dash of red pepper flakes, a handful of crushed pretzels, or a glob of peanut butter. Sometimes I forget that the most delicious food is often made from the simplest of ingredients.
The opening pages of Khaled Hosseieni’s A Thousand Splendid Suns describes “Ration Day:” once a month, Mariam’s half brothers bring her the most basic necessities such as rice, flour and sugar, carting them for miles over the rocky terrain of Afghanistan.
This idea of “Ration Day” got me thinking. What would I even cook with such barebones ingredients? I mean, I’ll drive two miles to Publix for cinnamon to sprinkle on a fake chicken patty. But then I remembered my dad, and “Ration Day” didn’t seem so far off.
In 1970 my mom and dad were dating. When she decided to move from Michigan to Eugene, Oregon to pursue her Master’s degree, he followed. Though he had a college degree, his extremely low draft number was like kryptonite to all potential employers. He ran out of money fast.
No money equals no food. So, he turned to the Lane County Food Assistance Program.
No money, as it turns out, also equals no car. So, he walked nearly three miles to pick up his rations: a supply of government cheese, canned meats, flour, dehydrated milk and eggs, shortenings, corn meal, and a few other odds and ends. With all of these supplies packed in two heavy boxes, he’d trek the three miles home. The only problem—it was impossible to carry both boxes at once. He’d carry one box for a length of time, set it down and then head back for the other.
My dad, an amazing cook, made the most out of these simple ingredients. One of his more successful recipes was cornbread.
So, enjoy this ridiculously easy and delicious Cornbread. As you can see, it uses just a few basic ingredients sure to be included in any “Ration Day” pack.
2 cups milk
4 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 cups cornmeal
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder*
2 tsp salt*
*Include only if flour and cornmeal are not self-rising
Preheat oven to 325 degrees
Beat eggs slightly. Add milk and oil. Add dry ingredients and mix together.
Pour into a greased 9×9 pan and bake for 50 minutes