Nashville, as you know, is the capitol city of Tennessee, which became a full fledged state in l796. Tennessee is a Cherokee word by which the native inhabitants referred to their big river. Ours is one of the pioneer states into which disgruntled settlers from the original thirteen pushed if they were not awarded land grants for heroic behavior during the Revolution. Those hardheaded people who struck out into Tennessee territories mythologized themselves in story and song as the first frontiersmen.
None of us living can even begin to imagine what it took to wrest the Southeast from the vast Cherokee population, an ancient existing nation of many related tribes which was decimated by the coming land grab. It was they who introduced the Europeans to the corn plant, unknown to the Old World before conquistadores and colonists (the persnickety French refuse to this day to eat corn or any of its by-products, just as they refused to go along with the land grab in Iraq.) But had it not been for corn (and ham, as I have detailed in these pages earlier), the pioneers could not possibly have continued to sustain in the long and bloody takeover of their hosts.
Cooking over an open fire with scant ingredients is hard and fast. You make do with what you’ve got at hand. Frontier people would have had corn meal thanks to being taught how to grind the dry kernels by the “savages.” There are any number of cakes and loaves we still enjoy at breakfast, lunch, and dinner made from corn meal. Cornbread and spoonbread and muffins and hush puppies are a few, and most everyone knows how the latter got their name before they became shoes that made the sidewalk softer.
(In case you don’t, frontier hunters and their trusty “scouts” carried salt pork or venison and meal and beans with them into the territories, faithful hounds at the heel, and at night by the fire, they’d ball up cornmeal and boiled river water, throw the balls into the embers or an iron skillet with hot lard—some added a pinch of gunpowder as spice—and when the popping noise set the dogs off, they’d throw the hot balls to hush them.)
Tennessee has spawned a number of great statesmen in its time, many of them revered and many of them despised. Pull out a twenty and contemplate the handsome craggy face of Andy Jackson, our seventh president who held out against the Brits, the Indians, and the French along with packing thousands of frozen Cherokee women, men, and children off to Oklahoma to perish along the Trail of Tears. Other presidents include James K. Polk and Andrew Johnson, vice president prior to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. We have a fourth elected president from our state, but live in a nation where one man one vote is a joke, and if you think the fix isn’t in on the one coming up (barring unforeseen disasters which require the declaration of martial law and the postponing of elections), you live in a dream state.
Corn whiskey is our unique Tennessee Kentucky contribution to American backroom political swiggin’ history, a concoction the Indians could hardly have imagined, but aptly called firewater when they saw how the moonshiners made it and what it did to them. For many hundreds of years now, ours is a culture based on corn. Which brings us to Fred Dalton Thompson.
In the decline of empires, degenerate frontmen, B actors, and other such stooges stunt double for the kingmakers and backroom powers that President Dwight David Eisenhower so famously warned against as the military-industrial complex (never envisioning coups d’etat of American government by devious oilmen.) To wit, once again, Tennessee’s own Fred Thompson. We had been seeing in these parts (praise God blessedly few)--but at least to one useful end—the plastering over of some W the President, or Bush Cheney ’04 bumper stickers with FRED ’08.
Not only is the former Senator from the great state of Tennessee an actor, and a B one at that, but he is as chock full of corn as they come. There is absolutely no There there past the stentorian stab at combobbulated oration. Fred is, without a doubt, the human personification of Foghorn T. Leghorn. And anyone who couldn’t have seen this is as potted as the sitting prez…or those fanaticists who remain Dubyatized who—STILL!—stand up and witness for Big Dick and his little sidekick as they continue to bankrupt these United States.
And so, without further ado:
SHERRF FRED THOMPSON’S LAW ‘N ORDER COUNTRIFIED CORNPONES
Measure out a Couple of Cups of white Cornmeal (southeastern brands preferred)
A pinch of Salt,
a pinch of Soda (if the meal’s not self-rising),
a dab of Bacon Grease if you happen to have it…or chicken fat, or lard…
add enough Boiling Water to bind the mix
Then! In a cast iron skillet of pretty darn hot vegetable oil, your choice, but not olive--
Spoon in DABS OF YOUR CORNPONE MIX until you flip ‘em once each and mash’em flat.
Drain those pones on paper towels but serve ‘em quick-like with supper or as appetizers the way they do at Jimmy Kelly’s, Nashville’s pre-eminent political watering hole…and let us be ever so grateful to the sovereign state of South Carolina now that the good Sherrf’s retired from the race, ridin’ peaceably into the sunset, along with Dick ‘n Dubya one round January from this one, praise the Lord and pass the ammo. World without end.
Carol Caldwell is a screenwriter and journalist who lived in L.A., lives in her hometown now, and whose new play about current First Ladies, My Secret Weapon, won best original play of the year, 2006, in its Nashville and North Carolina runs.