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A Denney for Your Thoughts – Gritted bread brings back memories (Sept. 2, 2015 issue)

It is not at all unusual for Priscilla Saylor to share her home cooking. When she comes across the street with a plate or bowl in her hand, I know I’m in for something good.
Recently, however, she outdid herself. I had never heard of gritted bread and could not help quizzing her. Google also knew about gritted bread—now you will, too. Yes, I will tell you how she makes it. First, though, I want to give you some background that will make you appreciate it even more.
You see, talk of the bread led her into the rich land of memories growing up in the Sandy Bottom community in the southern end of Unicoi County. The home place, not far from River View Baptist Church, was taken down when Interstate 26 was built. Priscilla has no problem, though, envisioning the place where everybody in the some 20-25 homes knew each other.
The conversation centered on Ethel (Tolley) Bennett, her “Mama.” Being a stay-at-home mom was not an option for Ethel, who worked at least 35-40 years, Priscilla figures, at Industrial Garment to raise 10 children. Not a driver herself, she paid a dollar a week to ride with a co-worker. (The plant was in a building, which has been partially removed, along Carolina Avenue.)
Priscilla’s first memory of eating gritted bread takes her back to age 5 or 6. It was always made with fresh corn. Her Mama would tell them that when the corn started to get a little hard later in the season, she would make gritted bread. They ate it with sliced tomatoes and buttermilk.
She and her older sisters were to have the mixture ready when their Mama got home from work. Today Priscilla uses a blender, but then they used a hand grater and made it in a dishpan. Her Mama baked it in iron skillets, putting two in the oven at a time and taking two out. She made as many as 20 cakes at a time.
I promised the recipe (for these portions, you don’t need a dishpan). Priscilla, as is often the case with good cooks, spoke from her experience, estimating the amounts of the ingredients used. So here goes:
10-12 ears of corn
“Teensy bit” of water
1 Stick butter or margarine
2 Eggs
2 Heaping tablespoons self-rising flour
Teaspoon of salt
Teaspoon baking soda
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Have iron skillets (Priscilla uses two large ones) ready. She sprays each with vegetable oil, then thinly coats with butter.
Clean the corn. Cut the kernels from the cob, then scrape it so you get all the creamy part. Add water in a blender set to grate or chop. Put the corn in a bowl and add the melted butter or margarine. Beat the eggs and add to the mixture, along with the flour, salt and baking soda. (Yes, even though you’re using self-rising flour.) Pour the thin mixture into the skillets. Bake for 20 minutes to a golden brown. When it starts to brown around the edges, you may turn the oven to broil to brown the top.
Priscilla serves it with a smile.