Celebrating Cornbread & Lodge Cast Iron Giveaway

In South Pittsburg, Tennessee, a little town of 3000, cornbread is a big deal.  I know this from experience as I graduated high school right across the street from Lodge Manufacturing.
{You might have heard of them; they make cast iron skillets.}
Founded in 1896, Lodge is one of the United States oldest cookware companies.  Most off of their products are made right in that little town of South Pittsburg.  Nothing like buying local & American made!
Photo from Martha White via Facbook
Each year, for the last sixteen years, that little own of 3000 expands to over 25,000 as people from all over the Southeast come in to experience a little of that small town, made-in-the-USA goodness through the annual National Cornbread Festival.
Sponsored by Lodge and Martha White (also an American owned and operated company), the National Cornbread Festival has been featured in Southern Living, Taste of Home, The Food Network, PBS, and assorted newspapers all over the country.  The crafts, entertainment, food, and carnival are just a part of the fun, but the real focus of the festival  is the National Cornbread cook-off!
Hopeful competitors from all over the US send in recipes from which 100 are taste tested and ten are chosen for the actual live cook-off during festival weekend.

While watching the cook-off live is not as exciting as scripted television, it is quite interesting to watch these cooks prepare their recipes and send them off to be judged right before your eyes.

I like reality, not a scripted version, so I guess that’s why this appeals to me so much!

This year one of the judges was from our own blogging community, Christy Jordan from Southern Plate.
Christy is just as warm and real in person as she is on her blog.
Based on the description of some of the recipes entered in the cook-off this year, I would have gladly traded places with her, but only for tasting purposes.  I just saw the ingredients and smelled them baking, I couldn’t imagine having to taste them and pick a winner!
I was amazed at the creative flavors that filled the cornmeal based dishes; peaches & cream sweet, Mediterranean, Caribbean, Mexican, Greek, Cajun and down-home dumplin’s.
{It’s not your grandmother’s cornbread!}
Watching the competition was inspiring. Each contestant had to provide their ingredients and mixing pieces.  I like that; they can have what they are used to using at home on hand for competition which is sure to add a sense of comfort.  The only “requirements” of the cook-off are each recipe must contain at least one cup of Martha White (is there another brand?) cornmeal and must be cooked in Lodge cookware.  There were some well seasoned pieces on that stage.






When it was all said and done, Melanie McCoy from Knoxville, Tennessee placed first with her Sweet Cornbread Shrimp Cakes with Mango Salsa.
National Cornbread via Facebook
You can find all of the recipes on The National Cornbread Facebook page.  They should be on the website soon as well.
When you have had your fill of cornbread, buttermilk chugging contests, live entertainment, and crafts, you can venture outside the boundaries of the festival for more fun.  For the last several years, Sister’s on the Fly have set up camp just behind the festival.  They are glamour camping at it most girly and so much fun to visit with.


And if you have traveled with the man in your life, there is plenty for him to do as well.  The classic car show “drive-in” at the historic Dixie Freeze will keep him occupied for hours.


The National Cornbread festival is held the last full weekend of April every year in gorgeous South Pittsburg, Tennessee (just 30 minutes West of CHattanooga).  Mark your calendar now for next year!
And now for the giveaway!
While at the festival this weekend, I brought back a couple of items for me, and to share.  
First is a National Cornbread Festival cookbook containing all of the winning recipes from the last 15 years of the festival, as well as some of the 4-H & celebrity cook-off winners.  
Second, I have a 6-inch Lodge cast iron skillet to giveaway and finally, Martha White cornbread and muffin mix.
You can earn up to three entries:
1) Leave a comment on my blog telling me how you like your cornbread, or the most creative thing you have made in your cast iron cookware.
2) Like Southern Table on Facebook and leave a separate comment telling me that you did so.
3) Become a follower of Our Southern Table and also, let me know in a comment that you have.
I will leave the giveaway up through Saturday, 5 May.

The National Cornbread Festival

When your in disaster mode, sometimes you just have to take a step back.  
Maybe it’s because your afraid your going to be blown up …..


Maybe it’s because the sadness of other’s loss really breaks your heart.
But mostly it is because you are exhausted….

And you just need a little bit of normalcy in your life so that you know everything will be OK.

Madeline working away ….
{she took her own break in the form of a soccer game taking out her aggression on the other team’s goalie!}
Go Maddie!
You have to just love Maddie’s white & pink socks!
Bradley enjoyed his time away from clean up as well and saved the day in the form of goalie!
After three days of clean-up around the community, my oldest two girls came to me begging to go to the Cornbread Festival.  They were swift to remind me that they had volunteered to work in the children’s area and that it would be horrible to back out.


Samantha and MacKenzie


{They really know how to tug at your conscience.}


Samantha with her friend, Taylor
South Pittsburg, Tennessee (just 8 miles from our home in Northeast Alabama) was unaffected by tornados, so they chose to go on with the National Cornbread Festival, donating a portion of the proceeds to the Red Cross for disaster relief.

Needing a short break myself (and wanting to check on my girls), I ventured down to the festival to catch the Cornbread cook-off (which is just so interesting to watch).  When you watch cook-offs on Food Network, or Top Chef you only see part of the action.  It actually takes several hours to create the dishes that the networks show in a matter of minutes.  Sponsored by Lodge Manufacturing, Martha White, and cooking ranges donated by 5-star this is serious competition worthy of a Food Network spot!


Several of this years competitors have competed (and won in past competitions).  As I have mentioned before, this is NOT your grandmothers cornbread, especially with ingredients like fresh basil, shrimp, spinach, apples, maple, fresh-squeezed orange juice, onion, and balsamic drizzle (not all in the same recipe…).   I am just amazed at the combinations of ingredients that form the many cornbread dishes!

I enjoyed watching the chefs mix, cut, dice, stir and cook their delightful dishes, and wished I were a judge to taste the fabulous food heading off to the judges tent!





Presentation is part of the battle




While waiting on the results of the cook-off, MacKenzie and another friend of mine walked around for a few minutes sampling some of the fabulous fare on the streets.


Chocolate dipped local strawberries anyone?

from Cooper’s Farm in Marion County, Tennessee

Or how about some fresh Kettle Corn?


Of course no trip to the festival is complete without a stop at Cornbread Alley!

{Oh my goodness!}



As we walked around we heard such a wonderful variety of local musicians playing their brand of bluegrass and country music.



And some of the crafts were quite charming.


Need a good laugh?  Yeah, we found that too watching a Buttermilk chugging contest.

And the anticipation of hearing who won the Cornbread cook-off was high.


Mrs. Jennifer Beckman of Falls Church, Virginia took that honor with her Tennessee Onion Soup Gratin, and was quite excited (so were her children)!



Of course, if I knew that I had just won $5000 and a brand new 5-star range, I would be excited, too!

You can go the National Cornbread Festival page here and find all of the recipes.

And if you think this festival is just a little small town affair; PBS, Southern Living, Taste of Home and other national rags do not!  PBS was there filming for a special to air in September, and Southern Living was there photographing for their magazine.



Donna Florio from Southern Living

Judges for the Cornbread Cook-off included the food editors Betty Terry and Donna Florio for Taste of Home and Southern Living respectively, Linda Carmen from Martha White, and food writers from the Birmingham News and Nashville .

{It’s a big deal!}

Audley has been trying to convince me to enter for a couple of years, but I am a B.I.G. chicken!  If I thought he would try a cornbread dish made with gourmet ingredients, I might play around with it. But IN AUDLEY’S WORLD cornbread accompanies pinto beans, pork roast, soup, or a variety of other traditional southern dishes, and should be served only topped with butter and NEVER contain sugar I don’t see me making the cut.

How do you like your cornbread?

Provided I still have internet (it’s a come and go thing right now), I’ll share my favorite with you later this week!  Audley is out of town, so I can get away with it!

{And yes, it will be cooked in a Lodge Cast Iron Skillet}


Cornbread Crazy!

  If you check your cast iron pots and pans, you are most likely to discover that they are made by Lodge Manufacturing.  Beginning in 1896, Lodge has been passed down from generation to generation creating an American cookware legacy that many companies can only dream of having.
In the years since my family relocated to this area (while I was in my last years of high school), Lodge Manufacturing has been a household name.  After all, they provide jobs for many in this community as well as supporting the schools and civic organizations.  I graduated from high school with it’s manufacturing facility just across the street where some of my classmates would be starting to work the very next week.
Mr. Lodge’s mother-in-law attends church where we do, and gave me my first pieces of cast iron as a wedding gift!
Each spring, our area (Audley & I live just six miles from South Pittsburg) goes cornbread crazy as The National Cornbread Festival, sponsored by Lodge & Martha White takes place for three days in April. Already this week the roads are shutting down as venders are setting up to sell their crafts, foods, entertain us with music from every walk of life, and of course my favorite event of the weekend, the National Cornbread cook-off !
The cornbread cook-off takes a while, but is well worth watching.  Contestants from all over the US are chosen based on the recipes they have submitted earlier in the year.  


Last year I watched fellow blogger Prudence Pennywise compete and become a finalist in the cook-off.  It was really awesome meeting another blogger and seeing her success!
This is not your Grandmother’s cornbread!
As for other highlights of the Cornbread Festival, Sister’s on the Fly (they have been featured in Mary Jane’s Farm mag.) will be set up all weekend, and Saturday night there will be a classic car show at the old Drive-In diner in town.  A carnival is set up for the kiddies, buttermilk chugging contests for the adults, entertainment galore, and if you want cornbread…… you will find every kind of cornbread you can imagine to purchase in Cornbread Alley!
Of course I don’t know what your weekend plans are, but South Pittsburg is just two hours north of Atlanta & Birmingham, 1 1/2 hours east of Nashville off of Interstate 24 and an hour and half east of Huntsville on Highway 72.  
It really is worth the drive to check it out!