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Meatless Monday: Tennessee corn pone

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Nora Dunne

(Read caption) Tennessee corn pone baked with black beans and cheddar cheese makes a hearty and simple meal.

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Back when vegetarians were considered obscure and eccentric, Laurel Robertson and her friends Carol Flinders and Bronwen Godfrey published “Laurel’s Kitchen.”

The 1976 “handbook for vegetarian cookery & nutrition” promulgated more than wholesome meatless eating. Through their anecdotal recipes, the women wrote
about community, slowing down, and countercultural gender roles. They invited more than a million cooks into their literary kitchen, “a sun-splashed room of wood and wicker, copper and crockery, bright colors and curling houseplants,” and helped make vegetarianism mainstream.

As a kid, I didn’t know any of the history behind the corn pone my mom frequently served. I just liked its crispy corn bread crust and gooey black bean filling. Turns out it was Laurel’s Tennessee Corn Pone.

When recreating Robertson’s dish, I cut the recipe in half, added cheddar cheese, and used canned black beans instead of the “very juicy cooked and seasoned beans (especially pinto or kidney)” she calls for. Her original directions vaguely state that the beans should be heated “until quite hot.” I translated this to mean “microwave them for a couple of minutes.”

More Tips:

I don’t usually have buttermilk on hand, so I substitute the real stuff with regular milk and white vinegar, 1 tablespoon of vinegar per cup of milk.

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