The Retro Mom

Bringing your grandmother's comfort food out of her recipe box and into your gluten-free kitchen

History Served Me A Gluten Free Mouthful


No, it’s not an oxymoron.

If I hadn’t made it, I never would have believed that it could be delightful. I had heard of spoonbread, but in my ever-present Los Angeles state-of-mind spoons and bread were never meant to go together. Ever. Except in bread pudding, and that’s really more of a fork thing. The thought of scooping up a hot mouthful of bready something in a spoon that was made of savory cornbread ingredients and expecting it to be appealing….well, I wasn’t feeling it too much. I grew up eating Marie Callender’s cornbread – in the restaurants and at home from a mix. Light, fluffy and sweet. I do miss that taste of home. Marie Callender’s cornbread is somewhat of an institution in California. People are sad when they find out you can’t enjoy it any longer. Gluten-free cornbread has its merits, to be sure, but…..Marie…….I miss you. Sigh. Back to spoonbread.

So how is this food historical? Is it I-can-see-Scarlett O’Hara-piling-her-plate-high-with-this-after-a-broken-heart-tantrum historical? Maybe, after that old Ashley Wilkes broke her heart. She deserved comfort. Or after Rhett Butler walked out on her. Again. Poor Scarlett. She needed comfort food.

Wait, where was I?

Spoonbread. Historical food. Food that our country was built on. The first recipe that was printed for proper spoonbread was in cookbook titled The Virginia Housewife, published in 1824. But by no means was that the first time the recipe had been eaten. It had been in existence for a long time prior to that printing. Here’s where things get a bit foggy. So, I’ll just leave it at: Native Americans had their version of this dish and since it was they who introduced maize to us, I’ll give them credit for inventing a dish that led to another dish that led to the happiness inside my tummy. I will not put the burden of inventing high-fructose-diabetes-syrup on them. We did that to ourselves. If we just would have stuck with spoonbread instead………

Spoonbread is one of the earliest “quick breads”. Today, we think of quick breads as those using baking powder, instead of yeast for leavening. Throw in a couple of spoonfuls of baking powder into your banana bread recipe and watch the magic happen! No more rising and kneading. Quick breads are great for the modern housewife!

See? Pictures don’t lie.

Quick, easy, no yucky artificial ingredients, comfort food……naturally gluten-free. I had nothing more to protest against here…….

So being naturally gluten-free, given how many recipes I was seeing in my old cookbooks for spoonbread, and knowing that I really, really, really should try this questionable historical recipe I……:

1. Preheated the oven

2. Mixed the ingredients

3. Fought every instinct I had to pour a cup of sugar in with said previous ingredients


4. Hoped that I liked it

I did.

And I hope that you like it also! I found two very simple recipes for spoonbread, it shows how classics need not change very much. No updates necessary. I chose the recipe below from one of my favorite cookbooks: The American Woman’s Cookbook, published in 1939.  I wanted to make as authentic version of spoonbread as I could, no baking powder needed. It was easy to make, and I substituted where I needed to without any problem.

I also found this recipe in my Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook, it takes out the boiling of the cornmeal (which isn’t difficult), and adds baking powder for a little extra “rise”. It also includes maple syrup, which is never a bad thing…..Breakfast anyone?


Both recipes say to serve hot out of the oven, with a spoon. And they mean it. Serve it immediately! This dish comes out poufy and steamy – perfect! After letting it set out and cool though, it deflates. Really deflates. But, it settles and collapses into a dense yummy dish that reheats beautifully! Kind of like a great marriage. Sorry, it was just my 19th wedding anniversary as we heading into our middle-aged years, the comparisons are flying……


Here’s my adaption of this classic, enjoy!


Here’s what you need:

2 cups water

1 cup organic, yellow cornmeal

1 cup almond milk

1 tbsp. Kerrygold butter + more for eating and greasing pan – coconut oil or palm oil shortening would also work here

1 tsp salt

2 eggs

Here’s how:

1. Preheat your oven to 400. Set out a pie plate and grease it well with oil or butter.

2. Put water and cornmeal into a pan and bring to a boil, turn down heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

3. Turn off the heat and allow mixture to cool. Do NOT add your eggs in right away as the recipes above states, or you will have scrambled eggs in corn mush. Bleh. So we’re going to tackle tempering.

Don’t panic.

4. You can use a handmixer for this, a stand mixer or a whisk and your arm, like I do. Mix your eggs, milk, salt in a large bowl until thoroughly combined. Take a few tablespoons of the cornmeal mixture, and stir them very quickly into your egg/milk mixture. (You are essentially “warming” the eggs vs. shocking them) Repeat this procedure two more times and your eggs should be getting all warm & friendly with your cornmeal mush.

5. Now, it’s time to have the magic start to happen! Spoon the rest of your cornmeal mixture into your egg mixture and stir, a lot. Pour it all into your greased pan and bake for 25 minutes or until JUST set. That means the minute it stops shaking profusely from a small jiggle of the pan and/or the toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean – you take it out of the oven!

6. Top with pats of butter and serve it NOW!

So that’s it – easy, quick, comforting. Perfect for the chilly Fall and Winter we are expecting!


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