Revival Cooking to Celebrate MLK Day

I meant to honor Martin Luther King by writing a story about how I learned about revival cooking and its impact on my understanding of Black cooking’s heritage. It’s proving to be a tangle that I haven’t been able to work out and will save for another time. Below is an excerpt from what I have so far which explains a little bit about the nature of revival cooking:

Late summer was the time when the faithful gathered in the rich blessings of the year’s harvest. If not around the church then in a field, sometimes to hear a visiting preacher but more often with their own minister. Out of town relatives and towns people not among the congregation were welcome to join the tables, plates heaped high with food prepared with special attention not only to honor the occasion but, it needs to be admitted, bragging rights. By their nature, revivals were country, small towns and village affairs. You didn’t have to believe but you felt the need to give thanks for the generosity’s bounty.

Here is one of the recipes from this tardy post. It comes from the great southern cook, Edna Lewis. Her memories about her mother’s cooking in her book, The Taste of Country Cooking, are among the best writings of all times.

The whole meal I made for the post: Virginia fried chicken, sweet potato casserole, and corn pudding.

Corn Pudding

Miss Lewis recalls this as one of the great delicacies of the summer, looked forward to as soon as the first of the summer corn ripened. It is a delicate rich custard, a subtle accompaniment to evening’s meat and a pleasing breakfast the next day. I’ve made one small adjustment from her original recipe: where she calls for rich milk, I suggest a combination of whole milk and heavy cream.

2 cups corn, cut from the cob (if it’s not the season for fresh corn, use good quality frozen)

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup whole milk

1 cup heavy cream

3 tablespoons melted butter

1/2 teaspoon fresh-grated nutmeg

Cut the corn from the cob into a mixing bowl by slicing from the top of the ear downward. Don’t go too close to the cob–cut only half of the kernel. Scrape the rest off. This gives a better texture to the pudding. Sprinkle in the sugar and salt, stir well, mix the beaten eggs and milk together and pour the mixture into the corn. Add the melted butter, mix thoroughly and spoon the mixture into a well-buttered 1 1/2 quart casserole dish. Sprinkle with nutmeg. Set the casserole into a pan of hot water and set this into a preheated 350 degree oven for 35 or 40 minutes or until set. Test by inserting a clean knife into the center of the pudding. If it comes out clean it is done.

Hed photo credit: Outdoor picnic during the noon intermission of an all-day ministers and deacons meeting. Near Yanceyville, Caswell County, North Carolina. Marion Post Wolcott, about 1940. Library of Congress