An American Staple
The origins of corn date back to roughly 1000 to 2000 B.C.E. in Mexico. Corn, which is actually a member
of the grass family, was grown by Native Americans centuries before the first Europeans ever stepped foot in the
New World. The cultivation of corn spread among the Native American peoples throughout most of what is now
the U.S. and large parts of South America. The importance of corn to the Native Americans was reflected in the
numerous religious ceremonies and myths surrounding it. Corn, and by extension cornbread, was also important to
the early American colonists, since corn was more available than wheat at that time.
The colonists learned how to cultivate and prepare corn for food from the Native Americans. Later, the
pioneer women that made the long trek across the nascent country added their own cooking techniques.
Cornbread was of particular importance to travelers, because it kept well and provided nourishment during the
long journeys on foot or by horseback through virgin territory. Cornbread even became known as journey cake at
this time. Journey cake became johnnycake, the name by which cornbread is still known to this day by many
people on the east coast. Early settlers also made cornmeal, which is basically flour ground from dried corn. It is a
common staple food even now. Cornmeal is very versatile, and the kinds of bread that have been and can be made
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from cornmeal are virtually endless.
In the past, production of corn was very individual, with most southern farmers growing just enough corn to
feed their livestock and themselves. When the farmers needed cornmeal, they visited their local mills. These mills,
which used large stone wheels to grind the corn, were located near rivers and other sources of water, because the
wheels were initially powered by water. Hydropower was later replaced by gasoline or electricity. The farmers
paid the miller for the use of his mill by giving him a percentage of the cornmeal produced, which in turn, the
miller sold to the local townspeople. As the production of cornmeal became increasingly industrialized, the mills
gradually became obsolete. Today, most cornmeal is produced in factories, where it is also bolted and fortified
with vitamins and minerals, like most refined flours.
Interestingly, each part of the country developed its own regional specialties and exhibited a bias for a
certain type of cornmeal. Northerners preferred yellow cornmeal, using flint yellow corn meal in their cornbread.
Alternatively, southerners liked to use white cornmeal to make their cornbread. Each region also differed in its
preparation of cornbread. Northerners like a sweeter version of cornbread, adding molasses to the batter, while
southerners preferred the savory version that resulted when the cornbread was fried in cracklings. The steel ground
yellow cornmeal commonly found in the northern part of the U.S. is produced by almost completely stripping the
husk and germ from the mature maize kernel and grinding what remains of the kernel. The resulting product will
keep almost indefinitely if sealed tightly and stored in a cool dry place, because it no longer contains the natural
oils that will oxidize and become rancid.
Cornbread is much more consumed in the South, owing to the fact that wheat did not grow as well in the
warmer climate of the southern states. In addition to these natural forces, the use of cornmeal in the South was
likely given further impetus during the Civil War, when it became impossible to procure wheat supplies from the
North. Hence, cornbread became popular during the Civil War because it was very cheap and could be made in
many different sizes and forms. It was also a common lunch for poor children as late as in the mid 20th century. It
is still a common side dish, often served with homemade butter, chunks of onion or scallions. Sometimes,
cornbread is crumbled and served with cold milk similar to cold cereal in the South. Sometimes, cornbread takes
on a distinct local flavor. For example, in Texas, the Mexican influence has spawned a hearty cornbread made with
fresh or creamed corn kernels, jalapeño peppers and topped with shredded cheese.
【題組】78. The word obsolete in paragraph 3 is closest in meaning to which of the following word/expression?
(A) trendy (B) unprofitable (C) isolated (D) outmoded