Cornbread “Flitters”

Article written by Elston Harris


When I was little, my grandma would make pancakes. Those golden, sweet, and crisp spheres were what I wanted every morning. So, like any other morning, I woke up and put on my clothes. I went straight to the kitchen and

the sun just barely coming over the horizon. On the stove, there were golden crisps of heaven. I immediately grabbed one and started to bite down but then had to stop and figure out what did I just ate. I noticed that it was a lot fluffier and had a distinct crispy texture. Although, I was upset that I was not eating my regular pancakes, I was still enjoying every bit of this golden cake. My grandma looked at me and smiled. She asked, “Do you like what you are eating?” and from that day I would look forward to her fried cornbread. And, like all Appalachian grandmothers, mine made the best fried cornbread.

It had been over a decade since I had my first fried cornbread, and I realized that I had never asked my grandma when she had first tried fried cornbread. Being in college, and 4 hours from home, she has not been able to see me as much as she wishes. So, having a call from her grandbaby and talking about her past, she was full of joy and fond memories. When I had asked about first time eating fried cornbread, she said it was just like yesterday. She was 8 years old and sitting in her small cabin in Sherwood, Tennessee with a family of more than 7, watching her father – in her words “Daddy” –cooking on an iron stove.  Putting the oil on in a skillet and throwing in batter, her father made what he called cornbread flitters. When I asked why he called them flitters, and not fritters, my grandma said “that’s just how he said it”.

Author's GrandparentsBeing gone for so long, I had forgotten how my family, and those from my region within Tennessee, pronounce things a little a different. Grandma would continue with saying all they had were beans and “cornbread flitters” and that, “[my family] were lucky to have that”. Even though my grandma kept talking about the 50s and 60s being very hard times for families in her county, even saying that they ate hot water cornbread not buttermilk cornbread because people couldn’t afford milk or eggs, this seemed to not affect her fond memories. It only strengthen her love for family.

For my grandmother, it is fond memories of her growing up as a little girl in Sherwood, Tennessee watching her father cook “cornbread flitters”. For me, fried cornbread is a way for me to go back home – even if for just a moment.