While researching the history of Mexican cornbread (the U.S. version,), I discovered our “Southern” cornbread in several Mexican cookbooks. Called–somewhat unsurprisingly–pan de maiz, this recipe seems to have found a place on tables in southern Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras.
One recipe I found on a Mexican website claims to have come by way of Maine and even employs buttermilk. While such things aren’t inconceivable, I suddenly felt as if the Culinary Improbability Drive had been activated, and I’d turned into an enormous zucchini hush puppy and about to plunge into a roiling intergalactic catfish fryer.
I felt much the same way about Malaysian grits.
The origins of what passes as Mexican cornbread in the U.S. are obscured in a cloud of “women’s magazine” articles and speculation. The dish has all sorts of atrocious variations; extreme examples include any number of beans and meats, cacti, seeds, flowers, and a California aberration with blue tofu that also ranks high on my Improbability Algorithm.
For my part, I’ve devised a recipe very close to Ur-meal bread. Add whole kernel corn, peppers and queso in equal proportions to a good stiff cornbread batter. I use thin-walled mild peppers 1:1 with thinly-sliced jalapeno. Drop by spoonfuls into a well-oiled skillet, brown on both sides, and place in a single layer on a cookie sheet in a low oven to crisp. Top with salsa, sour cream, and/or guacamole.