Cooking the old way

by Betty Wrenn Day - Posted on Jul 06, 2011 - 04:27 PM

Photo: Before attending church services Marilyn Iglesias, left, of Gloucester, Melody Potue of Ferrum, and Bonnie Daughtry, also of Gloucester, stopped a moment and took pleasure in enjoying some hoe cakes. Photo by Betty Wrenn Day.

Before attending church services Marilyn Iglesias, left, of Gloucester, Melody Potue of Ferrum, and Bonnie Daughtry, also of Gloucester, stopped a moment and took pleasure in enjoying some hoe cakes. Photo by Betty Wrenn Day.

Photo: On an old tobacco hoe blade, Walter Scott Hunley displays how the hoe cake got its name. Photo by Betty Wrenn Day.

On an old tobacco hoe blade, Walter Scott Hunley displays how the hoe cake got its name. Photo by Betty Wrenn Day.

Johnnycake, ashcake, battercake, corn cake, journey cake, corn pone or hoe cake all are regional names for cornmeal flatbread. In the South this mixture of cornmeal, salt and water, with milk sometimes, and fried, is most often referred to as hoe cake; if you venture north, more than likely it’s johnnycake. During the Civil War the Southern armies survived many battles living on hoe cakes, while the Northern armies ate a lot of johnnycake.

Recently at the Piankatank Ruritan Club building in Mathews, the Civil War came alive. The Lane-Armistead Camp #1772 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans held a two-day educational observance of the war’s sesquicentennial. One of its events showed how hoe cakes were made and cooked.

Walter Scott Hunley was camp cook. Using an aged iron griddle, one most likely the Rebels could have used, with his own mixture (the cornmeal he had ground from the corn he had raised), Walter treated those passing by, on their way to church services or just visiting the camp, delicious, hot hoe cakes.

Now, don’t think it’s exaggeration by calling them delicious; they really were. One was not enough. Walter puts a little sugar in his mixture. To show how the hoe cake possibly got its name, Walter displayed a cake on an old tobacco hoe blade which had once been owned by Miss Sally Billups, a slave in her younger days.