In honor of President’s Day ( February 12, 1809–Honest Abe’s actual birthday) and one of America’s Favorite Presidents, today’s offering on this twenty-third day of February are a couple of victuals desired by our 16th President Abraham Lincoln.
According to the sixteenth President’s last bodyguard, Colonel William H. Crook, “Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln breakfasted precisely at nine AM. Mr. Lincoln was a hearty eater.” He never lost his taste for the things a growing farmer’s boy would like and was particularly fond of bacon.
However, as much as he liked nutritious snacks, Lincoln wasn’t above the occasional cheat day. Abe often bragged that he could devour tasty corn cakes “as quickly as two women could make them.”
Johnnycakes, jonnycake, ashcake, battercake, corn cake, cornpone, hoecake, hoe cake, journey cake, mush bread, pone, Shawnee cake, jonakin, and jonikin. These are all regional names for this cornmeal flatbread.
The origin of the name johnnycakes (jonnycakes) is something of a mystery and probably has nothing to do with the name John. They were also called journey cakes because they could be carried on long trips in saddlebags and baked along the way. Some historians think that they were originally called Shawnee cakes and that the colonists slurred the words, pronouncing it as johnnycakes. Historians also think that “janiken,” an American Indian word meant “corn cake,” could possibly be the origin.
1 cup white cornmeal
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1/2 cup milk
In a medium bowl, place cornmeal and salt. In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring water to a rapid boil; remove from heat. With the saucepan in one hand, let the boiling water dribble into the cornmeal while stirring constantly with the other hand. Then stir the milk into the mixture (it will be fairly thick, but not runny).
Generously grease a large, heavy frying pan (I like to use my cast-iron frying pan) with the bacon drippings and heat. When pan is hot, drop the batter by spoonfuls. Flatten the batter with a spatula to a thickness of approximately 1/4 inch. Fry until golden brown, turn, and brown on the other side (adding more bacon drippings as needed).
Serve hot with butter, maple syrup, or applesauce. Makes 4 servings.