In the states of Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri, high school and college football is very important to many families. The FIFTY story “Kansas: The Rivalry” introduces us to one such family — the Berrafatos. Football started out as a sport that brought the family together, but when Tony Berrafato joins the Kansas Jayhawks football program and his younger brother, Nicky, joins the Missouri Tigers team, they learn how deep football rivalry can run.
As a proud resident of Lawrence, Kansas — home of the Jayhawks — I can tell you that this rivalry isn't just about football. It goes all the way back to the Civil War. Back in the day, Lawrence was the “free state” capital of Kansas and those awful border ruffians from Missouri came and burned our town!
Okay, okay, maybe that isn't an entirely complete retelling. In truth — although we know the anti-slavery cause had the moral edge — there were atrocities on both sides. And, to a much lesser degree, the old football and basketball rivalries which grew out of those original conflicts were much the same — good people and bad people on both sides.
I say “old” intentionally there, because the rivalry is actually no more. Several years ago, Missouri switched to a different conference, and Kansas and Missouri no longer play each other in college sports. However, in a postscript that I think the Berrafato brothers would approve of, the two teams met once again in 2017 and played for charity. They raised over two million dollars for hurricane relief and there's talk of doing more charity games in the future.
Now that you know how the rivalry has ended, lets go back to the beginning — to the Civil War — for this week's recipe.
Made with just a few ingredients, and often fried over a campfire, these cornmeal Johnny Cakes were a staple for Civil War soldiers, particularly in the South. They were very much “rations,” which, I think, makes them more of an “experience” food than a culinary masterpiece. That being said, while they were traditionally served with butter or molasses, I like mine with a good drizzle of honey or maple syrup.
2 cups cornmeal
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for frying
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
molasses, butter, honey, or maple syrup for serving
Preheat your oven to 350°.
Add all of the ingredients (except for the toppings) to a mixing bowl and stir to combine well. The mixture will be a bit sandy but sticky enough to form into balls. Divide it into about 8 balls and flatten them into thick patties.
Meanwhile, in an ovenproof skillet, heat a good layer of olive oil over medium heat. Carefully slide the Johnny Cakes into the oil and fry on each side until browned. When the cakes have nice color, slide the entire pan into the oven for another 5-10 minutes to make sure they're cooked through.
Enjoy with molasses, butter, honey, or maple syrup.
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About the Author
The Sparkle Kitchen Series is created by Meryl Carver-Allmond.
Meryl lives in a hundred-year-old house near the prairie with her sweet husband, two preschoolers, one puppy, one gecko, and about ten chickens. While she's been writing since she could pick up a pen, in recent years she's discovered the joy of photography, too. She feels lucky to be able to combine those skills, along with a third passion — showing people that cooking for themselves can be healthy and fun — in her Sparkle Kitchen posts.