Why Cornbread? Why Love?

A Dozen Meditations

by Tunde Wey

  1. This is how you fall in love (with cornbread), first, begin at the end– fall in love (with cornbread).

2. About Cornbread, this thing which you do not know at all, except it suffers from a universal appeal. Except it is treated all sorts of ways by various folk claiming it as theirs. About cornbread, the little you thought you knew grew in you only indifference, but that was because you didn’t really know. So about Cornbread, first fall in love.

3. Why? Why Cornbread? Why Love? You’re a pragmatist, and pragmatists “make a way.”

4. You’re a reasonable person, and you have chosen to live a life in reasonable harmony with the world. For harmony to be, these trio of values must exist: Relativity and Plurality and Catholicism– the all-embracing kind, where no one burns. You live in the American South, not loving Cornbread is not a choice available to you. Repeat to yourself: Harmony, Harmony, Harmony

5. Gingerly coax the Cornbread to your tongue. Open all your orifices wet and wide, your red heart and your dewy mouth. Ready your heart for love.
Yuck! It’s not sweet. It’s salty. Savory, maybe. Its consistency is a dense, well-packed sand castle– it dies as crumbled pieces of disappointment in your mouth.

6. But your mouth. Your, this possessive pronoun, is limiting. There is a world outside your small mouth– you cannot yawn wide enough to swallow even the smallest heartache under heaven. Small mouth, small heart, you cannot understand Cornbread.

7. And Cornbread is not something you fall in love with because other people say jump. You may trick your heart into an affair with a foreign jus, a pickled aubergine, wading in shallow fads. But Cornbread, long-around, queen of the ups and down, isn’t coerced and conjured… you’ve got to earn this one darling. You’ve got to know it’s good for you.

8. When you get Cornbread, nostalgia and hunger will meet at the intersection of mischief. The duality of temporality, the past and now, will slice healthy triangles, starting from the heat cracked navel, to the circumference stuck to cast iron skin, to keep and save for later. And how could you not love that Pone?

9. And Cornbread is also a poem, and utilitarian too. It is simple, so simple it begs no nuance. It just is.

10. Cornbread is complicated, you can’t unspool, explain or separate the flour from the baking powder from the baking soda, distinguish the dry from the wet ingredients, divorce heat from the magic. So don’t bother to explain it. Cornbread is history and disappointment, memories of agility and feasts of wretched gluttony. Cornbread is personal. It lives better in your mouth. Expires best in your belly.

11. And why are we disturbing it with all this talk? When we know it will unravel and snap back into oblivion, with all the elasticity and venom of a contentiously-fought election. Let the batter breathe.

12. Finally, Cornbread is grace and grace affords all the benefits of any doubts. So take your time, and when you come around, I’ll be waiting.

Tunde Wey is a Smith Symposium Fellow and the force behind the traveling dinner and dialogue series Blackness in America, which he designed to promote black discourse and prioritize black perspectives.