Fried cornbread, or “tatten bread,” is a recipe that originated in Doyle’s family in south Alabama. The name “tatten bread” comes from its similarity in appearance to the handmade lace called, “tatting.”
Doyle’s great-great maternal grandmother, Lonie Crawford Wood of Henry County, Ala., lived from the mid-1800s through the turn of the century. Married to Sam Wood, the probate judge of Henry County, the couple raised six children.
“(Lonie) was a true farm-to-table cook raising her vegetables and canning the surplus, slaughtering and curing homegrown meats, and supplying her own milk products and eggs,” Doyle said.
The Marietta native said Lonie served homemade bread at every meal, but the all-time favorite was tatten bread. This family recipe was passed down from Lonie to Doyle’s great grandmother (Dana Wood Holmes), her grandmother (Mary Helen Holmes Hill), and mother (Helen Hill Hines, the wife of Georgia Supreme Court Justice P. Harris Hines).
“Now, I am making it for my family,” the wife of Clem Doyle said. The Doyles have two sons, Clay, 9, and Hines, 7.
Doyle’s family carries on the tradition of tatten bread by serving it at Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas dinner and very special family occasions. The bread is served with an avocado dip. “My mother calls the spread ‘avocado dip’ because it’s straight from Alabama,” Doyle said.
For years the family also served smoked turkey with the dish. Doyle’s grandfather, O. V. Hill, started a turkey farm, Selwood Farm, raising and selling turkeys, including smoked turkey breasts. Later Doyle’s uncle, Dell Hill, ran the business.
“My grandfather sold turkeys his whole life. I never had a traditional cooked turkey until last year,” she said.
“(Tatten bread and avocado dip) is a family tradition that went well with turkey. The other reason we go to all this trouble is because it’s really, really good,” she said.
Tatten bread and avocado dip can be addictive. “You eat them like potato chips. You can’t stop eating them. It’s different from regular cornbread,” she said. “We continue the tradition because it helps us remember our roots and our family and our long-standing relationships. Thanksgiving is when our family made their living, but it was a family business, family-run and family-oriented.”
2 well ripened avocados, mashed
½ lemon (squeezed for juice)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
3 tablespoon grated onion
1 to 2 teaspoons mayonnaise
Dash of salt
Mash avocados, add mayonnaise and season with remaining ingredients. Blend with hand mixer until avocado dip is smooth and spreadable.
1) Choose fine stone-ground white corn meal. It must be stone ground. It can be found in South Alabama. Mix meal and a pinch of salt with cold water until mixture is the consistency of buttermilk (approximately 1¼ cup meal and 2 cups cold water).
2) Heat electric skillet to medium hot (approximately 380 degrees), covering bottom of skillet thinly with oil (about ¼ inch deep).
3) Put cooking spoon full of corn meal mixture into hot skillet. Four, 3-inch “rounds” will fit into an electric skillet at once. The bread will immediately start frying on the outer edges and continue to the middle. When the bread is light brown and full of little holes, turn it over and brown the other side.
4) When done, you should be able to hold the bread up between your fingers and see through it. If you can't, your mixture was too thick or the oil was not hot enough.
5) It is important that the mixture be stirred well before putting it in the hot oil. There is a tendency for the meal to settle to the bottom and separate from the water.
6) Tatten bread can be frozen and kept for quite some time. Run in a hot oven (approximately 350 degrees) for 3 to 4 minutes before serving to crisp.
*Best when served straight from the skillet!*