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Announcements and publicity associated with the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame

Rain or Shine, Cornbread Promises a Fine Time

Department of Arkansas Heritage - Friday, October 25, 2019

by Kat Robinson

This weekend, the ninth annual Arkansas Cornbread Festival will take place in the SoMa District in Little Rock. The event, meant to bring a community together while celebrating one of our Arkansas staples, has grown into one of the must-attend festivals of every fall.

I was fortunate enough to be in on the planning of the first of the festivals, back in 2011. We were working hard to make sure we could provide for the estimated 800 guests we expected to attend. Imagine our surprise when around 2600 people came to sample cornbread and enjoy good music and good company in that two block stretch of Main Street!

Over the years, the festival centered around the Bernice Garden, has become a staple of the Little Rock food scene. This area, which once saw quite a few empty storefronts, now boasts a fine collection of shops, restaurants, and the famed ESSE Purse Museum, one of only three purse museums in the world.

This year's festival is expected to top 5000 attendees and now covers four city blocks. It's free to go, but if you'd like to try the many cornbread samples available, you need to get a tasting ticket. Chefs from all across the region, both professional and amateur, will compete to see who has the best cornbread, and you get to vote on the People's Choice.

There will also be lots of vendors, community tables, artists to watch and makers with their creations to view.
Be sure to bring along your refillable water bottle - the festival's goal is to become a zero-waste event, where everything that can be recycled will be recycled and single-use plastics will be eliminated.

Hungry for more? How about a cornbread recipe?

Arkansaw Cornbread:
2 cups War Eagle Mill White Cornmeal
2 cups War Eagle Mill unbleached all purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ tablespoons baking powder
1 tablespoon honey, preferably local
2 eggs
4 cups buttermilk
1 cup butter, melted
Vegetable oil

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Blend together dry ingredients with a fork (or sift if you prefer) in a bowl. In a separate bowl, beat eggs and add honey, buttermilk and melted butter. Incorporate the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Let sit five minutes.

While the batter is sitting, heat up a 12 inch skillet on the stovetop. When it’s hot, pour in about an eighth of a cup of vegetable oil and roll it around the inside of the skillet. Pour in the batter and cook over high heat until the batter bubbles.

Place in oven and let cook 40-45 minutes or until an inserted knife comes out clean. Place a cloth over a cutting board. Invert the pan over the cutting board and allow cornbread to fall out. Use the cloth to turn the cornbread right side up and wrap tightly until ready to serve, warm.