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Son of a biscuit! House backs cornbread as state’s official bread, giving rise to countless puns

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Jill Nolin, Georgia Recorder
February 9, 2024

Georgia lawmakers have cooked up the most corn-troversial bill of the session: a proposal that would crown cornbread as the official state bread.

The tribute to the Southern baked good cleared the House Friday, leavening an election-year session that has already featured tense debates over stricter bail requirements, tougher rules for forming labor unions and other divisive issues.

“With all this in-fighting, it’s nice to be able to agree on something,” the bill’s sponsor, Dalton Republican Rep. Kasey Carpenter, said to his colleagues during a brief round of banter in the House chamber.

Still, the bill got a rise out of some.

“Isn’t it true that cornbread is something special, but wouldn’t you agree that the biscuit is superior,” said Rep. Gregg Kennard, a Lawrenceville Democrat who suggested that gravy should also be named the state’s official condiment.

Two of Carpenter’s fellow Republicans went against the grain and voted nay on the cornbread bill.

 Rep. Jason Ridley. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

As they left the House chamber for the day, Reps. Mitchell Horner of Ringgold and Jordan Ridley of Woodstock jokingly referred to themselves as the anti-cornbread caucus.

Ridley said he was on board with Kennard’s biscuit comment.

“We’re from the South and we like our buttermilk biscuits,” Ridley said. “Just because somebody likes cornbread doesn’t mean we have to leave everyone else out.”

Horner said he prefers dinner rolls on his plate, and the debate on the House floor reminded him of debates back home with his butter half.

“My wife loves cornbread, and I love yeast rolls,” he said with a laugh. “I have to fight about it at home, so why do I have to fight about it here?”

But the votes were baked in. The bill passed the House with a 155-to-3 vote Friday. It still needs to clear the Senate so it remains to be seen if the proposal will land on the governor’s plate.

Carpenter, who is a restaurateur, brought 200 cornbread muffins and 40 pounds of pinto beans made at his Dalton restaurant, the Oakwood Cafe, to share with his colleagues.

 Carpenter buttered up his colleagues with fresh cornbread. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

He said the honor is meant as a nod to the Cherokee who called northwest Georgia home before their forced removal. Corn was a staple in the diet of Native Americans.

Carpenter said volunteers in his district who operate a historic grist mill called Prater’s Mill asked him to pursue the designation, and he said this year felt like a good time to serve it up.

“It seemed like we needed a little fun. Everything’s been so polarizing, and I figured cornbread would be something that could bring us all together for the most part,” he said.

In that spirit, Carpenter’s bill is silent on this delicate question: Is sugar among the state-sanctioned ingredients? That didn’t escape the notice of Rep. Teri Anulewicz.

“One concern I have reading this bill: It does not specify that cornbread should indeed not have sugar in its ingredient list,” the Smyrna Democrat said.

Carpenter, by the way, is firmly pro-sugar, but just a pinch will do.

Carpenter’s quest to elevate the humble cornbread’s status in Georgia has uncovered tasty tidbits of culinary preferences among other Gold Dome dwellers.

“Does it come with Vidalia onion? That’s the question,” said Canton Republican Rep. Mandi Ballinger, who is leading the House Rules Committee after the unexpected death of Rep. Richard Smith.

Carpenter has heard – and oftentimes tried – it all. Native Americans, he said, would also put apples and other fruit in the cornbread. And at his restaurant, mayonnaise stands in for eggs.

“I really like to put stuff in cornbread. Jalapeno cornbread is fantastic. Corn in cornbread is really good. Cracklin in cornbread is pretty good. Skillet cornbread that people cook in the cast iron skillet is super good,” he said.

Georgia has many official state symbols, elevating the Live Oak as the official state tree, the Vidalia sweet onion as the official vegetable and the Brown Thrasher as the official avian ambassador. The symbols showcase a state’s character and, some hope, instill a sense of pride among a state’s denizens.

But cornbread isn’t the only potential honoree hoping to join the ranks of Georgia’s official wildflower, the azalea, and song, Ray Charles’ “Georgia on My Mind.” The Southeast Georgia Soap Box Derby is up for official soap box derby again after being hijacked for a last-minute sports betting push in the Senate last year.

Reporter Ross Williams corntributed to this report.

Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Georgia Recorder maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John McCosh for questions: info@georgiarecorder.com. Follow Georgia Recorder on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Georgia Recorder under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.