ANDALUSIA, Ala. (BP) – When Brenda Gantt was a young bride, her husband’s job placed him on the lookout for an illegal moonshine liquor still in the backwoods of Linden, Ala., where he happened upon a small, isolated cabin. A lone elderly woman invited him and his partner in for lunch.
Lacy cornbread complemented an array of vegetables.
“She had a big platter of lacy cornbread. It’s like paper-thin. It spreads out to about 5-inches big. And it’s got holes all in it where she fried it in this pan,” Gantt told Baptist Press Friday (Oct. 22). “And he loved it.”
Gantt’s husband George stood over the elderly woman’s oven as she taught him how to make lacy cornbread, using a generations-old method. Smitten with the dish, he came home with the necessary stoneground cornmeal and insisted the young couple learn to make it that very night.
“I learned how to make lacy cornbread, and he learned how to love it,” Gantt said. “It’s extremely crunchy and you absolutely cannot eat (only) one of them.”
Lacy cornbread is among more than 100 recipes with color photos, homegrown stories, Gantt’s original artwork, grandmotherly advice and Scripture featured in Gantt’s debut book, “Brenda Gantt It’s Gonna Be Good, Y’all.”
The 74-year-old grandmother is a social media hit, her 2020 biscuit tutorial skyrocketing her to fame in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic with more than 8 million views to date. Her 2.7 million Facebook followers and 194,000 Instagram followers @CookingWithBrendaGantt crave her cooking tutorials, typically registering tens of thousands of views within hours.
Fans encouraged her to write down her recipes.
“The recipes in the book, they’re not fancy. They are just good ol’ Southern food like all of us like to eat,” she said, “like candied yams and dressing and dumplings and biscuits. Just kind of like soul food. Just good for ya.”
When she shops for groceries, she begins in the meat section, planning her menus around the cuts of meat offering the greatest bargain. Then, she adds whatever she has in the pantry or refrigerator, stretching leftovers into fresh new dishes.
“For Sunday lunch, I had roast beef and carrots and potatoes and onions that I cooked in the oven. And I cooked a big pot of butter beans and some cream-style corn. And I made deviled eggs too.”
There were leftovers.
“So the next day, I took all that juice – the roast – where it had cooked out and then I made a big (pot of) vegetable soup. I put the leftover corn and butter beans in it,” she said. “And then I just cut up a few potatoes and onions and put some tomatoes in it, and it made a delicious soup.”
Gantt calls it “being conservative.”
“I’ve been conservative all my life, and my husband was too, and I was raised that way and so was he,” she said. “As far as cooking, it means not to be wasteful in your kitchen. To cook what you think the family’s going to eat, and then, try to do something with those leftovers. You don’t want to throw them out.”
For Gantt, that often means inviting friends and family to the table, or taking plates of food to community members whose health confines them to home.
Hoffman Media took advance orders of the book and the first printing is already sold out. Gantt advises people to register on the waiting list for a reprint planned for the spring of 2022, depending on demand.
Scripture, included in the book, is a daily ingredient in Gantt’s life.
“In my opinion, the Bible’s got all the answers, and if we read it, we see what are the responsibilities of the children, we see the responsibilities of the father, the mother,” she said. “We see responsibilities of just us as individuals here in the United States.
“What are we supposed to be doing? The answers are there.”