A fistfight broke out; nothing was settled. Drumm Jr. Rhode Islanders consume johnnycakes at all times of the day and in a dozen different ways - for breakfast they are served like pancakes, smothered with butter and syrup or molasses, or they are broken up and mixed with milk and sugar; at other meals they supplant potatoes or rice, and sometimes they are served in various disguises as dessert.
The most widely held belief about their provenance is that they come from the corn-growing Indian tribes that once dominated Rhode Island. Some say the word is a mutation of ''Shawnee cake,'' named after that tribe. Others contend it derives from ''journeycake,'' an English term applied because the durable cornmeal cakes were carried in saddlebags and on ships during long trips.
As for the authentic recipe, there are two major factions who have been sniping at each other for centuries. The Newport County-ites make johnnycakes by mixing cornmeal with salt and cold milk to a soupy consistency, then cook them on a griddle. The result is a thin, crisp, five-inch-wide cake. Down in South County, Mr. Drumm's territory, they are made by mixing cornmeal with salt and a small amount of boiling water. These come out thicker and smaller in diameter.
But that's not the only quibble. The type of corn used, and how it is ground, has emerged as a new front in this donnybrook. One of the flags is carried by the Society for the Propagation of the Johnnycake Tradition in Rhode Island, an organization dedicated to the cultivation and consumption of cakes made with an agronomically obsolete strain of corn originally grown by Indians.
Martha Greig of Jamestown, R. Drumm is a really neat guy, he has a fine old mill and a great business, but most of his corn is not real johnnycake corn,'' she proffers. Drumm, who good-naturedly refers to the society as ''those flaky ladies,'' says he uses white dent corn, from out of state, because flint corn is unavailable in sufficient quantities. Flint corn is no longer cultivated in large quantity because of its low yield 12 tons to an acre as opposed to 20 tons for dent corn and unsuitability for much aside from johnnycakes.
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Flint corn would be all but extinct if it were not for the University of Rhode Island's cooperative extension service, which keeps alive the strain by planting a few acres every year. Trade Paperback 1. Hardcover Paperback Board Book 1. Type see all Type.
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