Posted by: Rachel | March 23, 2013

a novel concept

Well you’re just going to have to wait to hear about the Thai cooking class I took as there’s something I really want to share with you first. See, my new friend Simone issued a challenge on her blog and (if you know me then you understand this) I’ve waited until pretty much the last minute to write to her prompt. Sigh… I’m not lazy, I just get busy – especially this time of year!

So, I did have almost a month to think about it, and there are so many books to choose from it was a bit daunting. I am not sure if I especially lean toward books where the characters eat their way through the story, or if food in fiction just jumps off the page at me. Either way, I settled on Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. That gave me several thousand pages, many of which contain some sort of food references, to pull from, in a story ranging over several centuries. Whew!

Some of the options were never going to happen here. I mean, the whole “first you catch the pig” sort of thing is a bit over the top even for me. I opted for making a food that is mentioned repeatedly in the 18th century New World portions of her stories: corn dodgers.

Near as I can tell from my online research and her books, this was a variety of “johnny” or “journey” cake – a rough equivalent to today’s trail mix or granola bar. You made them ahead and they’d keep, even if they needed dunking to make them palatable after a few weeks in a rucksack or a saddlebag.

Corn dodgers can be as simple or as fancy as you like. You could add finely chopped onion, sauteed garlic, even an egg perhaps, or use milk rather than water, maybe sweeten the batter with sugar I think, but the basic recipe is pretty much corn meal and water with salt if you have it. Somewhat bland and built for sustenance not for deliciousness, corn dodgers are a solid utilitarian foodstuff.

I read recipes that called for olive oil, rising agents, and other things I’m pretty sure her characters would not have had on hand. I also don’t think they’d have baked these in an oven; skillet or griddle cooking makes much more sense to me. Given that, I went with just this:

One For the Road Corn Dodgers

dodgers frying


1 C corn meal
1 Tbsp goose grease (or butter)
2 tsp salt
1 C boiling water
bacon grease (or vegetable oil) for frying

Put the corn meal, salt, and goose grease or butter in a medium sized mixing bowl. Add the boiling water, stir to completely incorporate, and let sit until cool. The mixture should be slightly stiff but maleable.

finished dodgers on a plate

to go, please!

Heat the grease or oil (about 1/4-inch deep) in a heavy cast iron skillet. Make small patties of the corn meal mixture, and fry on both sides until done (several minutes per side). Drain well and store or eat warm with jam if you have the luxury.

Makes about 12 roughly 2-inch diameter “dodgers”.

You can certainly use butter and vegetable oil to make a vegetarian version, or go whole hog (so to speak) if you happen to have a can of bacon grease in your fridge! (The bacon grease was the suggestion of my friend with whom I shared this experiment – thanks and mmmm!) You know I have goose grease on hand! Mmmm…

What “novel food” grabs you? Ever tried to recreate it? Could be fun… this certainly was!



  1. Sounds like polenta as I had it served to me in Key West a few years ago, were the corn meal in your dodgers to be coarse.

    I recall once in Mexico, on a train, on a stop in a village. It was common then, maybe still is, for girls with baskets of baked things to board the train at the stops and sell the passengers things to eat and then scurry off before the train left the station. I bought a little cake from a girl once, and it was “just corn meal and water and a little sweetener” I thought at the time, but it was sooooo delicious. Dense, sweet, chewy, but not too much so. It was heavenly. Your post reminded me of that. Thanks!

  2. My Mom used to make this and called it “Scalded Cornbread” and fried it in Crisco. She made hers a little more moist as they looked more like pancakes as they were dropped in the skillet to cook. Butter on top of the cooked “Scalded Cornbread” was always yummy and strawberry preserves was my favorite topping.

  3. Hey Rachel, great blog. This sounds like what my family and others in Tennessee call “hot water corn bread” (without the goose grease). My mom still makes it, I never have. Like Patt’s mom’s, they’re sort of like pancakes. Tonight I fried just regular corn bread “pancakes” with dinner. My kids like a little sweetness to it, so I add a bit of sugar.

  4. I like the explanation of the food you give: the granola bar of the past. The whole concept of food that could travel well and keep is interesting, and food that can be plain or fancy, depending on what’s available. Thank you so much for contributing to Novel Food!

  5. I don’t know why this post never came through my reader. This recipe reminds me a little of hush puppies.

  6. […] don’t know if you remember, but back in March my friend Simone ran a challenge on her blog. The gist was “Prepare a dish of your choosing […]

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