[gentle music] - I'm gonna quote the famous philosopher, Vivian Howard, when she said, "Give me your cornbread recipe, and you've given me a window into your soul."
I know that's dramatic, but cornbread is very important to us down here.
♪ ♪ - One, two, three, four.
- I'm Vivian, and I'm a chef.
My husband, Ben, and I were working for some of the best chefs in New York City, when my parents offered to help us open our own restaurant.
Of course, there was a catch.
We had to open this restaurant in eastern North Carolina where I grew up and said I would never return.
["Will You Return" by the Avett Brothers] - ♪ I wish you'd see yourself ♪ ♪ As beautiful as I see you ♪ all: ♪ Why can't you see yourself ♪ ♪ As beautiful as I see you ♪ - So this is my life.
Raising twins, living on my parents' farm and exploring the South one ingredient at a time.
Previously on "A Chef's Life"... Now, that is one pig's liver right there.
- That is one pig liver, and it smells really strong.
- Yeah, I mean, I can smell it right here.
- I got no love for this.
[phone rings] Hello?
So you got my cast iron piece?
Now it looks as if I might be able to do my own little story on "CBS Sunday Morning."
I'm so excited.
I just hope I don't screw anything up.
This is one of the new skillets.
[grunting] [laughs] This is ridiculous.
That is heavy.
So "CBS Sunday Morning" is coming here on Monday, and so part of what they want me to do is to cook a recipe in a cast iron skillet, so I'm gonna do, like, a modern take on cornbread.
I have this weird relationship with "Sunday Morning."
My mom made me read an hour for every 30 minutes of television I wanted to watch.
So TV was, like, really prized.
On Sunday morning, she was so busy, like, running around that she didn't have her eye on me, so I could watch TV, but the problem was we only had three stations, and two of them had preachers on it.
So I watched "CBS Sunday Morning."
And in college, I had an internship at "CBS Sunday Morning."
So flash forward many years, and I have this opportunity to contribute to the show.
So I'm practicing so I don't look like a dummy in front of them.
So this is some yellow cornmeal, and it's self-rising.
Grandma used a mix, and the mix was onion-flavored, and I always liked that, so I'm gonna put some granulated onion in my cornbread, as well as scallion.
[gentle music] ♪ ♪ So I've got some scallions, lemon zest, onion powder, my cornmeal.
I'm gonna put some salt and a little bit of sugar in here.
I do not believe that sugar belongs in cornbread, but I do put a pinch of sugar in my cornbread.
It's different than putting a cup.
It's not gonna make it sweet.
It's just like-- it just makes me feel-- it's what my mom did.
I'm gonna put a little bit of buttermilk, which is really a traditional liquid for cornbread.
I'm gonna use some seltzer water, 'cause I want this to be light, and the little bubbles, I think, will make it lighter.
So I'm gonna make this really loose, because I want it to spread.
Now I'm gonna put some little cubes of white cheddar in there.
♪ ♪ All right, here we go.
So I'm just gonna let that cook.
So tonight we have a charity dinner at my house for the Food Bank of North Carolina.
It's a good cause, but that means that the dinner has to be pretty spectacular.
I don't know about this.
I'm gonna try and turn it with my spatula.
How 'bout that?
[laughs] Okay, so I've learned a really quick lesson here, not to do it like that.
It may not have held up, but it's very tasty.
[crunching] You hear that?
That's burnt cornbread.
[laughs] I'm a brilliant chef.
[gentle music] ♪ ♪ Who was the 30th president?
- Calvin Coolidge.
- Who was the 8th president?
- Martin Van Buren.
- And who's your favorite president?
- Theodore Roosevelt.
- Because I'm named after him.
- [laughs] Contrary to what Theo thinks, we did not name him after Theodore Roosevelt.
But it is that belief that pushed him to learn everything he can about every President of the United States.
- Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson... - I gotta start cooking for my dinner, Theo, for this party that we're having here.
♪ ♪ After the book tour, I promised myself that I was not going to schlep food all over the place, but tonight we are schlepping some food for a good cause.
So let's talk about what we're gonna do.
Ashley, you're gonna work on the lamb dish.
- We're having sweet potato skins with the arugula.
I'm gonna work on the crab-stuffed hush puppies.
Leslie, I'm gonna have you work on the dessert.
Did you get the rosemary ice cream?
[phone rings] Hello?
We left the ice cream in the freezer there.
All right, thank you.
- We're going to the movie.
- Have a nice evening.
- I'm gonna call Holly.
- Okay, and if they can leave a little bit later than five, it would be even better, 'cause I kinda have to clean up the house.
So this is Ashley.
Ashley is my new culinary assistant.
So I'm excited.
Have you ever had a pig in a puppy, Leslie?
- Oh, God.
- It's a giant hush puppy.
- They take some of the filling out and stuff it with barbecue and slaw.
So we're doing tonight a crab in a puppy.
So crab and caviar, and then vinegar slaw.
Hey, thank you.
Theo's like, "Ask me more presidents."
- He's so cute.
- So this morning I made, like, a flat cornbread cake, and this afternoon I'm making a giant hush puppy.
And they're really not gonna be incredibly different except for their shape, and in this hush puppy I'm gonna put a fair amount of cornstarch, because cornstarch is gonna make it, like, extra crispy.
So I'm gonna do onion powder, a little bit of sugar.
Not to make it sweet but just to point the corn flavors.
Soda water again, because it lightens it up, and I want these to be light.
Just drop that in there, and let's taste that.
What is that?
- A drink.
- That's really... - Viscous.
In a pig in a puppy, you have a hush puppy, and then you have creamy, sweet cabbage slaw, which is the way that our slaw typically is in eastern North Carolina.
It has lots of sugar in it and mayonnaise.
And then the pork is dressed with vinegar, so it's bracing and vinegar-rich.
So in my crab in a puppy, the creamy, sweet component is gonna be the crab, and then the bracing vinegar component is gonna be the slaw, so it's just flip-flopped.
- You've heard of Murphy's Law, right?
- But have you heard of Cole's Law?
Have you seen that?
- I said it wrong.
Do you know what I'm talking about?
- That was really bad.
♪ ♪ - Is that better?
- I don't really like it.
♪ ♪ This crab salad has lumped crab, and I made a little dressing with lemon juice and mayonnaise, and lots of lemon zest.
Then I put scallion and mint.
♪ ♪ That's good.
- That's good.
I like that one better.
All right, so we want to make this a big-- Now, so you get a big whopping spoonful.
Come over here.
Drop it down.
Drop it like it's hot.
- And then press it a little bit, 'cause we really want it to be more flat, like a bun.
- Might be a little bit of talent there, huh?
♪ ♪ Is this it?
Please don't let me forget to put the caviar on there, 'cause that's something that I would do.
They're gonna have a hard time eating it.
I just like how crispy it is.
- It is.
- Are you going to do a pig in a puppy version at the restaurant now?
- I think we could do, like, an open-face, so people could eat it with a knife and fork, 'cause I feel like this is gonna be really hard to eat.
[gentle music] Dang.
♪ ♪ They're here.
- [sing-song] They're here.
- Hey, welcome to Deep Run.
Hey, I'm Vivian.
Nice to meet you.
- Hey, Vivian.
- Thanks for having us.
- We have sweet potato skins with arugula and Pecorino Romano and a maple gastrique.
We have watermelon rind pickles wrapped in bacon.
- Oh, really?
- From what?
- Your cornmeal, I guess.
- Oh, God.
Ben, if you want to get everybody the first course of wine down, we're ready to plate.
I feel like maybe I should just do it open-faced and them eat it.
These people are not gonna be able to pick this up and eat it.
- Not even the top?
- Yeah, not even the top.
- I kinda like that.
- Let me get the caviar.
Yeah, and I think they'll just have a better time eating it.
And don't see the caviar.
♪ ♪ All right, so we decided to do this open-faced, so that y'all could eat it.
[laughter] So this is kind of a riff on the pig in the puppy that they serve at Kings Bar-B-Que here in Kinston.
So y'all better eat it, because it'll get soggy.
- Man, that puppy is really good.
- Oh, my God.
- So my pig in a pup was not pig in a pup at all.
It was crab on a pup, but it was very tasty.
So we'll make a few tweaks, and you'll be seeing that one again.
♪ ♪ - All right, we ready?
- I wasn't kidding when I called cornbread a cornerstone of the Southern kitchen.
So to do it justice, I wanted to call in two of the women who have influenced me the most in the kitchen: My mom and Miss Lilly.
White or yellow?
- White, I guess.
Sometimes I use one, and sometimes I use another.
- What about you, Lilly?
- Same thing.
- Oh, no, y'all can't get the same thing.
- But I don't like the other kind.
- No, if that's what you want, I don't wanna-- I don't wanna affect the end product.
And then I'm going to get a hush puppy mix with onion.
I might put some cracklins in mine.
- Thank you so much.
- Thank you.
- Have a good day.
- All right.
I can't believe y'all wanted the same cornmeal.
- It's the same-- - That messed up my whole-- my whole story.
[mellow rock music] ♪ ♪ All right, Ashley, I need to talk to you for just a second.
So tomorrow these are the things that I'm supposed to be making on "Sunday Morning."
And so I thought you could help me round up the stuff to do that today.
- Awesome, thank you.
You can put your purse down if you want, Mom.
- And, uh, measuring cups?
I-- - I have never in my life seen you use a measuring cup for cornbread.
Now is not the time to start.
Do you need a measuring cup?
- [chuckles] So the point in me having both Mom and Lilly, two Southern cooks that I admire both their styles, doing this is just to show that cornbread is really, really personal.
And there's no wrong way unless... - It don't come out right.
[laughter] All right, let's do this, ladies.
- All right.
You tell me to eyeball this, but it's about 1 1/2 cups.
- I think you need more.
- Why didn't you let me measure it?
And about 3/4 teaspoons of salt.
- I think you need a little-- sorry, I need to stop.
- Now I'll need some water.
- And I'm gonna make this a medium consistency.
- [chuckles] - Why are you laughing?
- 'Cause I can tell you've been reading recipes.
[laughter] - So our pan is warm, and we'll put our bacon grease in the bottom.
- Okay, let's get it out.
- About 1/4 of an inch.
Boy, that's hot.
That's what makes it good is the bacon grease.
- Bacon fat.
- Bacon fat.
You have learned something.
[laughter] - Okay, you want to put that in there for me?
Spread it out.
- Oh, yeah.
See, that's what you wanna have happen, is have that bacon fat go all over the top.
- Let's leave it on 475 right now.
Later we'll turn it up.
- All right, Lilly.
There's your lard.
Do you want me to put some in a pan for you?
- The frying pan, please.
And I don't measure nothing.
- I know.
- So you trying for, like, equal parts flour and-- - No, no, no, no.
- So you just put a little bit of flour in there.
- Yeah, just make enough to do my thing.
- What do you think the little bit of flour does?
- I don't know, might make it look pretty.
- [laughs] Sugar?
- Is this the way your mom made cornbread?
- Yeah, no, my mom made it real thin like that.
- All right.
- Mm, I can smell the pork.
Can you smell that?
- Smells like grease to me.
♪ ♪ - So would you use this oil again?
Where I come from, waste not, want not.
♪ ♪ - So I've got these little cracklins.
Throw in a little bit of salt.
- So is that what they call the cracklin bread?
- Cracklin bread, yes.
I wanted to make what Grandma Hill used to make.
You know, little thin patties, and I don't know that she would have used buttermilk, 'cause I never made it with her, nobody did.
We used to just go to her house after church, and she'd have it ready.
It was a mystery that I think all of us wish we had asked about.
- That looks good.
- You're talking about yours.
- We need to flip it then.
Golden brown like that.
- It's pretty, Mom.
- Yeah, just cook it a few minutes more.
- All right, while these finish, I'm gonna start mine.
I'm having trouble with the cornbread.
This is not my finest showing.
I'm gonna start over.
Gotta show off.
- Your hair, you got a piece really sticking out.
♪ ♪ - Oh, it's better already.
All right, I'm almost ready.
- Would you take that out and put it on a paper towel?
- So my Johnny cakes.
- Thank you.
- It's good.
- It's good?
It's very tasty.
- I'm a very picky eater, but this tastes good.
I got off to a rough start over there.
[laughter] And then Lilly's little hush puppies.
I love these.
I've had them quite a bit.
Yours is the type that you want to, like, dunk in some pot liquor or-- - Some buttermilk.
- Yeah, or some buttermilk.
You know, I think the original cereal in this country was leftover cornbread crumbled into slightly sweetened buttermilk.
I think all three of us did a nice job.
- Very good.
It was very good.
- Thank you.
I've been wanting to get y'all together.
I've learned a lot from both of you.
[laughter] ♪ ♪ - How are you doing today, ma'am?
- Can we order ten pig in a puppies?
- Ten pig in a puppy.
- Hey, Joe.
- Hey, Vivian.
- How are you?
- I'm doing good.
How are you doing?
- I'm good, I'm good.
- All right, ten pig in a puppy.
- Okay, awesome.
- We even wrapped them up in really pretty checkered paper for you and everything.
- Oh, wow.
- So... - Oh, look at that.
Do you do that for everybody?
[laughter] - I'd be missing the point if I didn't show you an actual pig in a puppy.
King's Bar-B-Que in Kinston is the home of, and I believe the only place, that makes them.
In fact there are billboards on the way into town that alert you that you're fast approaching the home of the pig in a pup.
Don't miss it.
So tell me what a pig in a pup is.
- Well, a pig in a puppy is a big hush puppy, and we cut it open, and we put barbecue and coleslaw on it.
- And you eat it like a sandwich.
- And you eat it like a sandwich.
We're the only ones that do them from what I gather.
- Yeah, I can't believe nobody else has ripped that off.
- They can't figure out how to make 'em, and we're not telling anybody.
- I made some at my house the other night and stuffed them with a crab salad and a slaw, and I had a hard time keeping it together when we ate it.
You know, it, like, wanted to crumble.
- It's the meal.
I mean, you gotta get the right consistency and make sure your hands are wet, and it'll fall off into the fire.
- How many of these do you sell a week, you'd say?
- Yeah, or more.
- Every time I have somebody come from out of town, we come and get one of these, 'cause I think they're delicious.
It's not, like, you know, health food.
- No, it's not.
- But-- - People don't come to eat at Kings that want to lose weight.
[laughs] [overlapping chatter] - Okay.
- And we're just gonna do the cornbread thing?
- I don't know about the boom, man.
- Yeah, the mic is good.
- All right, where's the fridge?
- So now if I mess up, I'm just gonna start over.
- Mess up, just stop.
Tell us to start again.
Pretend we're not here and you're talking to yourself.
- Yeah, all 20 of you.
[laughter] - That's the way I always cook.
- Anyway, I think this is a pretty good perspective.
- That's great.
- This'll give us light going.
- That gives you the cuts and everything.
- So, Vivian, can you run through for me what you're gonna... - Mm-hmm.
Um, because my career has largely been about cooking southern food, I have made a lot of cornbread.
This particular cornbread, however... ♪ ♪ I've been in front of a camera a lot at this point, but these are different cameras and different people, and the expectation is different, and I want to do well, and that feels...different.
- If you describe the ingredients as you put them in instead of going through all of them, we could probably get it done a little faster.
- What do you mean, grab the ingredients as you-- - Describe them.
Start off by making the batter.
Mr. Hernandez, how you looking over there?
- Uh, good.
I just need to-- We still look good.
- Because so much of my career has been about cooking-- Because so much of my career has been about Southern food, I've made quite a bit of cornbread.
- See this shadow coming right down the dishes?
- Because so much of my career has been about Southern food, I've made quite a bit of cornbread.
- Yeah, I see a boom.
- No, it's just shadows.
- Because so much of my career has been about Southern food, I've made a lot of cornbread.
- You need to do a handheld?
- Yeah, I'd like to try it.
- Well, we're only doing this once, so... - Okay, so I'm rolling.
Let's just do one clap.
Amy, you good?
- I'm good.
Let's do it.
- All right, ready to go.
- All right.
Because much of my career has been about Southern food, I've made a lot of cornbread.
[gentle music] ♪ ♪ So what's next for me?
I don't know.
I do know that I'd like for my professional life to allow more time for my personal life.
I'm gonna start with some cornmeal.
I've chosen white cornmeal, but you could use yellow, absolutely.
But then there are all these cool opportunities that I also want to pursue, and they're exciting and also a little scary.
What do you think?
- I think we're good.
- I think we're good.
- I guess I just need to figure out what it is I want.
♪ ♪ [gentle music] ♪ ♪ - For more information on "A Chef's Life," visit pbs.org/food.
"A Chef's Life" is available on DVD.