I bought an assortment of Marie Callender's baking mixes a little while ago - back when the weather cooled down and I thought that autumn was finally here and I'd be running the oven more. Here it is a week later, and it's been kind of warm and humid again, much more like summer, and I only had time to make one of the mixes before the weather turned. So I've decided to review the mixes one at a time, as we make them, rather than go on a baking bender and review all of them at once. This review - for Marie Callender's Honey Butter Corn Bread Mix - will be the first of four reviews over the coming weeks.
First, though, let me explain a little about the difference between Northern corn bread and Southern corn bread.
Northern-style (or New England style, if you prefer) corn bread is generally moist, rather dense, and somewhat on the sweet side. Some of my Southern friends have described it as being more like a cake. I never thought of it as particularly sweet - at least, it wasn't all that sweet the way my mother made hers, but it is certainly sweeter than most Southern recipes.
Southern-style cornbread calls for less sugar, has a drier and more delicate texture, and crumbles more easily.
Which variety you prefer seems to depend entirely upon where you grew up and what kind of cornbread your mother made. Serving a pan of each variety to a mixed crowd of Yankees and Southerners can be a real hoot: the Southerners mock the Northern corn bread for being a cakey dessert, while the Northerners choke and grab for glasses of milk to wash down "that dry-ass Southern stuff."
Now, the reason I've gone off on such a long tangent about types of corn bread is because Marie Callender's Corn Bread Mix produces a dense, sweet, and very moist corn bread - Northern style - and I want to forewarn Southern readers that they might want to skip it because it's not going to be anything like you've come to expect. On the other hand, it's wicked easy to whip up - just add water to the mix and stir, then pour the batter into an 8 x 8-inch brownie pan and bake - and it makes quite an excellent corn bread (to my New England palate.)
Speaking of tangents:
As far as I can tell, there are at least three entities out there in Corporate Food Land, operating more or less independently under the Marie Callender's name:
- The original California restaurant chain, Marie Callender's Restaurant and Bakery
- A line of frozen foods produced under license and made since 1993 by ConAgra, who purchased the frozen food company and retained the rights to the name, and
- Marie Callender's Gourmet Products, which make the baking mixes.
Other than the name, I don't think the companies have much in common. It's all very confusing.