I haven’t been a football fan ever since I hung up my own helmet after playing guard for three years on the high school team, but when I heard about the veritable tailgate feasts thrown by students and alumni every season on the Ole Miss campus, in Oxford, my interest was revived. Groaning buffet tables of barbecue, roasts, casseroles, fried chicken, hot dips, pimento cheese sandwiches and sausage biscuits, rich layer cakes and elaborate pecan pies—the array of Southern dishes is staggering, not the least this sumptuous cornbread, the pride of one alumna. The unusual bread is almost like a firm spoonbread, so much so that you may choose to serve it (using a big spoon) as a casserole with no more than some fried okra, coleslaw, or a green salad.
In a skillet, break up the sausage, add the onion, and cook over moderate heat, stirring, till the meat is browned, about 10 minutes. Drain the sausage and onion on paper towels.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, salt, pepper, and baking soda. In another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, oil, and eggs, add to the dry mixture, and stir just till the dry mixture is moistened. (Do not overmix; the batter should be slightly lumpy.) Add the cheese, black-eyed peas, and chiles and stir till the mixture is well blended. Scrape the batter into the prepared dish, and
© 2007 All rights reserved. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.