Corn Pudding Culture | Food | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Corn Pudding Culture 

A sacred family recipe with an edge of competition

A postcard from The Southern Hotel - PHOTO COURTESY OF EMERAN IRBY
  • Photo courtesy of Emeran Irby
  • A postcard from The Southern Hotel

My grandpa was raised in The Southern Hotel, a notorious resting place for the political elite of Kentucky who were in town for business at the state capitol in Frankfort. I like to imagine him like a small-town Eloise, running through the halls, causing chaos, and dining with mayors and governors, with plates piled high with fried chicken, biscuits, greens and glorious corn pudding. 

Corn pudding is sacred in my family. Follow the recipe right and you’ll be faced with a steaming, sticky, eggy casserole with a sweet crust and a savory filling — an experience that I can only equate to what it must be like to feel God’s touch. Mess it up and you’ll be mocked and banished from all future family reunions, a sad fate if you love Southern food as much as I do. 

My mother used to love to tell me about “the Aunts” and their undeclared corn-pudding competitions, masked as church picnics or summer barbecues. These chattering, gossipy ladies would come together and challenge one another. Aunt Tish would whisper to my mother, “The secret’s vanilla,” before rushing away to her casserole dish to watch as the other “Aunts” silently judged it. These women, chained to their kitchens, soft-spoken but intensely nosy, came alive with the prospect of culinary glory. This recipe is simple and best shared with those you love.


  • 2 cups whole kernel corn (or fresh off the cob in the summertime) 
  • 4 eggs
  • 8 tbsp. flour 
  • 4 tsp. sugar
  • 4 tbsp. butter, melted
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 quart of milk (or buttermilk for extra creaminess)  


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. In a large bowl, stir the flour, salt, sugar and butter into the corn. Beat the eggs well. In a small bowl, mix eggs into the milk, then stir into the corn. Cook in a pan or casserole dish for 40-45 minutes, stirring vigorously with a long-pronged fork every 10 minutes. Try to disturb the top as little as possible. For a browner top, finish the dish under the broiler for a few minutes.

Emeran Irby is a student in Chatham University’s Master of Food Studies program.



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