Bahamian Johnny Cake
This was a joint effort – Fred told the story, Katy wrote it up and Mary baked the Johnny cake.
When Dad was working in the Bahamas the first time, hired by the government to head up a project building houses for their lower-income citizens, he enjoyed many things. The weather was definitely one of them. The local workers huddled together in their winter coats saying “It is too cold to work, Mistah Winkah” in 70 degree weather, was not. The cook of the house, Edna, made two of his favorite dishes ever. One was conch salad (a form of ceviche made with diced conch, onions, peppers and lime juice); the other was Johnny Cake.
When we were attempting to find a good recipe for it, Dad said that the difference between Bahamian Johnny Cake and Caribbean Johnny Cake is that there’s no cornmeal in the Bahamian version. Dad recalls the first time Edna made Johnny Cake for him:
I first had Johnny Cake in a restaurant when we first visited the Bahamas. Once we moved there and hired a cook, Edna, I asked if she could make Johnny Cake “Yessah, if I have all the ingredients I can make Johnny Cake for you.” I asked, “Can I find all the ingredients at the grocery store? Edna said, “Yessah”.
The grocery store had all the ingredients except for the tin of lard. I searched and searched but found no lard. I scoured each shelf of the small grocery store – no lard. So I went to the check-out gal who was so HUGE she must have weighed about 300 pounds and sat on a stool. When I asked her if they carried a tin of lard she smiled real big and said “yes, sir right there behind you on the shelf.” I turned, and there was Crisco. She smiled real big and said “I know, I know – that’s what we call a tin of lard”.
I brought home all of the ingredients and Edna made Johnny Cake – a HUGE Johnny cake – it must have been 2 feet by 3 feet! We were only able to eat half of it in an entire week it was so big. It got stale and we threw the rest of it out. I told Edna it was too much and that I was going to buy her a smaller pan, which I did. The next time she made it, it was in the huge pan again! I didn’t see her again for a few days, and when I asked why she didn’t use the new pan, she looked at me in disgust and said, “It wouldn’t FIT!” It was all I could do to bite my tongue and walk away so she wouldn’t see me bust a gut laughing. That Edna was quite a gal.
When we visited Dad in the Bahamas, we ended up loving the Johnny Cake as much as he did. We hope you like it, too, even if it isn’t consumed under a palm tree with tropical breezes.
Bahamian Johnny Cake
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
1⁄2 cup crisco or other shortening
2/3 cup milk
Combine dry ingredients then cut in shortening until the size of rice grains. Add milk gradually, just enough to make dough soft. Knead dough until smooth then let it rest for about 10 minutes.
Place dough in greased 8 or 9 inch round or square pan. Pierce top of dough with a fork. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until golden.
Remove from oven and baste top of bread with milk. Return to oven and allow to bake for 5 more minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool a few minutes.