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A Georgia bill wants to name cornbread as the state bread

DON GONYEA, HOST:

Great cooks know this - having the right bread can make or break a meal. In Georgia, a great bread debate recently made it to the floor of the General Assembly.

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GREGG KENNARD: Isn't it true that cornbread is something special? But wouldn't you agree that the biscuit is superior?

KASEY CARPENTER: Clearly, I don't believe that, or I wouldn't have dropped this fine legislation, my friend.

GONYEA: That was a Democrat, Representative Gregg Kennard, on Team Biscuit, questioning his Republican colleague Kasey Carpenter, who is Team Cornbread. Carpenter is so much on Team Cornbread that he's introduced a bill to make it Georgia's official state bread. He joins us now to explain why. Representative Kasey Carpenter, welcome to the program.

CARPENTER: Thank you so much for having me. I'm a big fan of what you do.

GONYEA: Let's go back to the beginning. When did your love of cornbread begin?

CARPENTER: Probably in infancy. We grew up eating cornbread and milk, so it's always been a big part of our family. We're in the restaurant business, and so we've eaten cornbread, you know, at least five times a week for the last 45, 44 years of my life.

GONYEA: What part of the state did you grow up in?

CARPENTER: We're up in northwest Georgia, Dalton.

GONYEA: I've been to Dalton. So make your case for us for cornbread over biscuits as the official state bread. I mean, the biscuit has a pretty impressive pedigree across the South.

CARPENTER: Yeah. As a bigger fella (ph), I'm a big fan of biscuits too. But I just - you know, the heritage of cornbread, going back to the Cherokee Indians in our area and across the state, to me is what makes it special. And there's a lot of different variations around the state. People put corn in it, jalapenos in it, crackling in it. They do skillet bread. But it all comes back to that corn crop and utilizing what's grown in Georgia.

GONYEA: How did your fellow legislators react to this bill? Did it take much convincing to get them to join you?

CARPENTER: No, not really. You know, I think it's funny how important - you know, we really dropped the bill with an urging of the historical society up in Dalton. There's an old mill in town. And so those folks were just - you know, they'd been talking to me for years about it, and I just never really got around to it. And just finally, with all the partisan politics going on, we thought, why not drop something that can bring us all together? And so, you know, it's something people got on board with pretty quick, to be honest with you.

GONYEA: 155 yea, three nay.

CARPENTER: Yep. Some of them were yeast roll folks and the other two were biscuit folks.

GONYEA: So what is your go-to cornbread type?

CARPENTER: We do it just a pinch of sugar. We use mayonnaise because it keeps it nice and moist. But I'm kind of an equal opportunity offender. I can eat it pretty much any way.

GONYEA: I understand there is some debate about the use of sugar.

CARPENTER: Yeah, a lot of the old hats don't believe in sugar. I agree, I'm not a huge fan of sweet cornbread, but I do think a little pinch of sugar doesn't hurt. I was doing a lot of research on this bill and found out that when the industrialization happened, that's when people started putting a little sugar back into the mix, because you were losing that sweetness from the original corn.

GONYEA: And you still need to get the bill through the state Senate, though. Have you been counting votes in that chamber?

CARPENTER: No, I haven't, but I look forward to that debate. It should be a lot of excitement.

GONYEA: So there are some opportunities out there for some unity.

CARPENTER: Absolutely. I think you'll see at the state level, 9 times out of 10, most of the things we pass are bipartisan. But just like anything, it's a presidential year. So there'll be some firebrand on both sides for sure.

GONYEA: Even on cornbread?

CARPENTER: Not on cornbread, not on cornbread.

GONYEA: We've been talking to State Representative Kasey Carpenter, sponsor of a bill to make cornbread the official bread of the great state of Georgia. Thank you so much for talking to us about it.

CARPENTER: Yep. I really appreciate you having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.