Crescent Dragonwagon, prolific as a zucchini plant but much more interesting, is a much-published James Beard Award-winning author, who writes in six genres: culinary memoir/cookbooks, children’s books, fiction, poetry, performance, and essays.  An Arkansas residence for more than 30 years, her business cards now say “Vermont / Arkansas / New York / At Large.”  With her late husband, she co-founded Eureka Springs’s legendary Dairy Hollow House, the town’s first bed-and-breakfast inn and the first restaurant in the state to feature reinvented Ozark cuisine, which she dubbed “noveau’zarks.” Her book The Cornbread Gospels also gave rise to her play/performance, Until Just Moistened: A One-Woman Show, with Crumbs, which was featured at the 2018 Arkansas New Play Festival. She developed and leads Fearless Writing™,  a workshop highlighted in O, the Oprah Magazine, which she has taught worldwide; including “Writing the World through Food” at Brightwater.


Dairy Hollow House Skillet-Sizzled Cornbread

This is the cornbread I served when I owned and ran Dairy Hollow House; it was its single most requested recipe. It is the first Southern food I ever learned to fix and the one that started me on my cornbread journey. I learned how to make it in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn, New York, in 1969, when I was very young and living in a brownstone with seven other people. Viola, the soft-spoken lady friend of a kind neighbor, taught it to me. Viola was from Georgia, and it was she who initiated me into baking cornbread in an already-hot skillet.


  • Vegetable oil cooking spray
  • 1 cup unbleached white flour
  • 1 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1¼ cups buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup mild vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter, or mild vegetable oil


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spray a 10-inch cast-iron skillet with oil and set aside.
  2. Sift together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl.
  3. In a smaller bowl, stir the baking soda into the buttermilk. Whisk in the sugar, egg, and the ¼ cup oil
  4. Put the prepared skillet over medium heat, add the butter, and heat until the butter melts and is just starting to sizzle. Tilt the pan to coat the sides and bottom.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and combine them quickly, using as few strokes as possible. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake the cornbread until it is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let cool for a few moments, and slice into wedges to serve.