By Jessica Mozo
When Meigs County 4-H member Justin Crittenden entered his Country Cornbread Dressing in the 2008 National Cornbread Festival’s 4-H cook-off in South Pittsburg,Tennessee, he didn’t think he would actually win. He was doing it mostly for the experience.
“I thought some of the other people would cook better than me – there were about 100 others who entered, and a bunch were from out of state,” says Crittenden, who turns 13 in September.
But win he did, much to his surprise.
“I about passed out when I heard I won,” he recalls. “The prize was $400, so I bought a [Nintendo] Wii and a new dirt bike.”
Crittenden’s mother, Penny, taught him how to make the prize-winning dressing when he was only 5 years old. Since then, he’s been making it for family gatherings at Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas every year. Their family typically eats it with turkey or chicken.
“It’s pretty easy. I like the taste of it when it’s all put together,” he says. “It’s not dry like some dressings. It’s always soft and moist.”
The recipe has been passed down for generations in Crittenden’s family. “Part of the recipe we keep secret, just between me, my mom and my granny,” he says proudly.
Crittenden enjoys cooking a variety of foods, including a mean eggs and bacon. But he doesn’t aspire to be a cook someday – he plans to be an archeologist.
“I’m interested in ancient history of places like Egypt, Greece and Mesopotamia,” he says.
Crittenden has been active in Meigs County 4-H for the past three years and will enter the eighth grade this fall.