Talk:Johnnycake

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Possibly the worst single article on Wikipedia.[edit]

This is actually probably the worst single article on the entire site.

1. It’s “Johnny Cakes” (two words).

2. They were popularized by their extensive use by Confederate soldiers during the American Civil War, irregardless where they may (or were NOT) created.

It’s time to delete it all and start all over again.

65.102.19.148 (talk) 02:34, 17 February 2009 (UTC) A REDDSON

The article needs a clean up, for sure, but I don't believe an AfD is in order as of yet. Be bold and improve the article with reliable sources. Surv1v4l1st (Talk|Contribs) 00:09, 7 March 2009 (UTC)
Well, the overblown complaint here is entirely based on original research--this thing about being popularized, tell that to the people in Rhode Island, and the remark about the spelling is simply not correct. Besides, deletion is for non-notable topics, not for cleanup. Drmies (talk) 00:29, 15 March 2010 (UTC)
It may be overblown, but it does need work I think. As someone who grew up in South County area of Rhode Island and still lives in RI, I don't know about Johnny Cakes being a "staple". It might be a nice, quaint thing to tell tourist or even for us natives to romantically imagine, but aside from a few devoted Swamp Yankees I doubt there's overwhelming amount of residents or natives for whom it's really a staple food. jrun (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 06:26, 22 April 2010 (UTC).
This article indeed is terrible - repetitive, contradictory, etc. - basically like some team of 9th graders did it as a class project with each student writing one paragraph. But, the worst article in wiki-land - no way, there are plenty more that are far worse - this is, compared to some, possitively pulitzer prize material. of course, if you're looking at wiki for anything more than a laugh, then you're in real trouble. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 192.158.48.11 (talk) 20:14, 10 January 2013 (UTC)

Cleaned up article & The Sopranos reference[edit]

Johnnycakes are an unleavened pancake. They are not bread. So I changed the stub category back to the correct stub. I also generally rewrote the article and took out all of the passive phrasing. Carmela Soprano 17:39, 17 November 2006 (UTC)

Is the reference to The Sopranos all that relevent? I say dump it.—Preceding unsigned comment added by 198.236.216.252 (talkcontribs)
As previously written, the reference was poorly phrased and amorphous. I rewrote it and added a trivia header. According to an article I read in a cooking magazine, demand for johnnycakes increased significantly after their regular appearance in several episodes of The Sopranos, so that suggests it is relevant. Carmela Soprano 17:39, 17 November 2006 (UTC)

Caribbean[edit]

Isn't it also eaten in the English-speaking Caribbean? Badagnani (talk) 06:05, 21 May 2008 (UTC)

British Isles[edit]

In the book 'Fairy Tales from the British Isles' by Amabel Williams-Ellis, published in 1960 there is a fairy tale 'Johnny-Cake' and she makes the annotation that acknowledges that the tale was collected via the US but that its origin is British. She makes reference to a Scottish version as well.

There is also a story "Johnny-Cake" in the 1890 book "English Fairytales" collected by Joseph Jacobs. He lists his source as "_American Journal of Folk-Lore_, ii. 60." It may be that Jacobs is the source that Williams-Ellis used: in his introduction he mentioned that he used tales that "... have been found among descendants of English immigrants in America". I don't suppose anyone here has access to a copy of the American Journal or Folk-Lore? Thehalfone (talk) 13:53, 22 February 2015 (UTC)

Australia[edit]

There is an old ballad 'Four little Johnny Cakes' and it is more likely to be of British origin than American.

Spelling in title[edit]

Please, somebody, change the title to Johnnycake! http://www.aolsvc.merriam-webster.aol.com/dictionary/johnnycake, http://www.wordnik.com/words/johnnycake, http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/johnnycake. Yopienso (talk) 06:39, 23 October 2009 (UTC)

It appears to me that "johnnycake" is the primary form of the word. From Google:

Even Wiktionary has wiktionary:johnnycake as the primary form. The Oxford English Dictionary has johnnycake. Bill Bryson, Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language in America (New York: Perennial, 2001), 184, has johnnycake, along with some nice info on its etymology that should be added. More Word Histories and Mysteries: From Aardvark to Zombie (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006), s.v. "johnnycake" (by the editors of the American Heritage Dictionary) has johnnycake. Add that to the dictionaries User:Yopienso points to above and that is quite a preponderance of sources attesting to "johnnycake" over "jonnycake." User:Drmies points to "jonnycake" on Google Books, which is not an argument. I can do the same thing.

It appears to me that johnnycake, with the "h" is the primary form. TuckerResearch (talk) 18:42, 22 April 2012 (UTC)

One of the books in the "Further reading" section also has "johnny-cake." TuckerResearch (talk) 05:10, 23 April 2012 (UTC)

Requested move[edit]

The following discussion is an archived discussion of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the move request was: Move. Jafeluv (talk) 12:10, 29 April 2012 (UTC)


JonnycakeJohnnycake – See talk above - it is the common spelling in English. TuckerResearch (talk) 21:36, 22 April 2012 (UTC)

  • Support Jonnycake is the Rhode Island name - see [1] (a clearly reliable source, (maybe even county specific, [2]).Dougweller (talk) 15:48, 23 April 2012 (UTC)
The above discussion is preserved as an archive of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

What's the difference between "jonnycake" and a "modern jonnycake"?[edit]

The article says that the origin of the food is probably Native American, which seems fairly likely, that the earliest attestation of the term is from South Carolina, that it is the "'cornerstone' of Southern cuisine," yet the second paragraph of the intro has "The modern jonnycake... originated in Rhode Island." Is there a difference between a Rhode Island jonnycake and a Southern one? A "regular" and a "modern"? Otherwise it seems that the claim it "originated" in Rhode Island is local cuisine puffery, especially if the food is definitely American Indian in origin. TuckerResearch (talk) 18:17, 22 April 2012 (UTC)

It's worse. The lead says it's a cornmeal flatbread, but there are johnnycakes, however spelled, that are clearly not flatbreads. And that don't have cornmeal in them.[3][4] [5]. Dougweller (talk) 20:36, 22 April 2012 (UTC)

Flour johnnycakes?[edit]

The West Indies section (formerly Jamaica) says johnnycakes are known by an alternative name and are made with flour, etc. Doesn't that just mean it's a different item completely? I hear in Canada they call ham sandwiches "turkey sandwiches" and make them with turkey instead of ham. --Rhododendrites (talk) 22:55, 13 June 2013 (UTC)

Gross photo![edit]

Google Johnnycake and see what images come up - 99.9999% of them show very tasty examples of cornmeal goodness. Now, look at the photo at the top of this article - I wouldn't feed my dog the things pictured here (not that he'd eat them either)... — Preceding unsigned comment added by 68.51.66.32 (talk) 22:44, 5 August 2013 (UTC)

Thank you for your suggestion. When you believe an article needs improvement, please feel free to make those changes. Wikipedia is a wiki, so anyone can edit almost any article by simply following the edit this page link at the top.
The Wikipedia community encourages you to be bold in updating pages. Don't worry too much about making honest mistakes—they're likely to be found and corrected quickly. If you're not sure how editing works, check out how to edit a page, or use the sandbox to try out your editing skills. New contributors are always welcome. You don't even need to log in (although there are many reasons why you might want to). WhatamIdoing (talk) 02:05, 6 August 2013 (UTC)

Ha! I tend to agree. I did a couple searches for an available image (meeting WP licensing requirements) and the only better one I could find is one from the same series as this one but with a url overlaid on the bottom. Since it's ok to modify, it could be cropped out but I don't have means to do so. By all means go for it--or better yet, fry up some johnnycakes and snap an even better photo to upload to the Commons! --Rhododendrites (talk) 22:06, 6 August 2013 (UTC)

A johnnycake by any other name is still a johnnycake, but other things that are called a johnnycake are still other things[edit]

First sentence: "Johnnycake (also jonnycake, johnny cake, journey cake, shawnee cake and johnny bread) is a cornmeal flatbread that was an early American staple food and is prepared on the Atlantic coast from Newfoundland to Jamaica.[1]" Infobox: "main_ingredient = Cornmeal."

So why are there "variations" that share no ingredients (other than salt) with this johnnycake. Most importantly, wouldn't replacing cornmeal with flour completely disqualify something? Just because something is known by some people or in one recipe book under a certain name doesn't mean it should share that namesake's article -- it should instead be an "other name" in the appropriate article for what that term signifies.

For example: If a drink of vodka mixed with orange juice is known as a "Pina Colada" in Iceland, it should say so in the article for Screwdriver (cocktail) not in the article for Pina colada.

I removed the unsourced "variations," which in addition to not making sense amount to OR. Now removing others that seem to have no connection other than the name. From a Wikipedia standpoint that seems to make sense, but perhaps someone with more knowledge of culinary history and/or regional cuisines would disagree... The only relevant "variation" was for "New England" which was just copied and pasted text from earlier in the article. --Rhododendrites (talk) 04:21, 31 October 2013 (UTC)

I don't think there is such a thing as a "canonical" johnnycake which has "variations". There is a family of quick flatbreads all known as johnnycake, and all probably related historically. Just because the Rhode Islanders have created a well-defined folklore around their version doesn't mean that their version is more authentic, traditional, or original.
This sort of thing is not uncommon with foods. Horchata, for example, started out as a barley-based drink, but today there are versions made with almonds, sesame seeds, rice, barley, or tigernuts; I don't think it's helpful or useful to have separate articles on, say Almond horchata, Tigernut horchata, etc. Sausage was almost always made of pork in the past, but today we have sausage made of chicken, turkey, tofu, etc. Of course they're different, but it makes sense to cover them all in the same article. --Macrakis (talk) 02:55, 1 November 2013 (UTC)
Sure, that's a fine point. But there are also articles for salami, vegetarian hot dogs, pepperoni, black pudding, and a bunch of others. If one cookbook from the Dominican Republic refers to what is, by most reliable sources agreed to be pepperoni, as "black pudding" it wouldn't be on the black pudding page. Regardless, the bulk of this article -- almost everything other than the list of [mostly unsourced] variations -- described and tells the story of the New England johnnycake (relationship with Native Americans, cornmeal basis, name origins, etc.). I may be wrong, certainly -- not much experience editing food/drink-related articles -- but it seems if it's about "quick flat breads all known as johnnycake" it should be that and not the current text that should shape the article. As it stands now and stood before I removed those bits, it seems to support the one version in particular.--Rhododendrites (talk) 04:51, 1 November 2013 (UTC)
I agree with you that Wikipedia is organized around things, not words, but in this case, we have a family of quickbreads with many resemblances and probably a common origin. True, the variants don't necessarily agree along various axes: corn/wheat/other, fried/baked, leavened/unleavened, water/milk. But that is typical of such families. Other examples of families like this are: books -- are they paper/electronic, typeset/handwritten, short/long, bound/unbound, etc.
Yes, there are many kinds of sausage, and many variants have their own article, but there is also a master article. Similarly, there should be a master article on johnnycakes. Frankly, I don't think there is enough to say about Australian, Dominican, Belizean, etc. versions, but if there is, nothing prevents us from having those articles in addition to this article.
I agree that the current article has more on the North American version than the Carribean etc. versions, but the article can and should be improved, reducing systemic bias and including multiple points of view.
So I propose we go back to the version before your edits and start from there in improving it. --Macrakis (talk) 16:31, 2 November 2013 (UTC)
I guess I just don't understand how they're related other than being called by that word (purportedly -- most of what I removed had no sources). It seems to me, based on this article, that there is a sensible narrative supported by most of the sources that the johnnycake talked about here is the one that originated in New England. If that's the case, it's hard to think there's an Australian "variation" but rather an Australian cakelike food that has also been referred to using that name.
Don't get me wrong, if it turns out there are sources that show the variations to be actual variations and not just shared namesakes, they should be included but in what I removed there was nothing other than the name to connect them (and the fact that they are a breadlike/cakelike product--which you could assume of anything with the name ___cake). If anything I think the master article should be something like pancake, cake, or the like.
In short, there are lots of sources pointing to the history of the New England cornmeal-based version, few if any for any others, and most of the others share nothing aside from the name. But here is where I will disclose my own bias as not just an English speaker but someone who lived in Rhode Island for a time, where johnnycakes are commonly understood to have a local origin, common in independent restaurants, and staples on certain special occasions like traditional "May Breakfasts." --Rhododendrites (talk) 22:49, 2 November 2013 (UTC)
Why do you take the Rhode Island story as the most definitive? After all, the earliest sources we have don't seem to be from New England, but from the South, as documented in footnotes 6 and 7. The fact that Johnnycakes have been considered for some decades to be a traditional Rhode Island food, says very little -- perhaps nothing more than that there was a clever marketing campaign by some local mills [6][7]. Or maybe it was the writings of Thomas Robinson Hazard, notably Folk-lore of the Narragansett Country in Rhode Island: The Jonny-cake Letters of "Shepherd Tom". In any case, just because they are well-popularized in RI doesn't mean that they originate from there or are more authentic there.
There are plenty of pre-1850 sources documenting it in Delaware, the Carolinas, Virginia [8], etc., under both the name Johnnycake and hoecake: "In the Southern States, ... Hoe-cake, which is the johnny-cake of New England... [is] in common use as bread" [9]
If you look through the 19th-century Google Book results, you will find huge variation in the recipe for Johnnycakes. In fact, in one 1838 book from New England, William Andrus Alcott's The Young House-keeper, Or, Thoughts on Food and Cookery, you will find four radically diverse recipes under the title "Indian or 'Johnny' Cake": one is a sort of baked tortilla; another is mixed with potatoes, raised with yeast, and baked; another is a sort of Indian pudding; and the last is 3:1 corn:wheat and raised with baking powder ("saleratus"). If we see such radical differences in a single cookbook, just think of the differences across cooks in various parts of the country!
And sure enough, if we consult Mary Randolph's The Virginia Housewife: Or, Methodical Cook (also 1838), her Johnnycake or Rice Journey is based on rice, though she does say that "small hominy boiled and mixed with rice flour, is better than all rice".
One common (but not universal) theme in johnnycake recipes is cooking in front of a fire on a board. Another is that it is crude, cheap, unprestigious, and easy to make.
The most common (modal) recipe seems to be: mix corn meal and water or milk, spread on a wooden board, bake in front of a fire. The oven-baked and fried versions seem to be later. But that doesn't mean they're any less "valid"! The modern Rhode Island version is formed into small cakes (not one large cake) and fried on a griddle -- which doesn't make it "wrong".... --Macrakis (talk) 15:44, 3 November 2013 (UTC)
I think you're successfully proving me wrong here. Local food is something people in RI care a lot about, so it's possible that there are sources that establish its origin as even older than those above (this was my impression anyway), but that also means concerted marketing by e.g. Kenyon's (the mill with the product pictured) would find an audience eager to buy an origin tale. Regardless, I don't have those sources of lore. I've restored the Variations sections that had any sources at all. --Rhododendrites (talk) 16:11, 3 November 2013 (UTC)


Hazard may well be the origin of the RI legend. His Jonny-cake papers are pretty amusing. According to "Shepherd Tom":
...an old-fashioned Narragansett jonny-cake made by an old-time Narragansett colored cook, from Indian corn meal raised on the southern coast of Rhode Island, the fabled Atlantis, where alone the soft, balmy breezes from the Gulf Stream ever fan the celestial plant in its growth, and impart to the grain that genial softness, that tempting fragrance and delicious flavor, that caused the Greeks of old to bestow upon Narragansett corn meal the name of Ambrosia, imagining to be a food originally designed and set apart by the gods exclusively for their own delectation.
But alas, since the introduction of coal fires, cooking stoves, common schools, and French and Irish bedeviling cooks, the making and baking of a jonny-cake has become one of the lost arts.
He goes on with this wonderful hyperbole through the whole book.
An academic article about the book, "Eating in Eden: The Jonny-Cake Papers of 'Sheperd Tom'" (Keith Stavely, Kathleen Fitzgerald, in Authenticity in the Kitchen ed. Richard Hosking p. 409), characterizes the book as "one of the productions of the Colonial Revival movement of the late 19th century", which is certainly true. But they seem to miss the humor and self-parody ("...caused the Greeks of old to bestow upon Narragansett corn meal the name of Ambrosia..." etc.). --Macrakis (talk) 16:19, 3 November 2013 (UTC)
Here's the full text of the Hazard book. The Stavely + Fitzgerald article also mentions the Hazard family's exports to the West Indies, which reminds us that there was always much trade between the 13 colonies and the Caribbean, perhaps having something to do with johnnycakes there. --Macrakis (talk) 16:38, 3 November 2013 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────I haven't had much to do with this article for quite a while, but I don't think that simply because the Australians have a flatbread called johnnycake, or that other groups do, that we can assume that there is a 'family' of related flatbreads. We need sources showing the relationships, otherwise they shouldn't be in this article. This[10] might do, but finding "At one time, maybe one in four of all Australian housekeepers or hutkeepers made their own damper or bread. ... If sugar was added, and maybe a handful of dried fruit, it was more often called a johnnycake or brownie." worries me, that seems too far from American johnnycake to be sure the word is related - see also [11] for "johnnycake damper" made with flour and raisins. Ah, 1862 in Australia, johnnycakes as soda cakes[12] p.217. Austral English: A Dictionary of Australasian Words, Phrases and Usages says the word is of American origin.[13]. This Australian source[14] says it originated in America. That's probably enough. And although the use of the word is earlier, the first recipe in an American written cookbook seems to be that in American Cookery by Amelia Simmons written in 1786:

Johny Cake, or Hoe Cake_.

Scald 1 pint of milk and put to 3 pints of Indian meal, and half pint of flower--bake before the fire. Or scald with milk two thirds of the Indian meal, or wet two thirds with boiling water, add salt, molasses and shortening, work up with cold water pretty stiff, and bake as above.


I've found:

Rhubarb Johnnycake[15]

2 cups sliced rhubarb 3 tablespoons sugar 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger 1 cup corn flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup sugar 1 stick (4oz) of unsalted butter – softened 2 eggs 2 tablespoons sour cream 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Same name, but clearly not related. Found a recipe for Australian johnnycake[16] - except there's nothing Australian about it. This Australian source[17] refers to something called a johnnycake or puffaloon made without cornmeal. A bit of a mess but that's cookery. Sorry for the disorganisation of my post. Dougweller (talk) 17:27, 3 November 2013 (UTC)

Thanks for the additional sources. The Rhubarb Johnnycake recipe seems like part of a continuum, though of course different. Anyway, it and several others above are just random web pages with no claim to being WP:RS. As for whether it is related or not, even the Rhode Island grist mills include recipes for Johnnycakes with cheddar cheese, which none of the old recipes do.... Interesting, too, that the earliest recipe we have includes 1/7 what flour as well as optional sweetener and fat (though not leavening). --Macrakis (talk) 18:48, 3 November 2013 (UTC)


I disagree entirely with the idea that other things called Johnnycake should not be on the Johnnycake page. In order to be useful anything called a Johnnycake should be listed on the Johnnycake page with an explanation of how it is different from the other things called Johnnycakes. Using one of the examples above: if the people of Iceland call a drink of vodka and orange juice a piña colada than that information should be on both the piña colada page and the Screwdriver page. The purpose of this site is to be informative not to act as a gatekeeper of "correct usage", descriptive not prescriptive! Sheherazahde (talk) 03:39, 18 November 2013 (UTC)

The same article that debunks the cooking of hoe cakes on garden hoes also cites a 1755 source that talks about an English Hoe Cake made of wheat flour. Since Hoe Cakes don't get their own page that information should be here. Sheherazahde (talk) 04:15, 18 November 2013 (UTC)

Were they cooked on a hoe or weren't they?[edit]

I don't want to get into an argument about this. Maybe the topic needs it's own section in the article. But right now two sections contradict each other and both have citations.

"Myth" seems a bit pejorative. Can we say "It is still widely believed that hoe cakes used to cooked on the backs of hoes, but new research indicates that large flat kitchen skillets were sometimes called hoes and there is no testimony of anyone actually cooking hoe cakes on garden hoes."? Sheherazahde (talk) 03:55, 18 November 2013 (UTC)

Origin[edit]

This whole section seems not to relate to the other part of the article. It concentrates on southern cuisine, when johnycakes are mostly thought of as New England food. If there is a southern Johnycake, then it needs to be explained as well. It's really an entry on corn... The info is not really correct either as corn was a common food from New England to the South, especially early on. In the south it became more important later because wheat was hard to grow there, and during the Civil War, it could not be easily imported. Corn was also extremely important in the Southwest - considered sacred by Native American tribes. Actually Native Americans, who practiced agriculture grew corn in many regions of North America. It continues to be important with the Mexican American culture as well. Of course the Midwest is also corn country. And then what about the rest of Central and South America?