Southerners take cornbread seriously. There are long impassioned debates about whether or not to include eggs and buttermilk, what kind of fat to use (and how much), and even whether it's best to bake it in a skillet or a pan.
But, at least amongst the southerners we know, one thing that's generally agreed upon is that sweet cornbread is for yankees. Oh sure, you might eat a sweet corn johnnycake at breakfast, or have a sweetened corn pudding, but as far as this writer's concerned, a piece of proper southern cornbread has no added sweetener at all. It should sing with the full flavor of corn, and the caramelization of its deep golden brown crust. (Those of us with a strong sweet tooth have been known to save a piece to drizzle it with honey or molasses for an after-dinner treat.)
At our southern family's tables, as soon as that basket of fresh-from-the-oven savory cornbread is set down, we're reaching for a piece. But here in the north, we've learned to politely just say no, after being surprised one too many times by a dessert-worthy extra-sweet piece of corncake.
Related: Yeast Raised Cornbread
Image: Charles Walton for Southern Living