Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place shortening in a 10″ iron skillet (or 8″ square baking dish) and place in oven to melt.
Combine corn meal, flour, salt, baking soda, and pepper (if desired) in a mixing bowl.
Beat buttermilk and egg together in a measuring cup, then stir into dry ingredients.
Carefully remove skillet with melted shortening from oven, and pour cornbread batter into pan. Use a spoon to gently swirl the shortening over the top of the batter, trying to avoid scraping the bottom of the pan. Return to oven and bake for 17-20 minutes, until golden brown.