"Just pick it up and eat it!", she said in an exasperated tone. I stared down at the glistening corn cob. Laurie was already half way through hers, chomping down so hard that with every bite she shot out a bit of yellow corn juice. I just sat there looking back and forth from the buttered cob to her. I wanted to be her as much as I wanted to eat the corn off that cob, but I knew neither was truly possible. Laurie was my idol, a goddess among awkward 12 year olds. Honestly, this girl never had an awkward faze. Though only 11 months older she had been blessed early with long legs, beautiful black hair, and a pert little All-American nose house on a lovely heart shaped face. With my uncontrollable Jew-fro and Streisand-inspired nose I knew I could never look like her. That left my only other hope...to eat like her.
Unfortunately what stood between me and my desire to be Laurie's corn companion was a mouth full of metal. That's right! I was a serious brace face, a gift from my orthodontist Dr. Saint (yes, his real name) that was to last three very un-cool years. I was only in year one and still fearful that the wrong food might blow the braces right off my teeth. Dr. Saint had sternly advised again gum, candy, and definitely corn on the cob. I couldn't go against my orthodontist. He was a Saint for goodness sake! "Nothing is going to happen to your teeth," Laurie said, as if listening in on my mental anguish. "It's physically impossible for your face to explode from one bite of corn," she said in between buttered lip smacking. "She's right," I thought. "Stop being a wuss and don't let Dr. Saint run your life. Just do it!" And with that I opened my mouth, bared my shiny imprisoned teeth and crunched down.
Now, what I should have done was stop at the first bite. However, I hadn't crunched on anything in months so once I started, I was not about to look back. Bite after bite I filled my mouth with the intense, sweetly rich flavor of fresh corn. I didn't come up for air until all that was left was a thoroughly abused cob. I looked up at Laurie who had put down her own cob to watch me inhale mine. "Oh my god, Jamie!" she laughed. "You've got more corn in your teeth than actually went down your throat!" I knew it was true before she even said it. My teeth felt oddly heavy and tight, being weighted down by a good 2 cups of stuck corn. I raced to the bathroom to rinse my mouth and get some relief. Water didn't do anything. The kernels just smiled back at me as if to say, "Best of luck gettin' us out. We aren't moving!" Tooth brush, toothpicks, floss; I hammered at my teeth with all sorts of oral hygiene accessories but nothing worked. I picked corn out of my teeth for the next three days, always thinking I was done until another hidden kernel appeared. It took 4 years before I ate corn again and only after my braces were long gone.
OK, let's tell the truth. I still don't eat corn on the cob and haven't since wrapping my metal mouth around that fateful corn cob so long ago. With a sharp knife I now cut off all the sweet kernel goodness and ladle each bite in with a spoon. So painless and easy! My husband calls me a wuss but I really don't care. I'm still scarred from the lodged corn conundrum 18 years ago. Granted, I no longer have braces but corn in the teeth is still a valid concern. Of course, all of these old emotions are coming up because I've been surrounded by corn for the last two months. I know people eat corn morning, noon, and night when it's at the market but honestly, this is the first year I've EVER had corn at my dinner table. Why, you ask? Because I still harbor resentment (how Jewish AND motherly of me!) towards corn and haven't felt like inviting it into my kitchen, that's why!
However, that all changed a few weeks ago during a dinner party. I decided on a theme of summer salads and headed off to the market for some much needed inspiration. I loaded up my bag with crisp green beans, gorgeous orange and red cherry tomatoes, and a giant head of red leaf lettuce that I scored for $1. I initially ignored the giant wooden bins piled high to corn until I heard an elderly man, elbow deep in the bin, exclaim, "This is the best corn I've had in years!" Well, I may hold a grudge but if I can get my hands on the "best" of any type of food, all bets are off. I quickly grabbed a few good-looking ears, threw money at the cashier, and headed off home wondering what I had done.
I decide to make a roasted corn and cherry tomato salad with fresh basil. An easy representation of summer's bounty with a clincher that the corn could be off the cob. Let me just say this, the gentleman was not lying! The corn was smoky, sweet, and juicy with a just touch of crunch. Perfection! The salad was by far the most popular at the party and the only one with ZERO leftovers. (DARN!) Since then I've made a few variations, one with a cup of kidney beans, the other with a bit of farro, but always the same foundation of fresh corn, tomatoes, and basil.
It is safe to say that yes, my struggle with corn has finally been laid to rest. And the best part is, we both won in the end.
Grilled corn and tomato salad
Grilling the corn is not necessary though it adds a lovely flavor. If you don't want to heat up the grill, simply sauté the corn in olive oil with a bit of onion then add it to the tomatoes and dress accordingly. If adding beans or grain, add a few more tablespoons of dressing.
2 ears of corn, grilled and shucked
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, washed and halved
3 scallions, washed and chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into bite size pieces
2 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1-2 tablespoons white wine vinegar (you can also use lemon juice or balsamic for a sweeter taste)
salt and pepper to taste
Grill the corn until tender and segments have a nice dark char, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from the grill and once cooled, cut the tip off one end and stand the cob up in a bowl. With a sharp knife cut downward, removing the corn from the cob.
In a separate bowl add the tomatoes, scallions, and basil. Toss in the warm corn and dress with olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!