Friends, Romans, Countrymen: Lend me your ears

Standard

‘And I’ll show you how to make Corn Salad’

“Leftover corn? What’s that?” Would be what any member of the Henry Clan would say if you offered to share this recipe.

Because, when I was growing up, there simply wasn’t any corn left over after we were done attacking a big ole platter of ears.

Each of us could pack away more than one could imagine a normal child could consume. But it was my Oldest Younger Brother Scott who was the Corn Champion. His capacity for corn was so prodigious that my Grampa Peterson said Scott’s middle name should be “Sweet Corn”, and actually used to refer to him—in the summertime, anyway, when the corn was at its peak and Scott would eat the most—as “Scott Sweet-Corn Henry”.

The guy who dubbed my brother “Scott Sweet-Corn Henry”, my beloved pipe-smoking Grampa P

Scott could indeed polish off six or seven ears at a go. And that was when he was, like, five. He was also amazingly fast at consuming corn. I can’t remember what his record was (and is), but he could denude an ear in seconds. (Scott Pro Tip for Speed-Eating an Ear: corn-rotation beats the typewriter method every time.)

Me with Scott in his peak corn-capacity prime. I honestly don’t know where the heck we are. (Maybe the Badlands on one of our road trips?) But we’re looking rather Joad-like

It didn’t hurt that we had access to, basically, the Best Corn on the Planet Earth. When we were at the Henry Farm where my Dad grew up, some Henry Grownup would put a big ole pot of water on the stove to boil, then send us kids out to the cornfield to gather, then shuck, the ears. They’d get thrown in the pot, and presto! All that corn would just—disappear. (If you don’t have access to a corn field, I do have a corn-cooking method that is the next best thing, and works perfectly every time. It’s featured prominently in “To Hell with Kale”.)

That’s me, being toted by my Henry Uncle Mike. That’s my Aunt Susie next to him. We all look ready for some corn

So no recipe for Corn Salad was handed down to me by an Aunt or a Gramma or even a Mom. This was something I had to make up myself, after I’d grown up and turned into a Whitmore. (Whitmores like corn only so-so okay; though, in fact, The Dude can polish off a couple of ears—sometimes three— with admirable dispatch.

Whitmores have their own crazy food craving: bread. But that’s a story for another time

But Dude Man is the exception rather than the rule, corn-wise. There are Whitmores who have graced my table and refused an ear of corn. Even my personal Child has not inherited the Corn Gene. Here’s an actual text exchange from a couple of summers ago:

But that’s okay. I honestly don’t mind having a few leftover ears, since I can make Corn Salad. As I mentioned, there isn’t really a recipe; it’s more of a method. In fact, making Corn Salad is kind of like that old fable about “Stone Soup”. That’s the one where the starving peasant suggests making soup of of stones because that’s the only thing he’s got. (They were starving peasants, remember.) So he gets a big pot of water boiling and all his neighbors start throwing stuff in: a few potatoes, turnips, and suchlike peasant stuff. And voila! Soup. (There’s some moral here, about sharing, you see. Which if you read last week’s “He’s breathing my air”, you’ll see I already know a whole lot about.)

Basically all you need to make Corn Salad. Oh, plus some leftover corn

So. Corn Salad. Start with however much leftover corn you happen to have. You’ll need at least two ears to make it worth your while. Stand the ears upright in the bowl you plan to serve from. (Make sure it’s a pretty big bowl.) Cut the kernels off with a big ole knife. Then add some cooked pasta that you’ve rinsed with cold water. I usually “match” the amount to the amount of corn, but it doesn’t really matter. It also doesn’t matter what kind of pasta, as long as it’s smallish. (It’s fun to make it with orecchiette, since that means “little ears”.)

Then add a couple of generous spoonfuls of mayo. Splash in some white vinegar. Say, about a third as much as the mayo. (Again, it doesn’t really matter. Honest.) Now sort of toss the mixture with a couple of spoons till everything is coated. Salt and pepper to taste, and you’re good to go.

Another fun thing Scott can do with food: make a clam talk! But no, clams don’t taste good in Corn Salad

But wait, there’s more! (Here’s where the Stone Soup analogy kicks in.) You have the freedom with Corn Salad to add as many tasty things as you please. I always throw in some frozen peas. You don’t cook them, just throw some in. As many as you like. And often I add some snipped-up black olives—those greek kind are really nice.

Want your Corn Salad to be a nice main dish? Add some drained canned tuna. This is one of my Summer Staples, since everybody seems to like it. Except once I caught a Bad Houseguest picking the tuna out of the bowl and popping it into her mouth. When I asked what in heaven’s name she was doing, she said she’d “had enough carbs that week”, and “only wanted the protein”. I handed her a can of tuna from the cabinet and instructed her to eat that.

If you’re lucky enough to have some of these, add them too. Though only right before serving—they don’t do well in the fridge

You can also add some snipped basil leaves. But again, don’t do this if you plan to refrigerate your Corn Salad. Like tomatoes, they’ll turn icky on you.

Okay. I’m hungry now. But I can’t make Corn Salad. Alas, I have only this one lonely ear.

My sad little leftover ear. Which I will take out on the deck to devour with suitable dispatch momentarily

Oh, and since most occasions that yield leftover corn also tend to be large gatherings, if you whip up a batch, you too can enjoy an extra treat—fun family moments like this one, captured at a recent Henry HooHah by my most marvelous sis-in-law, Nobody-Doesn’t-Like-Jenn. Happy End of Summer! May all your Corn Salads be tasty and bright!

Amagansett, New York. September 2018