There is little that is more satisfying than when you come across a taste from your childhood. A bite of apricot pie transports me to the kitchen of my childhood home. In that memory, I stand tugging at my mom’s apron strings waiting for her to give me a job, as I so desperately wanted to be a part of the pie-making process. A steaming bowl of rice pudding, or as we called it “milk rice,” warms my body and my soul. We would eat it for dinner – it was rice, after all – simmered in milk, a little sugar, and vanilla extract. Even macaroni and cheese from the blue box carries with it some sort of sentimentality, as it was one of the first things I learned how to “cook.” My brother liked to add hot dogs to his. I liked mine straight up.
My brother also liked creamed corn. I think he and I were the only ones in the family who did. It slid out of the can into a pot to be gently warmed on the stove. When it hit your plate it slowly invaded everything around it, so nearly every bite, be it steak or steamed broccoli, also carried with it a taste of creamed corn. It was oddly sweet and smooth, but with enough corn texture to keep you interested and to subtly remind you that you are, indeed, eating a vegetable.
I think of these taste memories often as I prepare food for my three children. What food will cause them to stumble back into these days of LEGOs and grass stains? Will they fondly remember our family meals, hectic as they are in these young years, and carry on the tradition of home cooking with their own families?
One thing I know for sure, they will have creamed corn, although I doubt they will ever know that it also comes in canned form. Homemade creamed corn uses the sweetness gleaned from the sun to improve upon the flavor instead of white sugar. My version is also flecked with little green strands of fresh basil, providing a soft anise bite and a flavor that is unequivocally “summer.” Someday I hope my children will resist pulling out those little green strands, but as for the corn, they always go for seconds.
by Ashley Rodriguez
Chef, food blogger, and full-time mom. Read more of her writings at www.notwithoutsalt.com