Shucking corn was always one of my jobs while I was growing up. In the summers, when we would go to my grandma Bunny’s house out in Woodland Hills, I would be sheparded out to the front patio and seated on the bench of the picnic table. Whichever adult who had come out there with me would set a brown paper bag from Ralph’s between my feet and remind me to stack the ears carefully, once they were freed from it husks and unrelenting wisps of silk. Standing in my kitchen tonight, the smell of the three ears I rapidly husked were heady and hypnotic, and just for a moment made me look around to make sure I wasn’t 7 years old and sitting near the blacktop of Bunny’s driveway.
When my dad was young and living in Hawaii, Bunny would put a big pot of water on the stove to boil, and then send her boys outside. Across the road from the pineapple plantation on which they lived were corn fields. They would run over as the water started to bubble, picking corn and shucking the husks as they ran back home. That corn was never more than five minutes off the stalk by the time it hit the water.
Eating corn on the cob is one of the great joys of life, and when it was on the menu, there was always enough for everyone who came to dinner around Bunny’s big table (which now sits in my parents’ dining room). During my first year on the planet, I was advanced at everything except the growth of my teeth. I walked early and I spoke in full sentences while other kids my age were still stringing three words together and crowing at their success. The one place where I did not develop early was in my gums. At a year old, I did not have enough teeth to handle corn on the cob, and I found it maddening. My mom happily cut the kernels off the cob for me, but I never liked it. Even as a baby, I was always in a rush to be a grown up.
Tonight, I treated my three ears of corn the same way my mom did when I didn’t have the teeth to tackle the job, for inclusion in a salad. I went to latihan hungry, and while I was trying to clear my head and be quiet, visions of summery salads driffed through my thoughts.
In a large bowl, I combined a pint of grape tomatoes that had been sliced in half, 1/2 pound of string beans that were lightly blanched and cut into bite-sized pieces, a seeded and chunked cucumber, a red pepper treated just like the cucumber, the corn from the three ears, half a sweet onion, some chopped scallions and shredded basil. I beat a reluctant lemon into submission and spread it’s juice over the contents of the bowl. A sprinkling of salt, several grinds of pepper and two nice glugs of olive oil finished it up. I ate it with the last of container of pea-sized fresh mozzarella over some spring mix. And there’s enough for lunch tomorrow as well.