Sometimes, we get so caught up in creating perfect recipes, we forget about the simple things in life. My mother was famous around here for saying “I like plain food.” Sometimes, this statement annoyed me, but as I write this, on the anniversary of her birth, I realize that she was right. Today’s post was supposed to be about grilling corn, but as I began to write the post, I remembered a time when our family was whole, and I realized something. My mother was right. Plain food can be very nice, indeed. Corn on the cob is one of those foods, like watermelon, that I associate with summer. Grilling corn is one of my favorite ways to prepare it. This post was supposed to be about 5 ways to grill corn, but as I began to write, I remembered the most delicious ear of corn that I ever ate. The grilled corn post will have to wait for another day. Instead, I want to tell you a little story about a family, a fire, and some fresh picked corn.
My parents and I were helping clear some trees out of my grandparent’s backyard. A tornado had ripped several trees out of the ground. My grandfather was ill, and it was too much work for my grandmother to manage the tree removal on her own. My father found a neighbor with a chainsaw and paid him to cut the trees into smaller lengths which my parents split for fire wood with axes. Since I was too young to wield an ax, I helped to carry and stack the logs in the wood shed. (I was probably older than my parents were when they chopped fire wood for the first time, but I was barred from using the axe.) When all of the wood had been cut, chopped, and stacked, my father gathered all of the twigs and leaves that were too small to use in the wood stove into a pile and started a fire. When the fire was beginning to die down to embers, he told me to go into the house and get some potatoes and a roll of foil. When I returned, he wrapped each potato in foil and using a shovel, he buried them in the embers of the fire. After several minutes, he walked to my grandmother’s garden and harvested a few ears of corn. Using a shovel, he buried the corn, husk and all, in the coals, too. I remember watching him and asking what he was doing.”Cooking supper” was his reply, and I was perplexed. He must have seen this on my face because he told me to wait and see. I didn’t know how putting food in ashes would create dinner, but I reserved judgement. My parents were always full of surprises, and I had come to realize that they knew stuff.
It took what seemed like an eternity, as we watched the coals glow. The sun set and the lightning bugs began to appear. Finally, after consulting his watch, my father used the shovel to scrape the coals from the spot where he had buried the food. Using the shovel, he carefully laid the corn and potatoes out on the ground. Everything was blackened. The husks on the corn, and the foil on the potatoes were so dark that I couldn’t believe that any of it would be edible. I don’t remember how we got the potatoes and corn into the house. Perhaps they were carried in my grandmother’s apron. It carried everything else–eggs, vegetables from the garden, and hot pans from the oven. What I remember about that night was that under that charred husk was a perfect, golden ear of corn. Aside from the charred skin on the potato, the corn and the potato flesh that we had for dinner that night were the most delicious thing that I had ever tasted. Maybe everything tasted so good because I was hungry from helping with all of the work, but that dinner, accompanied by sliced tomatoes and cucumbers from my grandmother’s garden, was something that I never forgot. Maybe, that night was the start of my love affair with grilled corn. If you plan to cook corn and potatoes in the embers of a fire, the potatoes will take about an hour to cook. The corn about 20 – 30 minutes. If your corn is not freshly harvested, you might want to submerge it in water for a while first. (My father knew that the types of wood he was burning were safe to be used in this manner. Certain types of wood can cause illness, and sometimes death, if used in this way. Know that the wood you are using is safe for use with food.)
Do any of you have similar memories of foods cooked in an unusual way? Have you ever tried corn and potatoes cooked while buried in the embers of a fire? Please leave a comment and share your experiences.
Thanks for visiting Patty Cake’s Pantry.
Images in this post via Pixabay