Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Back to the Table

Now that our children are adults, launched and out on their own, if we want to spend time with them we see if we can get them to share dinner with us. Which is only logical because except for sleeping in the same house, the times spent preparing and eating meals together represented by far the largest chunk of shared time in our family lives together. Those twin acts of eating and talking could be said to centrally represent who we are to each other.

So perhaps it is not so shocking to find it is typically in restaurants, ordering a meal, when I feel most keenly the huge shift my role as Mom to our two adult children has taken. It is there, seated at a table in public, when I am most forcefully reminded of who I am now as opposed to who I used to be. Faced with an identity crisis of that proportion, it is a silver plated wonder I ever get around to ordering.

How can I think about such trivia as whether or not I want soup or a salad as starter when I am so busy considering how I am no longer the sage my children turn to for hints as to what on the menu they might like? How much psychic energy to put into choosing an entreé while I am working so hard not to notice how my opinions are no longer sought out as to do I think they might substitute an ingredient or can I explain what a particular cooking term means?

My old pattern of scanning the menu quickly for items to suggest that might please the pickier palates in our group before considering what I would order for myself is no longer welcomed, much less required. I stubbornly scan anyway, secretly testing knowledge of my family's likes and dislikes to see if I can guess what my kids will order for themselves. When I guess incorrectly, which happens more and more often now, I am left to wonder: what does it mean when a mother don't really know what her kids would want to eat for dinner any more?

The same two children I was convinced would be forever living off of noodles coated with cheese powder from a blue box are now adventurous eaters. With a trained chef in our midst all eyes naturally pivot towards him when a question arises about terminology or the wisdom of combining certain ingredients. I don't even regularly order wine for us when we eat out any more. The wine I know most about (good but inexpensive) rarely appears in commercial cellars.

My adult children are now partial mysteries to me. Their preferences have changed, their philosophy shifts. How do we relate now that I am no longer the one with answers to their questions?

I don't have those answers for myself either. If I am no longer the person charged with making sure these two young people have that revolving list of "what you'll need today" ever handy, if it is not me who is reminding them to be sure to take their shin guards, water bottles, homework, art portfolio, diorama, trumpet, backpack, lunch, then who am I to them? If it is not my job to go about the grocery store spotting a new fruit for them to try or coming up with a way to prepare broccoli or green beans they will find more palatable, then what do I do now to support them and help them to grow?

And please don't dive into this paragraph thinking I will share any, much less wise answers to those questions here because I don't have any. Really. The honest fact is that I don't really know how to be a Mommy to two grown children. I couldn't find any instructions in the Golden Mommy Handbook and it seems to me that these young adults have moved all the bars, making a clean break from simply adjusting the timing of when they would fall in love, marry, have children and settle down to questioning if they ever will choose any of those old goals as the ones they wish to declare for their own lives.

Clueless, I let them lead. My two grown kids, ChefSon and LawSchoolGirl, both mostly tell me what they want from me now and what if anything I can do to help them out if help is what they need. Otherwise, my job has narrowed down to telling them how handsome/gorgeous they are and how proud I am of how fabulously they are both turning out. Which is pretty easy considering both are true. Oh - my new job description also occasionally includes accepting a gentle nudge back when I forget what year it is and begin acting like the Mommy they used to need.

Which leads us in an exceptionally roundabout way to this. We all ate out together for Father's Day (albeit the day after). We chose Olivia's, mostly because we liked the look of their menu which changes depending on what is fresh and good and available, but also because they state clearly they support local food producers and even grow some of their own produce. They name names. We agreed we all like it that way. Supporting local farms and ranchers, knowing where our proteins come from including how humanely they were treated is becoming non-negotiable. We are trying as best we can to get away from the practice of eating anonymous food.

The food at Olivia's was wonderful. We ordered all sorts of small plates to share. Their wine list is impressive and our waitress was well informed and patiently made a couple of extra trips to the kitchen to inquire as to whether or not a particular protein was local. Eating at Olivia's is definitely an experience we want to repeat.

So there we are, finally celebrating Dad with his special restaurant meal. Four adults. As we order, a discovery emerges. ChefSon now likes corn. A lot. I don't know how or why his palate is now pleased by corn when before it was not, and I suspect nobody else does either. But whenever tastes change in a way that adds in a food (as opposed to those times when somebody abruptly stops liking something) I try not to question the why. And hope that next time it counts, I will remember the change.

After we got back home we were all still talking about how wonderful everything tasted. I began to smile, thinking about ChefSon and corn and all the times I'd urged him in vain to "just try some", hopeful every time, but he never did like it. And now he does. I was thinking about how much I loved fresh corn on the cob growing up and how nice it was to have something my Mom could fix and feel good about as a vegetable that I really enjoyed to eat. It was relaxing thinking about corn pleasantly, as opposed to regarding it as the root source of most processed evil industry food.

With corn already on my mind I recalled how last summer I found a great recipe for a grilled corn salad (details in this post). Bingo! Grilled corn salad was now on my short term "gonna fix it this week" menu. I knew I had everything I needed on hand. It would only be a matter of getting the grill going in the morning hours one day before the triple digits seeped into the house too much while my appetite seeped back out.The very next morning, bright and early, I fired up the grill top and started soaking the corn. I got out the lime, onion, olive oil, and the Queso Fresco.

Yelck. Since I used it last, the Queso Fresco had morphed into Queso GrossOut. I checked the refrigerator and found I did have some delicious Pure Luck Goat Cheese on hand. I could nearly taste the corn salad already. Goat cheese it was.

Goat cheese is much softer than Quesco Fresco. I was concerned it would simply "become" part of the dressing for the salad rather than stay a separate component. A quick stir in of an ounce or so confirmed my suspicion - this cheese was not going to give me a crumble that would stand up on its own. I reconciled myself to the idea that this version of the salad would feature a cheesy creamy dressing. I added in a bit more lime juice to keep it from getting too thick, and threw in a bit of finely chopped basil to keep the whole thing from becoming too tart.

Grilled Corn Salad
Printable version here

2 ears of corn, husks on
1 tablespoon olive oil
juice of one medium lime
3-4 ounces of crumbled cheese (Cotija, Queso Fresco or Goat Cheese)
1/4 cup finely chopped sweet onion
jalapeño pepper, seeded, membrane removed, minced
pinch sea salt, ground fresh black pepper to taste
4-5 leaves basil, finely chopped

Set your grill at the appropriate heat for roasting vegetables. Know your grill - if you are using an outdoor grill, medium heat is suggested. I used an indoor grill so I set it at the highest heat.

While the grill heats, soak your corn in water to wet the husks. This is important - thoroughly soaking the corn husks means the corn will steam during the first step.

Place the corn, husks on, on the grill and cook until they develop grill marks, turning every few minutes.

While corn is grilling, combine other ingredients in a medium sized bowl.

Remove corn from heat, peel back the husks, and return corn to the grill, cooking until a nice brown char develops all around.

Turn the corn every few minutes. Now I've prepared this a few times, I typically wrap the husks and silks in a bit of foil to keep them from catching fire and to make it easier to turn the cobs on the grill.

I leave my corn on the grill as long as it takes to develop a nice char. It is that grilled taste I am going for after all. This is what elevates this salad from good to swoon. This step can take 15-20 minutes depending on your grill. Keep an eye on it and use your best judgement.

Once your corn is nicely colored, remove from heat, let cool a bit, and remove the kernels from the cob.I stick the cobs into the center of a bundt pan and use a knife to scrape the kernels into the bowl of the pan. Works like a charm.

Toss the kernels with the other ingredients and serve chilled.

Serves 2-4

The results? Just as yummy and not all that different an eating experience with this version's creamy cheesy dressing from what I'd originally hoped for. As opposed to Mommying, once you begin to combine grilled corn, with lime juice, jalapeño, sweet onion and cheese, there are simply no wrong answers.


Marc @ NoRecipes said...

Your salad looks great and the bundt pan technique is pure genius! So much better than doing it on the cutting board and having corn fly everywhere.

TexasDeb said...

Thanks for dropping in, Marc! Wish I could take credit for doing anything more than trying the bundt pan trick but you are quite right - it is a huge improvement on the "corn is everywhere but where I need it" alternative. Hope you'll be back!

james at 10engines said...

the bundt pan idea is excellent..might have to "borrow" that... best.

TexasDeb said...

Borrow away James. Nice to have you drop in and hope you'll be back.

PassivePastry said...

I looooove corn in the summer.
I do not love eating it off of the cob.

We actually made some last night with basil butter- no grillz round here, and it was fantastic.