Sunday, 24 March 2013

For Reif Larsen (1980 - ),

"She plucked the last of the silk threads from the ear and dropped it into the tin bucket with the others. Inside the bucket, the bright ears of corn lay on top of one another, pointing in all directions, their perfect yellow kernels shining in the late afternoon sun like little buttons asking to be pressed. There was nothing like a bucket of uncooked sweet corn to really turn around your day. The yellowness, the fertile symbolism, the promise of melted butter: it was enough to change a boy's life."
 -- The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet

I completely understand the life-changing powers of corn. For years now, I've been petitioning the Swiss army knife people to modify their product so that you can flick out a knife, a pair of scissors, a corkscrew, and an ear of sweet corn. When you're lost, or down, or depleted, there's nothing like the warm sunny juiciness of corn to get you going again.

But there's one thing we're forgetting here.

In Reif Larsen's novel, the precocious T.S. lives on a ranch. His sister shucks fresh corn picked that day. It has only recently lost its umbilical connection to the nutrient-rich soil, and its husks are still warm from the day's Montana sunshine. This is corn as down-home fictively idyllic as it comes. This is symbolic corn. Corn that tells us: this kid's childhood is what all kids' childhoods should be.

I buy my corn at the supermarket. It's not so idyllic. I queue up behind inexcusable yuppies chattering to their spouses on their cellphones about which brand of soy milk is gentlest on their shih tzu's digestive system. Kenny G plays on the store audio system. The only thing fresh in the whole tableau is the nose job on the poplette leering moodily at me from the nearest magazine cover.

My corn enters my fridge dry; from there it gets drier.

When I pulled out this particular husk, it was more withered than the shih tzu's will to live. It had faded to a disconcerting shade of puce, and the luxurious white silks had picked up so many fridge odours that they'd turned into putrid strings of blackened biohazard.

But any food that was once so full of sun can surely be redeemed. I applied my old stand-by formula. If it's dry, smother it in oil and leave it to drink. Yes, that's right, you can marinate corn! It tasted pretty damn good, too. The moisture was restored, the kernels plumped up (mostly), and the oil served as a great delivery platform for a seriously delicious pink spice mix. I found that the kernels didn't absorb much of the flavour, but the cobs did. Take my advice: eat these in private, because you will want to suck on those savaged cobs like a starved shih tzu.

It's like a mud wrap, only tasty.
So what flavours are we packing into these cobs, you ask? Lemony coriander seeds, pulverised to a rubbly powder with a mortar and pestle. Heaped spoonfuls of smoky paprika. A dash of honey, just to rejuvenate the corn's lost sweetness. Garlic, because everything is better with garlic. And salt for much the same reason.

Pounding the coriander seeds is aromatic and cathartic, if you're still thinking about the supermarket yuppies.

All that's left is to bake these babies in a tin foil hot pocket and wait for the smell of summer to waft out of that Montana ranch house and into my autumnal apartment. Spivet, you may have better corn than I do, but I've got a spice rack and some Kiwi ingenuity. Booyah.

Pink Marinated Sweet Corn

 For every one ear of corn, add:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp honey
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
1/2 tsp dried garlic granules
1/4 tsp salt


Mix all the marinade ingredients together and pour into a ziplock bag. Shuck the corn and add the ears to the bag of marinade. Leave to infuse for a day or overnight.

To cook the corn, preheat the oven to 180C. Remove the ears from the marinade and wrap in tin foil. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until hot and juicy.

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