Sunday, September 23, 2012

Ruining Thanksgiving Dinner.......In September

Start with fresh corn

I almost blew it. Thanksgiving is still 8 weeks away, and I nearly ruined my family’s favorite holiday meal in this, the last week of September. I woke up with an agenda on the most beautiful fall Sunday. A power walk with my husband on the path of a local park where a river ribbons through it and a 58 degree breeze across the water was a little more than I was prepared for. Then breakfast at our favorite diner, followed by a stop at a local farm market for the first of the season apples, and the last of the season corn. Then, I would spend Sunday afternoon in my kitchen, baking an apple pie, watching football and preparing bags of corn for the garage freezer.  

And plans were going great! Sweatshirts I found in the back of my car solved the wind chill issue on our early morning walk. An asparagus and egg white omelet washed down with mugs of hot coffee provided fuel for my afternoon activities. Now to the market for some mums, a pumpkin, apples and Jersey white corn!

When we pulled into the crowed parking lot, the first thing I noticed was that the large table of corn that I frequented all summer, now contained gourds and pumpkins. “I guess the corn is in the back since it’s no longer the star of the season.” I said to my husband.” It wasn’t. 

Boil 3 minutes and then place in ice bath
I started to panic. Jersey corn on our Thanksgiving table is more than a staple, more than a tradition. It’s a representation of my Dad, who always believed that this part of the state’s harvest should sit alongside of the turkey. We lost our Dad about 12 years ago, but “Pop’s corn” has never missed a Thanksgiving.

“No corn?” I asked the young girl still wearing a market T-shirt with a graphic of a corn husk on it. “Sorry, it was finished last weekend”.  I was going to protest, but she turned and walked away. “Come on,” my husband Mike said. “We’ll take a drive, I’m sure other markets have it.” Three stands later, still out of luck. We were heading further and further away from our house. We live about an hour from the coastline and we drove halfway to the shore desperate to find the last of the sweet silver queen corn that Dad would cook for three minutes, cut off the cob and then freeze in plastic bags. One of the last things he did before dinner was served on Thanksgiving day was to place the frozen corn in a pan and warm slowly with butter, milk and sugar. Simple, delicious and an absolute must find.

After Dad died, I took ownership of cooking all Thanksgiving dinners, his corn recipe, his traditions. And now, because I waited one week too long to buy the corn, I felt as if I was letting everyone down. “Maybe you could buy the frozen shoe peg corn and make it the same way your Dad made his corn” Mike said trying to sound optimistic. But we both knew the obvious. Once, 15 years ago, I invited my family back to the house for dinner after my son’s football game. Not having time to make my homemade lasagna; I served them a well-known frozen brand. To this day, I still hear about it.

 Use frozen store bought corn in place of Jersey white corn? Are you kidding me? My family takes this corn thing seriously. Two years ago, my younger sister, who alternates the holiday with her husbands family, complained that her in-laws don't serve corn. That afternoon, she was bombarded by pictures of hot buttery corn sent to her iPhone from my nephew and sons sitting at our table! I can't let them down. Somebody, somewhere has to still have fresh corn!

Use a bundt pan to catch the corn! Works great!
And then, out of nowhere, it happened. When Mike was looking for a place to make a U-turn on a rather busy highway, a small, green pickup truck parked on a side road caught our attention. My husband had to restrain me from leaping out of the door as he tried to navigate down the dirt path.

There, in all its splendid beauty was an old truck full of just picked corn. Sitting next to it, in a well-used lawn chair was an old man in a Phillies hat. If you knew my father, you would appreciate the relevance to this notation. It was all too surreal. An old man, in a hat, in the middle of nowhere, selling corn from an old truck, in late September. 

I was actually speechless. Mike bagged the corn and paid for it while I stood to the side. I was convinced that when we got to the end of the road, I would turn around and find the old man, his truck and the corn, vanished. I did not turn around. I was just content to know that "Pop's corn" will be on the Thanksgiving matter how he got it there!


  1. I love this story....and it probably was Pop waiting for you to get the corn. You know today is the anniversery.

  2. Thanks. It was really strange to find that old truck off the beaten path.I think he keeps watching over us.