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Corn for good

Sunday, November 20, 2011

My teeth are not falling out of my gums yet and I'd like to bite into the kind of corn cobs that I used to enjoy as a child. They just don't grow them anymore.
That corn had firm kernels and getting through a whole cob took effort and time. You could gnaw on them like a dog does on a bone and work your jaw real good. We children would be at it while we played, grossing each other out with wide grins that showed off kernels stuck between our gappy teeth (of course, some had fewer front teeth than others!).
Great-Uncle Ben, who lived next door, had a little plot and grew a few stalks of corn. I don't remember them yielding many ears, but we did learn a little about how they are grown (none of which I remember).
We always kept the corn silk when we shucked corn. When we had enough, we would make rather authentic-looking beards with them. Our school skits or plays always had an old man with a corn silk beard. (I think if we knew the silk had medicinal properties, perhaps our costumes would have been more mediocre!)
Casablanca corn: Kernels as big as hazelnuts
The last time I bit into good firm kernels was in Morocco a couple of years ago and before that in Sri Lanka in 2003. Both times, the chewing took a while, but these jaw-wrenching occasions were highly enjoyable.
Now, I may use frozen corn kernels in fried rice and patties or include them as an ingredient in something like this Jalapeño and corn loaf; and I make popcorn with dry kernels, but I like to eat fresh corn on the cob as corn on the cob. They can be steamed or boiled, but I also microwave them: peel, clean, moisten the cobs under running water, place on a plate and microwave for four minutes, turning once halfway through the cooking time. Out of the oven, sprinkle with some salt and they're good to go.
Nowadays, corn is bred as sweetcorn; the kernels are tender and you can eat them like in those classic cartoons where people look like typewriters. What we called sweetcorn when I was young was tinned creamed corn. My mother Lucy used this to make her bread pudding, a  regular teatime treat for us. Before I asked her how she made it, I searched for recipes online. Funny, but they were either for corn bread made with cornmeal and cream corn or a savoury sort of bread and butter pudding with fresh corn kernels and cheese. I suspect my mother simply threw things together and came up with this pudding, and when it worked the first time, she just went with her gut after that, adjusting the amounts according to how many slices of bread she had.
My mother didn't give me exact amounts – and didn't get the hint from me to make her bread pudding! – when I asked for the recipe. I don't think she even knew how much of everything she put into her pudding. But it always came out the way her children liked it, which proves, a mother always knows. 
She used commercial white sandwich bread and to keep it authentic, I set my prejudices and homemade bread aside, and bought a loaf.
I needed a real recipe and weighed everything starting with the egg, then added equal weights of almost everything else, as in a pound cake. But the mixture was a little runny so I added more bread to form a firmer mixture.
The pudding got nice and puffy in the oven and as it turned out, the finished product wasn't bad. I don't know if I can say it tasted the way I remember my mother making it, though. Next time, I won't hint – I'm going to tell her straight out to make her bread pudding for me!
Did my mama just dump things together for this? 
Lucy’s Bread Pudding
Serves 6
2 tbsp margarine (or softened butter)
3-4 tbsp sugar
100g (about ½ cup) cream-style corn
1 egg, beaten
6 slices sandwich bread, with crusts on

Preheat the oven at 190°C. Grease an 18cm square baking tin.
Beat all the ingredients except the bread together in a mixing bowl until combined. Tear up the bread roughly and soak in a little water just to soften*. Squeeze out the water and add bread pieces to the mixing bowl. Stir to combine and transfer to the baking tin. Smooth the top and bake until the centre is cooked and the top is crisp and golden, 30-35 minutes.
Cool slightly and cut into squares or bars.
* I think this softening process is only necessary if the bread is a few days old and a bit dry. Fresh bread needn't be softened. Remember, we're talking about commercial "plastic" bread here.
  For extra flavour, add a little vanilla extract.


  1. I'm quite sure she used condensed milk in the pudding

  2. You think so? She didn't say, which proves my point about dumping random things together! Anyway, the pudding tasted much better the next day out of the fridge.


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