Through a long and convoluted route of emails and packages and hand-offs I found myself with a baggie of coarse ground heirloom red flint corn.
Whoever ground it didn’t hull the corn first, and I could see the bits of hull in the mix that otherwise looked like polenta. Those bits simply never cooked and were clearly never going to cook. So we had a dish that had, at its core, an amazingly deep and provocative corn flavor, but which was cursed with bits of tough, obviously nonsoluble fiber littered throughout.
It was sort of a bummer, but we all ate our bowlfuls anyway. The quickly sauteed wild-caught Florida pink shrimp and spicy okra with tomatoes helped ease it all down nicely, I must say.
I will admit that I loved my dinner despite the corn hulls because while I was chopping the okra my son came into the kitchen and out of nowhere asked if he could help make dinner. I was almost done with everything but realized that the shrimp weren’t peeled. I was going to cook them with the peels on (they stay moist and more flavorful that way and none of us mind shelling them at the table, least of all my dashing husband who, I kid you not, just eats them peel and all, a habit I find distressing but that he relishes), but I’d rather risk slightly overcooked shrimp than kick a willing kid out of the kitchen. So he stood at the sink and expertly peeled the shrimp while I cooked the okra.
I saw two ways to read his offer of help. The bad news would be that I’m so inaccessible and inattentive that the one way he can get my attention is to offer to help me in the kitchen. The good news would be that he wants to hang with me, really enjoyed our recent episodes of dumpling making, loves being with me and loves cooking. I semi-tortured myself going between these two extreme readings as I stirred the okra and he peeled the shrimp.
Then we sat down to eat and I had my answer. His willing effort came from love. Every good cook knows food tastes better when you remember to add the love, and I could taste it in every bite.