I'm making dinner…fish tacos and roasted diced sweet potatoes and a cold bowl of shelled edamame and corn sliced off the cob. Sort of a succotash, only cold. Not exactly a salad. It doesn't need anything else.
As I stood slicing cooked corn off the cobs a few minutes ago, I was whisked back to when I wasn't tall enough to wield a knife or work at the counter.
When we were little kids, my sister and I (and whatever friends happened to be at the house that day) were pressed into labor in August to shell peas or snap beans or shuck corn.
My mother was one to can things in tall mason jars that were stored upstairs in the glass-front cupboards of the "back kitchen." The kitchen had once been a functional kitchen but eventually it became the laundry room and storage room and gateway to the place to hide the Christmas presents (the hiding place – at least one year – was in what we called "the back bathroom" – a room mostly used to bathe the dogs – in a glorious free-standing claw-foot tub. I wish I could have taken that tub before the house was sold, but, of course, where would I put it here?)
Anyway, I remember rows of canned peaches and tomatoes up on the shelves – high up where my sister and I couldn't reach them.
My mother was also one for blanching and freezing things. That's what I remember her doing with the peas and beans and corn. Especially the corn. I wasn't nuts about the green things…but I liked it when she did the corn. We'd shuck the corn and pile it onto platters for her, and she'd drop a few ears into a big pot of boiling water, just for a minute or two, I imagine, and then once they'd cooled, she'd stand an ear on end on the cutting board and slice off the kernels in long bands.
I loved those. I'm sure my sister did too. We'd probably hang around hoping to either steal or be given a little section of kernels before being shooed out of the kitchen. Then after all the corn was sliced off the cobs, Mom would pack freezer bags full of broken sections of kernels, twist the tops of the bags and tie them (back in the days before ziploc bags…when we lived out on the prairie…heh heh heh) with the little twist tie things…and Dad or one of us would bring them down to the big freezer in the basement and place them on the shelves with all the other frozen produce.
We didn't grow all these – Mom would go to one of the local farms and buy things in bushels. We groaned about the work at the time – the shucking and the snapping and the shelling…but I think back to how good that corn tasted when she opened up a bag of it in January, and I tell my complaining younger self to shut up. It's worth a little effort in August.
And so, to a lesser degree, I'm doing the same thing. I've roasted tomatoes in olive oil, salt and pepper until most of the water is gone and all the fresh tomatoey sweetness is condensed and mixed with the oil…and I've frozen these in batches to make sauce with this winter. We've roasted beets as well, and they are frozen too. Eggplant as well – I sliced it up and baked it, and now I can throw together some eggplant parmigiana pretty fast too.
I figure each year we'll put away more…and when the kids are older, I'll probably go buy a bushel of corn for them to shuck, and I'll blanch it and pack it away for the winter too.