Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of food. The Easter season, and every celebration of the Eucharist, remind us how meals can unite us in the moment, and across time.
My grandmother Margaret Walsh, who passed away recently, cooked many unique, delicious dishes at family events. Her homemade pies were unimaginably tasty, and everything she made was full of love. All of her cherished recipes were passed on to and replicated among her loved ones, weaving their way into all our homes. Recreating these dishes kindles her memory, even though there is still a heavy emptiness without the gentle strength of our joyful matriarch.
My secret mission to feel her presence again has been an odd and ongoing quest to find frozen shoepeg corn. This was a common side dish for family dinners at her house. I’ll never forget her spooning it out to me as a kid.
Honestly, there was never a huge to-do made of the corn; no fancy dressings or exotic ingredients. I just remember it because it was so simple, so good, and I never had it anywhere else. I am sure that when I track down that corn and taste it, I will find her in a small way.
There are at least 10 major grocers in Montgomery County that do not carry shoepeg corn. I know because I’ve visited them all and have yet to find this elusive vegetable.
In a region where nearly any food from any culture can be purchased within a five-mile radius, this spiritual and gastronomic journey for frozen corn might seem silly. But sometimes, the simplest things have the most power. The flavorful snap of warm, white kernels covered in butter and salt somehow contains my grandmother’s smile.
I’ll continue my search for frozen shoepeg corn. And the moment I spoon it out for my family, and tell the story, I’ll be with her, and I’ll feel her presence again.
Patrick Walsh is the manager of Martha’s Choice, a choice food pantry and emergency food market located at archdiocesan Catholic Social Services’ Montgomery County Family Service Center.
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