This is the second recipe in a four-part series of posts inspired by a meal Elie and I shared in northern Israel in 2012. Six years later, the details of the meal remain sharp in my memory. Here was the first recipe in the series.
I have learned, little by little over the past few years, to give myself grace when it comes to being supermom. Or the fun mom. Or the creative, crafty mom. It's hard to be all of those things all of the time. This podcast has helped.
Little ones are smart. Even two-and-a-half year olds are perceptive and can sense what and how you are feeling. When you are not present or having fun or enjoying an interaction with them, they can tell. So, it’s best to find ways to spend time that are enjoyable for both of you.
I’m writing this down so I will remember it myself. So I will look back at this post and read it again and nod, “yes.” I write this to remind myself, because it’s hard advice for me to follow. I generally feel compelled to play with Theo whenever he wants, however he wants. But sometimes, I’m tired. Or there are dishes to do or laundry to fold. Or a conversation to have with another adult. Or I don’t want to play Legos.
I’m learning that it’s okay to say, “Theo, I’m tired right now. I don’t want to play with your tractors, but I would be happy to snuggle on the sofa and read you a book.”
Or, “Theo, I have to wash the dishes. But when I’m done, I will play hide-and-seek with you.”
Practice makes perfect.
And it’s good for Theo, too, to have independent time for quiet. To develop his own imagination. Creativity springs from boredom, right?
Because when I am present, I want to be fully present.
Sometimes, I find it easiest to be fully present when we get out of the house and head to the park or the beach, to discover and play. To pick up pinecones and see how far we can throw them. To turn over rocks and try to pick up the crabs before they scurry away.
And sometimes, I do want to play. When Theo says, "Mommy, please come to my playroom," I do so happily. We sit on the floor and act out scenes with his ‘men’ or draw pictures and make up stories or build a plane out of pillows and fly to Mexico.
But it's good to be honest with him and with myself on when I feel like playing and when I don't. I know he can tell when playing comes from a place of joy instead of obligation. We both can, because it feels different. It feel effortless. Luckily for me, cooking together feels effortless.
Being in the kitchen together is a joy for both of us. I don’t care if he makes a mess or asks a million questions or makes train tracks in the flour. He can get raspberries all over his shirt or drop the eggs on the floor. It doesn't matter, because we're both having fun. We can talk and tell stories while we listen for the popcorn to pop or watch the muffins as they rise in the oven. It’s time together I cherish.
Almost every morning, I'll ask, "Theo, do you want to crack the eggs for me?" Or help tear the kale or stir the ingredients in the bowl or squeeze a lemon. Almost always, Theo says, "Sure, Mommy." Sometimes he'll add, "I'd love to." And he'll pull his stool up the counter and climb up, ready to help.
What are the ways you play with your child that bring you the most joy? That bring both of you joy?
And now, for the recipe.
This Fresh Corn Polenta is very simple and is best made in the late summer, when corn is at its peak. If your corn is on the starchy side, you could add the tiniest bit of sugar to sweeten it up. Be sure to check back in over the next week for the next two recipes in this series, for whole roasted eggplant and Israeli salad.
Serves 4 - 6
6 ears of corn, shucked
2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
½ cup finely shaved parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Set a small bowl upside down in the middle of a very large mixing bowl. Use a sharp knife to cut off all the kernels from two of the ears of corn. Let the kernels collect in the bottom of the bowl. Remove the small bowl. Then, using a box grater, grate the kernels from the additional four ears of the corn, letting all the grated kernels and corn ‘milk’ collect in the bottom of the bowl. After you have grated each ear of corn, use the back of a spoon or knife to scrape out any additional milk.
Place the corn cobs in a pot big enough to hold them all. Add enough water to the pot to cover the ears. Bring the water to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Let the corn cobs simmer in the water for about an hour to create a corn stock.*
While the water is boiling, cook the corn. Place a large skillet over medium heat. Add the butter. When the butter has melted and is starting to foam, add the garlic and let it sauté for 30 seconds to a minute, being sure not to let the garlic or butter brown.
Add the reserved corn kernels and corn milk to the skillet, stirring to combine everything together. Add a good pinch of salt and then let the corn simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. After about 20 minutes, add a ladle of the corn stock and stir. The corn should be saucy but not soupy. Add as much stock as needed to get the right consistency. Let that mixture simmer for another 10 minutes or until the corn is at your desired tenderness.
Add the parmesan cheese and then taste for seasoning, adding more salt if necessary. Stir in the parsley and a good pinch of Aleppo-style pepper and serve warm.
*You can use the leftover corn stock in soups or stews. If you’re not going to use it within a few days, store it in the freezer and use within three months.
Photographs by Matthew Land Studios