My sweet, gracious Grandma – Henrietta Witte – was always a busy beaver. She loved us grandkids with a fierce gentleness that was constant and unwavering. I was young when she passed away, but I hardly have memories of her ever stopping to relax. Illness forced her body into an early retirement. As she managed with wheelchairs and walkers, she continued her loving reign over us munchkins from those rolling thrones.
Her slender frame would fool you; Grandma was a beast of a woman in the kitchen and throughout the entire home. She could crank out a good ol’ meat-starch-and-vegetable meal in the blink of an eye. My own mother possesses the same good Midwestern trait herself. I can only hope to one day have a fraction of their same culinary strength to feed a – sometimes unexpected – crowd of hungry mouths and cranky children.
There was so much to enjoy about Grandma’s cooking and caring for us. The amount of love put into every action was apparent and abundant, even to my own little grade school heart. Perhaps that’s why I was so confused by the god-awful Cream of Corn she would make us eat.
I know other family members enjoyed the dish, but it was the one thing I just couldn’t stomach. The sound of it getting slopped onto my plate, the inevitable mixing with the other foods, the wrinkly skin of cooling cream on the top layer...it was just too much to handle. And it only grew worse the longer I stared daggers at the yellow mush. No threats of punishment from my parents could shake my defiant stance against the sloshy invasion on my plate.
Unfortunately, my four year old stubbornness was easily crushed under the threat of a withheld dessert. So I would spoon the goop into my mouth as quickly as possible until my cheeks gave chipmunks a run for their money. Then, painfully and tearfully, I would slowly chew the mess for what felt like an eternity. There was once a blissful mealtime in which my brother and I had to sit in the kitchen, for lack of space in the dining room, which made the sink our much anticipated accomplice. The close proximity gave our tummies a thrill and we seized the opportunity to secretly MacGyver our way to the disposal and pour the mess right down the drain.
I can’t blame her, my dear Grandma. She needed a quick vegetable for us, which – in the end – really wasn’t much of a healthy choice anyhow. Now I’ve found a way to honor her terrible corn slop. Enter cornbread, cheese, and ham. Voilá!
Although I’m sure she would roll her eyes at the over-indulgence of my ingredients, my guess is that she would have flattered my efforts by trying it. And, for once, we’d be able to enjoy Cream of Corn together.
15 oz can corn, drained
15 oz can creamed corn, not drained
1 box Jiffy corn bread mix
1 c sour cream
1/2 c (1 stick) butter
1/2 c ham, pre-cooked
1/2 c Monterey cheese
1 Tbl fresh thyme, about 4-5 stemmed worth
Preheat oven to 350º.
Place all ingredient in a big bowl and mix thoroughly.
Pour corn batter into a well buttered, oven-safe dish. Spread out evenly.
Bake for 50 mins or until the top is golden.
Serve with an extra sprinkling of thyme and a tab of softened butter.