It was a beautiful day. The weather was warm. The sun was hidden behind a cloud but the water was calm and it was late morning, a lovely time to take a paddle board out.
Paddle boarding is the sport I have come to in middle age. Easier than surfing, less rigorous than kayaking, a paddle board lets you glide through the water with a modicum of effort. You stand on the board, suck in your stomach, and paddle. Little is required of you except balance. You rarely break a sweat as you take in the view. Most weekend mornings, my husband and I take paddle boards out, and circle each other in a quiet lagoon. Sometimes, we climb into a kayak and paddle out to the bay, but when we do that, my husband sits in the back and does most of the paddling and I feel like the princess he suspects I am. This morning, at 11 a.m., my younger son and his friend decided they wanted to go kayaking. My husband and I each took out a paddle board so we could keep an eye on them. The kids immediately headed out of the lagoon and into the bay. My husband and I followed suit.
The water was rougher than usual. Motorboats passed by. Look at those adorable little girls, leaning back and laughing as their father pulled them across the water in a tube! Look at that sailboat, and that young couple in pale green gently guiding the sail. The horizon opened up and despite the grey skies, the view was soothing and serene. I kept paddling, glancing at the houses that dotted the shore. There was the modern house my husband always pointed out, its huge glass windows outlined in royal blue. There was the light grey house and its bright orange accents -- orange Adirondack chairs, orange swing set, orange Tiger Lilies, even orange towels!
No one was outside. Staring at the empty docks, I lost track of my husband and son. The wind picked up and so did the current. My feet curled into the paddle board as I started to paddle more quickly in increasingly rough water. I was hungry. It was close to lunch time. Maybe it was lunch time. I turned the board around and headed home.
Except I couldn't. The waves were getting higher. The motor-boats zoomed by me, making the bay even bumpier.
"I think the current has gotten the better of you!" yelled the father who was pulling his kids. He smiled and waved. "Do you need help??"
"No," I said. "I'm telling myself it's exercise."
The mom lifted her glass to me and laughed. "Well, you look fabulous!"
I continued to paddle. I wasn't far from home, I'd be there soon. Except I was paddling in place. My feet were starting to get numb. There's only so many steps you can take on a paddle board before you step into the water. I kept my eye on that grey house. As long as I was close to the shoreline, I could make my way home.
My stomach grumbled. I should have stuffed a plastic bag of nuts into my bathing suit. I started to think about what we had in the refrigerator, what could I immediately pull together and turn into lunch? (Unlike most people, stressful situations stoke my appetite.) I ticked ingredients off in my mind: Three old chunks of cheese, two new bags of carrots, a carton of eggs, several ears of fresh corn and a few cobs of cold corn I'd boiled two days earlier.
I sucked my hungry stomach in more, trying to use this as a "core" teaching moment for my flabby abs. Then, to distract myself from the grumbling, I started to think about the carpooling I would have to do the following week. While anticipating the miles I'd be driving, a big wave caught my board and I stumbled -- the paddle slipped out of my hand and I almost flew off the board.
The bay was really rough now. Maybe I should get off the board and swim.
Despite my best efforts, I began to fantasize about my corn. I had never heard of Mexican Street Corn until a few days earlier when I had taken a class at Kings Cooking Studio and the instructor, Kathleen Sanderson, mentioned that she had seen a video of Mexican Street Corn on YouTube.
"You're going to start seeing it everywhere," she predicted. "You haven't lived until you've tried it."
I found a couple of recipes online. The ingredients were cheap and basic and we had them. You probably do too: Corn, mayonnaise, grated cheese, cilantro, garlic, cayenne pepper, and lime juice.
Just as I was deciding whether we should grill the corn or boil it, my husband paddled up to me in
a kayak. "You okay?" he said.
"Yes," I said, even though I hadn't moved more than two feet. "I was just thinking about making corn."
"You're going to make porn?" I'd never seen him so excited.
"No, corn! Though I guess I could make some porn with the corn too." (No, I didn't.)
The wind shifted and twenty minutes later, I leapt off the board onto the dock and ran to the kitchen. My husband turned on the grill. I peeled the corn and while it was grilling, made the sauce. Nothing tastes better when you're famished and dehydrated and just coming off a long panic than creamy, garlicky, cheesy, cilantro-filled mayonnaise. I tried not to eat it all while I mixed it up. Once the corn was done, I slathered the sauce on it and we dug in. You will need a pile of napkins while you eat this because this corn is messy. Still, it's perfect. When we ran out of grilled corn, I pulled out the old, cold, boiled corn and rolled it in the remaining sauce. Cold corn in hot sauce? Even better. Kathleen was right: You haven't lived until you've eaten Mexican Street Corn. Start living.
Modified Mexican Street Corn
6 ears shucked corn, grilled (You can also boil the corn though grilling gives it a nice crunch.)
½ cup mayonnaise (or 1/4 cup mayonnaise and 1/4 cup Mexican crema)
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese (you can also use shredded queso cotija or crumbled feta)
¼ cup chopped cilantro leaves
Cayenne pepper, to taste, or 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 clove of garlic, minced, or garlic powder, to taste
1 lime, sliced
Lime juice, to taste
There are many ways to adapt this fantastic dish. You can use a clove of fresh garlic and mash it into the sauce or use garlic powder. You can use any kind of cheese that shreds or crumbles easily. You can use as much cayenne pepper or chili powder as your taste buds and the people at your table will allow. The key is to maintain a generous ratio of sauce to corn. You want generous helpings of sauce for this dish -- more than you would think necessary because once the corn is gone (and it will be) you're going to want leftover sauce to dip carrots, peppers and whatever else you can lay your hands on into it. I know you've had sweet, delicious summer corn before. Until this moment, there was arguably nothing better. But now there is.
Grill or boil corn. If you're going to grill corn, grill it for 4 minutes on each side, or 8 minutes altogether, and keep grill covered.
While corn is cooking, chop cilantro. In a bowl, mix the mayonnaise, crema (if you're using it), shredded cheese, cilantro, cayenne pepper or chili powder, and minced garlic or garlic powder.
Add a little lime juice.
When corn is done, place it on a platter and spread sauce evenly around each ear. Serve immediately, and don't forget the napkins. If you have people over who are tidier than you are, cut the kernels off the corn, mix them in with the sauce and eat it with a spoon. This is known as esquites and is just as good.