Wednesday, April 21, 2021

comfort food as home remedy

When I was a lad, back during the Punic Wars, I would occasionally spend the night at my grandmother's house.

After an evening of some parlor game or other, she will send me off to bed. But only after preparing me a large bowl of corn meal porridge. It was undoubtedly a gesture of grandmaternal love. But I always suspected there was an ulterior motive -- to clog up my bowels to avoid nighttime bathroom trips.

Most people think of porridge as a comfort food. I think of it as a utilitarian home remedy.

Somewhere yesterday, I picked up something that has caused my digestive system to shift into overdrive. Some people would reach for Pepto-Bismol. I reach for box of Albers Corn Meal.

I grew up on the stuff. And, until tonight, I never thought of it as a foundation for creative cooking. My creativity boundaries with corn meal porridge usually stopped at whether to sweeten it with maple syrup or honey -- honey being the preferred choice, I suspect, in an attempt to re-create the taste of the other popular product of corn meal: corn bread.

Well, of course, there is another corn meal dish that almost everyone has tried. Polenta. And it can be cooked in almost every way imaginable. Mexican cooks prepare it in numerous traditional ways -- as well as some rather creative contemporary offerings.

So, why not do the same with porridge? Add a bit of tastiness to the usual bland bowl.

I did just that for dinner tonight. I still had two allspice leaves that had retained some of their freshness (the mysterious leaf) in the refrigerator. I tossed the leaves and a Mexican cinnamon stick into a pot of water and cream. When it started boiling, I added the corn meal.

My goal was to make a spicy dinner. But I also wanted to ramp up the heat of the corn meal. An obvious choice was some ghost pepper salt. When the porridge thickened, I added freshly-grated nutmeg and a bit of vanilla extract. 

To serve, I sweetened the porridge with a dash of honey and a dusting of cinnamon. The zing of the ghost pepper, the earthy aroma of the spices, and the grit of the meal combined perfectly. While I was cooking, I imagined that some of my friends probably would have substituted coconut milk for the cream. I didn't because I am not fond of the taste of coconut.

It succeeded as a meal. Now, we will see if it works as well as grandma's variety of imodium. 

No comments: