I've been doing a lot of thinking about home. The threaded yarn that braids my siblings to the same farmland as me. I made a Hoosier Pie last week and I thought it would satiate this deep hunger to feel connected. It didn't. I thought about going to church and feeling part of a community. That feeling passed as quickly as it came.
The fact of the matter is, the ghost of the Midwest breeds in you. It grows like a tumor and spreads like wildfire. I've always lived in the limns between home and journey, between the concrete and the destination. When I think of home, I think of cornfields and highways. I think of the swaying of wheat fields and how you can either be crucified like a scarecrow or lost in the hedge maze. Everyone I've talked to feels liminal, at the roughshod corners of two in-betweens. It's what the Midwest is, by definition. The in-between. The forgotten. It's a genetic abnormality to hold onto that gossamer strand of satisfaction and horror when you know there are still places that exist where pies sit on windowsills and you'll never be able to call those places home again.
I described this phenomenon as the Potato Salad Diaspora. A dispersal, an exodus. No homeland to go back to, the gates closed behind our family. I only know the world through sense memory, through muscle memory. Through fingerprints that left smudges on a set of silver. On old bonds I cashed in for a hundred dollars last week. The corn silk that stuck like cobwebs to your sweater, your finger tips, your eyelashes. It all became folklore to someone like me, lost in his own mind and a refugee in the same home where I once stood on a phonebook and watched my grandmother cook eggs.
Two flavors I remember well from those days are corn and cherries. Of the earth, in their rawest form. Toothsome, sensory. Messy. Spit out the pits over the sink, shucking corn in the bag. It was primitive in its own way, messy on my blue jeans. I loved every minute of it and I recreated those flavors in a French custard--a cherry and corn far breton.
Bourbon-Soaked Cherry and Sweet Corn Far Breton
A French custard desert, made with bourbon-soaked cherries (too bad I used up my stock making this cake again) and a corn puree. The flavors burst like dying embers of summer. Adapted from David Lebovitz's recipe. Note: Preparation for this dessert is 8-12 hours.
- 2 cups pitted cherries (frozen works too)
- 1/3 cup warmed bourbon
- 2 ears corn
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup + 2 TB white sugar
- 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2/3 cup flour
- Heat 1/3 cup bourbon in a saucepan until warmed and throw in cherries. Add two tablespoons white sugar and allow for cherries to soak in juices and bourbon, macerating slightly in the sugar. Sit for at least four hours, but continue on to step two.
- Shuck corn. Using a box grater, grate corn over bowl. It is a messy process, but you should end up with a mashed corn pulse and a fair amount of liquid. Discard cob and repeat with second ear of corn. Set aside.
- Put all ingredients in a blender, including corn pulp, and pulse until fully blended. It should be a very pale yellow color with minimal lumps. Refrigerate mixture 4 hours (preferably overnight).
- When ready, preheat oven to 400*F. Thoroughly butter and flour baking dish (I used ceramic). Drain cherries, but reserve two tablespoons of liquor.
- Add liquor to the batter and blend for a second to reconstitute.
- Place cherries in baking dish, making sure to spread out
- Pour batter through a mesh strainer over cherries in baking dish, going slowly and gently, wiping sides with rubber spatula to get all liquid
- Bake for 35 minutes at 400*F. Reduce to 350* and tent with tin foil to avoid excessive browning. Bake for an additional 12 minutes or until set in the middle and a toothpick comes out clean (could take up to 20 minutes, depending on oven consistency).
- Dust with confectioner's sugar and best served warm or at room temperature. Can keep for two days in fridge.