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Grilled Corn As An Introduction
Silence and oblivion were my convenient restorative medication in a place I had difficulty blending in. Although I had a year to gradually shed the habit, coming from the pineapple fields to the opulent communities of Ventura County, California was too much of a social environment stretch. Still, I was fortunate that some people knew the uneasiness I felt and tried to relieve it.
Carol, my officemate, always held this Friday night dinners at her house. Every time, there was a new comer. On my first attendance, I finally met Linda, Carol’s next door neighbor whom she was always talking about. The next dinner, I met Amanda, Carol’s friend in her late twenties working in an IT company near our office. In there, too, was a family whose kids were debuting their film workshop output with us.
Mise In Place
When I met Linda, it was also a farewell dinner prepared for Sunee. She’ll be going back to Bangkok in a month. Because of her, Carol prepared her favorite grilled corn.
Coming to Carol’s dinner party was like being a chef’s apprentice, each one had specific tasks and we learned how to recipes. While everyone was on post, introduction and conversation among new comers and regulars took off naturally. My task, which can be done single-handedly, was pulling the husk and silk from the corn cobs, immersing them in water and wrapping them in aluminum foil. When I was done grilling it, I was carrying a platter with hot tubes resembling large silver bullets.
When everyone was already seated for the dinner, everyone was already making casual conversation with each other. Trying to evade my bashful nature, I was ill-fated to be caught in a conversation I was not able to vindicate at the outset. Try talking about jazz based on your listening experience on the radio against someone who lived in New Orleans and goes there too for the annual Jazz Fest. Every artist’s name I mentioned, Ben, Carol’s husband, shook his head. For that while, I thought had the wrong jazz version all my life. The next time when I met Amanda and this family, I was very careful in introducing any topic. I developed a strategy of making them oblivious of my presence by making my way to the kitchen, to the food and mumble incomprehensively while watching the boy’s film masterpiece.
Prior to the second gathering, I was reluctant to commit because of the unpleasant scenario I had. But the schedule itself became a mandatory event in everyone’s calendar once you have befriended Carol. I remember confirming my attendance after confirming that grilled corn was on the menu.
Carol’s dinner meals was always tasteful. But my palate had a special connection the first time I had grilled corn. I believe most of us did. Imagine the flavor explosion of butter, lime, salt and pepper in your mouth with the sweet corn base. It will be missed this time. All the more reason to forego and make excuses. Carol knew what I do so I could not make one up. I had to plead. We still had time to get it. Even in this urban jungle, corn was hardly out of stock in the grocery. She finally agreed on conditions that I will bring it and prepare it. That night, while enjoying the food in my silence, fading into the wall was safe and comforting.
On the next dinner schedule, I didn’t have to ask. I volunteered to bring the corn the second Carol sent the invite. Gradually, this corn story evolved into me getting the corn monster moniker. Aside from bringing corn, I got to take home whatever was left. Who would complain with that?
Cecille, another officemate with her husband XC, they were known for their barbecue and pie. With Carol, it was the fresh salad recipes, stir-fry, crock pot soup recipes and “mi casa es tu casa” vibe. Not that they got the monster moniker too. They either had expertise or experience involving these. Mine was more of the experience that cemented my place in that small evolving society we joined.
Even though most of the people did not know me very well in those encounters, in my silence, I was glad to be there. And yes! Them savoring the grilled corn was my way of saying, “Hello, nice meeting you, too!”.