Corn soup tasty reminder of motherhood

The Friday before Mother’s Day, I found myself craving corn soup. This happens every year. For me, it’s the taste of motherhood.
My mother was not a “real” cook. Sure, she made the requisite blintzes and kichel, but not much else was memorable. And she never encouraged me to come into the kitchen to learn from her; in fact, she made it very clear that the kitchen was her place, and my only job, and my sister’s, was to dry the dishes after supper. The really good meals — the ones featuring chopped liver and chicken soup with tiny eggs in it — were at Boubby’s house. Dinner in our home — especially after mother had been gone all afternoon to a Sisterhood meeting or a bridge game or out shopping — tended to be something simple that emerged quickly from cans: red salmon, green beans, sliced peaches for dessert.
However, mother did make wonderful soups. Her beet borsht was delicious; her mushroom-lentil was divine; her vegetable was a marvel. She maintained its secret was her special addition: a tablespoon or two of applesauce. As far as I know, no one believed her, and I never tried it myself. But even her simplest soups were memorable, like the corn soup that I still find myself wanting every year, right before Mother’s Day.
And it’s so easy to make, even I can do it! Just remember those cans! Here’s the “recipe,” such as it is: Empty one can of creamed corn into a pot. Then fill the can with milk and pour that in with the corn. Shake in a generous amount of dried minced onion and an even more generous amount of coarse-grind black pepper. Stir all together thoroughly and warm very slowly over very low heat; whether your stove is gas or electric, do not bring this concoction to a boil or you’ll curdle the milk. This will make enough soup to fill four smallish bowls, which is what we needed at our table for mother, father, my sister and me. (My sister, by the way, never became any better a cook than I am. I will have to call her and ask her if she remembers the corn soup…)
Anyway, I got the urge last Friday to recreate that soup, so I went out to the garage, where I have lots of cans sitting on metal shelves, just waiting to be called to duty. Most have already waited a long time — I don’t do much cooking at all these days, since I find fixing a meal for just one person a wasteful impossibility. I located a can of creamed corn that was so old, it didn’t even have today’s kind of date markings on it. But I can remember World War II, and how housewives all over America stockpiled whatever canned goods they could get their hands on, and were still bringing those cans up from their cellars and using them years later. Unless cans are leaking, or if they contain home-processed tomatoes — which always pose the potential danger of botulism — they will be safe virtually forever, regardless of the “use by” dates on them.
So into a smallish pot went the creamed corn, and out of my fridge came the remains of a pint of 2 percent (yes, I now buy milk by the pint; since I don’t use any in my coffee, even a pint sometimes sits around long enough to go bad), which I added to the corn. I always have instant minced onion and coarse-grind pepper on my spice shelf; after those additions and a thorough stirring, I put the pot on a burner with the heat turned low. And when it was warmed through, I poured everything into one good-sized bowl and ate it all!
I only fry frozen blintzes. I only made kichel once, and they weren’t very good. But corn soup? I’ll fix it again, next Mother’s Day!

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