I came across this picture recently and it seems perfect for this blog. It was probably taken around 1957 and is from the slides in my Dad's collection that I brought back after he died. It is a picnic held in the yard of some friends of our families. That's me with my two brothers in the foreground. If you look closely at our plates you'll see evidence of one of the highlights of the summers of my childhood – roasted corn-on-the-cob. Every summer of my childhood it seems like the summer was measured in the number of memorable corn roasts held.
My Dad (who most likely is behind the camera here) and Mike Belsole (in the blue shirt) were corn roasting pros. The way it works is this: first you need a metal barrel with a tight-fitting lid into which some holes are punched. Then you need a wire basket that is fit down into the barrel so the baskets bottom is about a foot short of the barrel's bottom. You build a fire with a cement block on either side of it. You fill the bottom of the barrel with water and fill the basket with corn from which the outer husks and silk have been removed. You put the lid on, lift the barrel to balance between the cement blocks over the fire and you let the fire and the smoke do the rest. Sometimes hot dogs were added in a second basket on top of the corn. I'm sure if it were done here there would be clams in there.
This resulted in the most delicious, smoky tasting sweet corn in the world. That roasted corn was the highlight of many a summer picnic. The Belsole family in the picture here lived out in the country. That's their barn in the background and I remember fields of corn and lots and lots of apple trees there. Take a look at the car in the background – that was Dad's. Lots of memories tied up in this picture.
When we had corn roasts at home, Mom would send up up to get the corn from Mr. Brown who lived up the hill from us. I loved going to their house. Mr. Brown built hand-made grandfather clocks that were so beautiful and Mrs. Brown was always cooking. She had pots of flowers everywhere in her house. It was the first place I remember seeing amaryllis. So we'd get the corn (and usually a couple of fresh-from-the-oven cookies) and come home. Sometimes we had hot dogs with the corn but, more often, all we added was fresh-from-the-garden sliced tomatoes and radishes and, of course, cucumber salad. Mom's cucumber salad was delicious. No matter how much she made it was never enough:
Mom's Cucumber Salad
Slice 4-5 fresh young cucumbers into thin sliced and put them in a bowl with a garden-fresh onion also sliced thin. Chop up some fresh dill and sprinkle on top. Mix together ½ c. salad oil, ¼ c. white vinegar, and 2 tbsp. sugar. Pour over the vegetables and let sit ½ an hour before serving.
I remember one time in Marblehead I had visitors from Canada. We had gone to a farmstand early in the day and I bought cukes and corn to go with the lobsters we had for dinner. When I put the bowl of cucumber salad on the table one of the guys pulled it over and placed the whole thing on his plate. He said, “You can have my lobster if I can have all of this.” Turns out his mother had served the same salad when he was a boy growing up on a farm in Ontario and he hadn't tasted it in years.
So another summer is in its sweetest and most lovely days – the last couple of weeks before autumn. The picture below was taken a couple years ago at another picnic. Those are my nephews Pat and Thad and the frog they just caught. My brothers and I caught a million frogs on similar picnics. So, the world keeps on turning despite the insanity. But as long as people keep looking forward to fresh corn-on-the-cob and kids keep catching frogs I guess we'll turn out okay.