When I was about 9, my grandma Lois took me and my cousins David and Ellen to the Vancouver Game Farm (which no longer exists). It was a really hot July day and we were shuffling along kicking up dust along the dirt roads to stare at a lot of animals that were sleeping in the shade and/or glaring at us. When we got to the llama pen, there was one really active llama, snuffling humans and craning his neck over the enclosure fence to see if anyone had food. I started to pet one of his flanks and I thought he was enjoying the attention. He swerved around to look at me, looked away, looked back again and spat a litre of sour saliva through his yellow piano key teeth directly into my eyes at 60mph. If you’ve never been spat at by a llama, it’s an amazingly painful thing. I’ve also been pepper sprayed, and that was fucking nothing compared to the sting, stink, volume and trajectory of llama spit.
Lois made me wear a ridiculous Gilligan-style sun hat which I ripped off my head and pressed on my eyes to soak up some of the nastiness. It was absolutely everywhere, all over my face, my hair, my chest, you name it. Amazingly, Lois began to - what I can only describe as heckle - the llama: “Well, you didn’t need to do that, Jessie has always been very gentle with animals, you’re being stupid”. My grandma has the ability to shame a 2x4, so I’m pretty convinced that even if the llama didn’t understand exactly what she was saying, he certainly got the gist.
The fallout of this story? Every time I see this in the grocery store, I think of that llama:
Something about the colour and the way they line up reminds me of its teeth. Which may explain why I usually avoid corn (and pianos). Until I found a rather intriguing recipe in the wonderful Caren McSherry cookbook “In a Pinch”. This recipe is originally for blue cornbread, but I couldn’t find blue cornmeal anywhere, so I figured yellow cornbread would probably do just fine. Since I love Southern food, and as Caren points out in her book, the baguette is sooooooo overdone, I thought it would make a good party food, until I realized that I didn’t really want to throw a party, so I just cooked it, ate most of it myself, then brought the rest to work. I must say that the girls of the Eastern Bloc thought it was pretty good:
Cornbread (Blue or Yellow)
1 cup blue or yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sour cream
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
5 tbsp melted unsalted butter
1 cup corn salsa
1 cup grated monterey jack cheese
Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl and set aside. Whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, eggs and butter in another bowl and set aside. Lightly oil a large cast iron frying pan, mix the wet ingredients into the dry and add the salsa. Spoon into the skillet and place cheese on top. Bake in a preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes until the cornbread is golden brown:
I think I can handle corn like this. I probably won’t be eating it a ton, but this is an attempt to broaden my horizons. It’s especially good when you dip it in soup, or toast it and add butter. Yum.
Thank you, childhood trauma!