Friday, March 14, 2008

Grilled corn muffins like Nana used to have..

I've been feeling very nostalgic lately when it comes to my food. Maybe I just miss home, or maybe it comforts me to know that this place called California is beautiful, but I come from a land where folks don't wear sunglasses when it's cloudy. Anyway, I've had a serious craving for corn muffins lately.

My first job (not counting the paper route) was at Lolly's Bakery in East Boston when I was 14. I worked there all day every Saturday and Sunday selling layer cakes soaked in rum flavoring and filled with boiled cream and strawberries, Cannoli, St. Joseph's Zeppole, and Neapolitans. I tied up boxes with string until my fingers bled (literally, I wore band aids for the 2 years I worked there). The boss loved me because I could memorize the price of every amount of pastry from 1-12 (it was easy, everything was 6o cents) and I was always on time even though my dad had to drive me while Stella was always late and she lived across the street.

Although I did try everything once or twice, I didn't make it a habit of eating the baked goods at Lolly's because, like most teenage girls, I thought I was fat when I only weighed 115 pounds. The boss, who mildly harassed me regularly, one day asked if I wanted to get in on a pizza him and Sal were ordering for lunch. "No, thanks", I said. "You watchin' your figure?" he asked. "Yeah" I said. "Well, it's not going anywhere!! haha!!" he laughed. Very funny.

I never figured out who Lolly was. But whoever he was, he taught Sal how to make awesome corn, raisin bran, and blueberry muffins. They had sugar, they had fat, they were how muffins used to be. I loved the smell of them, and sometimes I nibbled on one in between old ladies asking me for "apricot bow-ties, the fresh ones that just come out". Little did they know I had dropped an entire tray of apricot bow-ties on the floor and the boss told me to put them back on the tray and sell them.

My grandmother used to send me down to the corner greasy spoon for a "grilled corn muffin". It seemed like a strange thing the first time. I went down there and watched them cut it in half, put a huge dollop of something that looked like butter on the big flat frying grill he was using to cook bacon on, and fry the muffin top and stump upside down while he pressed them into the "butter" with a spatula. He put it all in a white wax paper bag that was soaked with grease by the time I got it back to Nana. She always had Howard Johnson's corn toasties in the freezer, which was the kids' version of the grilled corn muffin, and she served them to us toasted with butter.

I don't know why all of this has suddenly come into my head, but my sudden nostalgic hankering has recently turned into a craving. I 've been running around town asking bakeries if they have corn muffins, and every time they look at me as if I'm nuts. I found one or two that were OK at some random places, but nothing worth mentioning. I finally found some at Von's. I picked one up along with a blueberry muffin. Apart from the pizza-crust like sprinkling of corn meal on top which is just weird, it was pretty good! I ate the top in the car on the way home and then grilled the stump in butter the next morning. It was like hugging my grandmother, well, she wasn't much of a hugger, let's say it was like watching my grandmother have a smoke, walking in the Fall leaves, and having a delicious breakfast all in one.

[I was looking for Ho Jo's corn toasties online so that I could post a link for you folks and I came across this rant from an East coaster who is going through the same thing I am. (The Internet just confirms that no matter what you are going through, someone else is too.)]

The whole experience has really been a kind of "back to my roots" project, and it feels good. It makes me wonder, if corn muffins and tuna sandwiches and chicken cutlets are so good, why don't I make them more often? I think I will.


V said...

Nana used to like Thomas's Corn Toastees too. they're not bad.