Friday, July 13, 2012

We Have Corn!

This time last year, for reasons that are still unknown, my ability to taste and smell vanished. Because of this, many of my beloved favorite foods also vanished due to not being able to enjoy them. Foods such as shrimp became allergy inducing demons to my immune system. Chocolate, which had been a replacement for sex on the regular, became toxic. (Don't over think it!) In short, life was not good. The weirdest part of this situation involved cravings for foods that I hate! Yes, the rarely used "H" word, hate.

Corn! I developed an insatiable craving for this gastro challenging, nearly nutrient deficient, starch laden, funny looking vegetable that, (squeezing my throat) I was forced to eat as a kid. And not just any corn, it had to be, Sloughouse corn. However, before delving into all things wonderful about Sloughouse corn, we must journey back to my traumatic corn infested childhood for a moment to understand why this veggie is so gross to me. (Okay, it isn't any more, but we'll get to that)

Every child has a food that they dislike. Why? Who knows, but I challenge anyone to look back in their life and find the foods that they exuberantly disliked. (Didn't use the "H" word) Mine was corn...especially, clenching my throat, holding back the saliva, creamed style corn! Oh Lord, slap the demon who invented this crap! Seriously, what kind of crack were they smoking? Who in their right mind combines corn, sugar and vomit into an edible substance to be consumed by humans? And who, willingly searches this gruel out, slaps it on a plate next to fried liver, smothered in onions, floating in a vile brown gravy, along with candied yams, rice, and string beans? My father. Yes,  this was his favorite meal, which meant that for many long suffering years, it was cooked often, and served with military abandon. Allow me to delve way back into my childhood. I have two distinct memories of my father's culinary expertise. One involved his mastery of all things Creole. Seafood was consumed, but not every day. (More like major holidays, special occasions, or whenever he felt like cooking it) The other, his penchant for foods that revealed his ultra humble roots in Louisiana. These almost inedible meals consisted of potted meat sandwiches, (Aw hell no, I would not eat these!), Ho cakes, (not a misspelling) which were similar to pancakes, except that they made better frisbees, anything starchy that floated in anything brown and thick on top of a plate of rice. (Seriously, I can remember the first time I ate a potato!) and always, something "good" as he referred to dessert. In hindsight, that something "good' was always something that he liked, and something that we would not eat. (Think grown folks ice cream. Lord, he liked the weirdest ice cream. Black Walnut, Maple Nut, etc.)  If there was any dissent among the ranks, he would rant, "In dis house, you don like what I cook, you not gon' eat!" Needless to say, we ate, lest we had to endure the same meal the next day. Got to love those depression era parents!

Back to corn

As mentioned earlier, a craving for Sloughouse corn had developed during a lengthy convalescence. There was no real reason to desire this corn as I had only eaten once. My in-laws were regular visitors to the Davis Ranch roadside combination fruit/vegetable stand, Christmas tree farm, picnic area, and pick your own strawberry mecca. They would drive from North Sacramento to Sloughouse, fill up the back of a pick up truck with corn, and regularly host "corn" parties where the veggie was boiled, grilled and eaten raw. Imagine, someone eating corn raw? Gross! So, I tried it; at least it wasn't floating in vomit!

Nirvana! The corn was ridiculously sweet and actually had a good flavor. However, after a few bites, childhood memories flooded back, and I refused to eat a whole ear.

Many years later, and a debilitating condition that robbed me of the ability to savor food, I had to have this corn! The good news, it was corn season and they had plenty! Even better news, they had freshly picked ( it is picked all day)...yellow corn; and if you bought a certain number of ears they gave you a certain number of ears free! (I think they are closet Creoles, because we call this act, lagniappe!) Without any hesitation, Kenji roared down the highway towards Davis Ranch.

One year later, and a partial and sometimes intermittent return of the olfactory senses, the cravings for Sloughouse corn never ceased. Because of the proximity to wine country, it would be rude to drive by without stopping and checking in on these good people. Good is an understatement as the Davis family is more than generous with their abundant crop. Two years ago, the family donated 100 ears of corn for a fish fry that was held to benefit my cousin who has Leukemia. The family was and still is eternally grateful for this and enjoyed grilling and eating several ears per person. (Warning, it is possible to eat more than two ears at a they say) Grilled, the sweetness of the corn, combined with the char from the grill,  a slathering of soft, warm butter, running down the length of the ear, careening in between your fingers, and eventually sliding down your arm, with a smidge of Red Dot hot sauce, a plate of Red Snapper and a red soda, can you say, "Orgasmic!" Food porn for sure, this experience is better than se- curing a spot at the head of the food line at your next fish fry! (What did you think I was going to say?)

The family has 500 acres of agriculture, and 300 acres is allocated to corn. Yellow, white and bi-color are available. The ranch manager, Tammy allowed me to photograph the inner working of production and gave me a plethora of information. She was warm, friendly and gracious even if she wouldn't allow me to take her photo. According to Tammy, the ranch hosts several events throughout the year. Fruits and vegetables are seasonal and they grow some unusual items as well.

Gourds are grown for decorative and practical use. Tammy informed me that a group of ladies from Hawaii regularly buy the gourds to make musical instruments. Having a childhood friend visiting recently who lives in Hawaii, I plan to follow up on this knowledge.
FYI, there will be a gourd festival in September! Check it out at:

Another interesting item on the ranch is the hydroponic strawberries.

Unlike traditional strawberry patches, the berries are grown in upright water baskets. This allows for more space, a cleaner picking environment, and parasitical control. Folks can come and pick their own using scissors. This keeps the plants healthy and allows for a tidier selection of berries.

Tammy also informed me that the strawberries were unusually sweet and rather large for local berries. Having never picked a strawberry, Tammy advised that if while taking photos, and if the urge to snatch a berry off the vine occurred, to please ask for a pair of scissors. I behaved and only took photos as there was no chocolate available. (Who can eat a strawberry without chocolate?)

The ranch also offers other food items such as homemade jams and jellies, walnuts, pistachio nuts, sunflower seeds, trail mix and cold beverages. It is a perfect diversion on a road trip to the nearby wine country.

The ranch also boasts a picnic area complete with clean tables and a large green lawn. The area can accommodate groups, but please call ahead for specifics. (916) 682-2658.

Lastly, the ranch is also a Christmas tree farm. Located at the northern end of the property, there were several varieties of tree available. From observation, I could see a Douglas Fir and a Silver tip Noble. Having a bit of experience in tree cutting and selling of firewood in a past life, a good friend of mine, Bobby, RIP, used to sell Christmas trees. He would explain that the best trees came from Oregon, and that California trees were cut long before the holidays and would dry out sooner than trees grown in Oregon. In his opinion, the Noble fir was the best tree, and if you could afford it, a Silver tip was even better. He really gave me an education in tree morphology....I digress, and he really loved corn from the Davis Ranch!

Evidence proves that this corn is still eaten in my household. My youngest can hold her own with a few ears. I don't know what is more enjoyable, shucking or eating? Regardless, the whole experience allows people to commune and enjoy the pleasure of eating some of the best corn available anywhere. Is it the soil, or is it a combination of passion that makes this corn so phenomenal? I believe it is a little of both. The next time you are driving up to the wine country, be polite and stop by the Davis Ranch. Ask about the bi-color corn. It is usually located to the far right of the counter. Tammy says it is the best!

Happening this weekend, go get your corn on!

Sloughouse corn, it doesn't get any better than this!

Until next time,