With a hectic work schedule, lots of City business and ongoing home projects, Summer seems to be flying by this year. With the high heat and humidity last week, it's clear the "dog days" have arrived, even though our weather has been more tropical this year. The pop-up thunderstorms are unpredictable but offer a brief respite from the heat. Who knows what August will bring, so we need to make the most of this bountiful season in the South.
When it comes to the unpredictability of Summer storms, we came close to having a rain-out of Canton's very first Summer Concerts in Brown Park on Saturday. This is an excellent new event sponsored by Canton Main Street, and Speedy Smith with Speedy Productions handles all of the set up and equipment. Speedy is a Canton treasure and is always on hand to run the sound and technology for First Fridays, Concerts in Brown Park and countless other city events. He is definitely one of the most dedicated and hard-working guys in town, and we greatly appreciate his heroic efforts.
On Saturday, the forecast was calling for 70%–100% chances of rain until around 5 PM. The concert in Brown Park was scheduled to begin at 5:30. Speedy and his team had everything set up, but I, and many others, were convinced the event would be cancelled. Whether divine intervention or just Speedy and Main Street's steadfast determination that the show would go on, the clouds and rain cleared in time for John Michael Rose to take the stage as the first act at 5:30. The crowd was slim at the beginning and seemed stunned the weather had taken a turn for the better, but the John Michael Rose band left no doubt Canton was in for a treat. Some of you probably recall the days when John and his band were regulars at Downtown Kitchen's live music upstairs on Friday night. It was great having him back in Canton, and his rocking blues seemed to beckon more concert attendees as his set progressed. People began walking down to the park to see what was going on, and attendees got the word out on social media. By the time the second act, the Dashcrackers, took the stage, the crowd had grown to a respectable size, and they were there to have fun and enjoy the outdoor concert. The final act, TouchFire, brought even more people to Brown Park, and they closed the night out in style. All in all, it was a magical night, and I was, once again, so proud and thankful to be a Canton resident. We are hoping for better weather for the next Concerts in Brown Park on August 19, so mark it on your calendar now! You won't regret it, unless you don't attend.
After the concert, we came home and watched an interesting movie about the life of poet Emily Dickinson. Yes, I can't escape my passion for literature over thirty years since earning my BA in English from Berry College. Cynthia Nixon, from the Sex in the City series, seemed an odd choice to play the famous poet, but her performance was quite stunning. I've always been haunted by Dickinson's verses, but the movie put her life and melancholy into context. As a period piece, the movie was somewhat tedious yet captivating at the same time. In addition to portraying her life story, the background narrative included readings of her poetry to frame each scene. Hearing the readings, in the context of the movie's intriguing cinematography, brought Dickinson's words to life in a hauntingly beautiful manner. I recommend the movie for tried-and-true poetry and literature fans, especially on a rainy and stormy night. Perhaps it's time for another night of poetry readings on the Side Porch at One Britt? Yes, I geek out from time to time.
Speaking of geeking out, I woke up on Sunday morning thinking about corn. Since we were in Atlanta on Friday night and Saturday, I did not get to shop the Canton Farmer's Market this weekend. I have also been thinking about eating less meat for a while, and I figured Summer was the ideal time for this endeavor given the abundance of fresh, local produce. Maybe that's why I had "corn on the brain," but I was determined to prepare a vegetarian Sunday Supper from as many local ingredients as possible. I posted on Facebook, asking where I could find some local sweat corn and immediately got a few sources. Since it was Sunday morning, some of them were not possibilities, but Becky Buice and Scott Burns came through with the win. Becky had commented to ask Scott Burns if Great Scott Farm's stand was open, so I called them to inquire. The contact listed was actually one of the farmer's personal cell phone, and Scott Burns answered my call. He was out of town, but said he would call to ask them. He called back, saying the farm stand was open, and I ventured over to Ellenwood Drive, off of Univeter Road, to find a perfectly charming table of fresh produce, including corn, on a table under a tree. The produce was in baskets with hand written pricing, and there was an honor system with a dropbox to pay. I was overjoyed by this idyllic setting, especially when I spied some just-picked tomatoes on the table as well. Feeling drunk with my foraging, I planned tonight's Sunday Supper around those ingredients.
For the main course, I used the farm-fresh local corn to make a simple, but delicious, corn chowder. To accompany the chowder, I baked a "pone" of cornbread with some fresh cornmeal in the freezer from Liz Porter's Buckeye Creek Farm in Woodstock, incorporating some jalapeños from our raised garden at One Britt. For starters, I used the gorgeous heirloom tomatoes from Great Scott to make a caprese salad. Our friends, Cory and John, have an unbridled herb garden this year, so I used some of their purple and green basil in the salad as well. For dessert, this meatless Sunday Supper called for a homemade banana pudding, and I used my mother's recipe with great success. It was like taking a bite out of my childhood memories, and the satisfaction was more voluminous than the mile-high Southern meringue.
For me, it has been a weekend of living in the now. It sounds cliche, but I find great pleasure in my surroundings and everyday experience. It is so easy to get caught up in the stresses of work and personal challenges, but we have to stop and taste the corn from time to time. As Emily Dickinson would say, "Find ecstasy in life; the mere sense of living is joy enough."
- Simple Corn Chowder from Local Yellow Corn
- Caprese Salad with Great Scott Heirloom Tomatoes and Woodland Basil
- Iron Skillet Jalapeño Cornbread from Buckeye Creek Farm Cornmeal
- Old Fashioned Banana Pudding from Mama's Recipe
The Recipe – Simple Corn Chowder
2 tablespoons butter
- 4 scallions, white bulbs only, finely chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 2-3 Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- 4 cups fresh yellow corn kernels – reserving two corn cobs
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 quart canned low-sodium chicken broth, homemade or organic
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 cups whole milk
- Fresh-ground black pepper to taste
- Chopped chives or scallion greens for garnish
In a Dutch oven or large saucepan, melt the butter over medium low heat. Add the scallion, bell pepper, and celery and cook until the vegetables start to soften, about 10 minutes. Add the potatoes, two cups of the corn, reserved corn cobs broken in half, bay leaf, broth, and salt. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
While the corn and vegetables are simmering, use a blender to puree the remaining two cups of corn with the milk. Stir puree into the Dutch oven and add the black pepper. Simmer until slightly thickened, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove corn cobs and bay leaf, and garnish with chives or scallions.