Creamed corn and I have a history. We go way back, creamed corn and I. I still remember that dinner, so long ago at my poet friend Mike's house. Fried chicken was on the menu, along with that most noxious of canned side dishes.
Mike's dad, Steve, in spite of my misgivings, plopped a generous pile of creamed corn on my plate. Creamed corn was certainly nothing I had encountered in my own home. Just what the hell was this stuff? Corn that was creamed? I poked and prodded a little. The consistency was not unlike oatmeal.
Then the smell hit me.
Have you ever smelled creamed corn? One whiff and you know something's not right. Open the can and it's right there--corn, but not exactly corn. Corrupted corn. It can be overpowering, like opening a can of cat food. You have to be ready for it. Hold it as far away as possible. It's a freight train to the olfactory glands.
Steve tried to reassure me. It was corn, he said. Just corn. There was nothing to be afraid of. You like corn, don't you?
Well, then you'll love this.
I don't want to.
You have to.
I don't like it.
You haven't tried it.
I don't want to try it.
You can't leave the table until you do.
I picked at my wasted chicken breast. The creamed corn was waiting, its stench robbing me of all appetite. Time crawled by. Minutes melted into hours. There I was, at the table with Steve, Mike having already wolfed his creamed corn as though it was candy. He was off somewhere safe with his Legos, digesting this goo.
The windows filled with darkness. The creamed corn, long cold, was a sickly, yellow-grey island on my plate. Steve stood sentinel, the faintest smile curling on his moustachioed upper lip. Below me was the dog. The dog! If only my captor would turn away, just for a second. Dogs eat anything.
Now, understand that I like corn. Always have. I like cream too. Creamed corn, however, occupies the very bottom rung of the vegetable kingdom. Frozen succotash? Like steak by comparison. Strained peas? Next to creamed corn, strained peas are chocolate cake.
I don't want to try it, was my feeble defense, as futile as before.
You're not leaving the table till you try it.
I don't feel good.
You feel fine. One bite and you can go. Just one.
It was hopeless, I knew. My tormentor, motivated by god knows what, was determined. My fate was sealed. I lifted the fork to my mouth, the creamed corn smell invading my nasal passages, infecting my insides. My brain told me to do it fast, get it over with, but I couldn't. Fear gripped me. Sweat dotted my seven-year-old brow.
Then, all of a sudden, it was in my mouth, and the taste was somehow unlike the smell; it was far worse. I threw up. Steve feigned sympathy, though I could hear his internal cackle of joy. Out came the semi-digested chicken. Out came it all. Chaos ensued, the dog lapping up everything indiscriminantly.
The aftermath doesn't really matter. I will tell you that my love for creamed corn has not blossomed. I find it repulsive in every way. The smell of it still sends a quiver to my belly and conjures images of that fateful night when my world fell apart. I have since forgiven Steve, though he's never once offered an apology.
So I beg you all, gentle McBoners: if ever you invite me to dinner, I'll be a gracious guest. But please, for the love of all that's holy, hold the creamed corn!
PS. This is a true story.