Let’s talk about hominy, y’all.
My past perception of this humble little nugget was simple: a little trashy, a little low-rent, a little flavorless.
In short, I was a total douche about this particular ingredient.
As a quote from a long-forgotten character in a novel whose name I also forget said, “Sometimes it bees that way.”
But I digress. Point is, I was a snob about this humble little kernel of corn for no good reason.
That perception changed with a recent birthday dinner for my particular friend at Woodberry Kitchen.
My particular friend is a vegetarian who has been flirting with the idea of fish for quite some time. Although both of us believe that vegetarians can get plenty of plant-based protein, thankyouverymuch, there comes a time when it is simply easier to get animal-based protein (like, say, eating out).
Plus, fish is DELICIOUS.
So he figured that he would give fish another go at Woodberry, which, if I am being honest (as I always try to be), is potentially the best place to try anything new for the first time because Spike Gjerde and his brigade is the bees’ knees and you know whatever you order is going to be delicious.
So my particular friend ordered seared Maryland rockfish on a bed of hominy (among other things) and OH MY GOD.
That shit was good. Like, plate-mopping-with-homemade-bread-good. Eat-real-slow-to-make-it-last good.
Since that dinner I have become mildly obsessed with hominy. The word itself has been bumping around in my brain and, no lie, I had dreams about it once last week. I gave in and did some research then headed to the kitchen.
Hominy is basically corn that has had a good, long soak in a bath of something lime-y. In some applications, that bath is lye, which is tremendously terrible for you to actually eat and which this blog can absolutely not get behind. Lutefisk be damned – lye is not what you should be putting in your body.
In other cases, that bath is some mixture of wood ash and lime. Still sounds pretty scary. I like local, and since dried hominy was not available IMMEDIATELY (which is when I like things to be available), I picked up a can of Manning’s Hominy from the local Giant. Since nobody really knows what hominy is (except for Spike Gjerde, bless his heart), I wandered up and down the aisles until I reached that thin sliver of overlap that is “soul food” and “Hispanic food” in Giant.
It’s a thin sliver, but it exists. I should have taken a picture.
Manning’s Hominy has a Baltimore history and remains local to this day. It also happens to be the name of the road we used to live on in Georgia. #Destiny
Plus, bonus: it is steam-peeled and no additives (like lye) are included.
So I accidentally picked up this can of local hominy because truthfully it was the first one I saw in that little sliver of an aisle, and I just wanted to get my mitts on some of it to see what was what.
The contents of the can are patently unappetizing. The hominy is ghost-white and covered with slimy mush; the contents are “congealed” as the can itself says, and no one wants to hear “congealed” in conjunction for what they are about to eat.
Pressing on, I used a fork to separate the little kernels and proceeded to prepare it two ways: toasted and served with Maryland rockfish (thanks, Spike) and roasted fennel, tomatoes and oil-cured olives (pictured above); and in a roasted chicken and hominy stew.
The corn flavor is subtle in both dishes, but the texture of the hominy adds something that is difficult to describe. It’s chewy without being sticky, and when toasted (it actually pops in the oven, which is unfortunate as my oven ceiling is now somewhat covered in hominy) it gets a nutty flavor that deepens the longer it cooks.
Dried out, it’s like Corn-Nuts, which are far too crunchy for their own good (plus too loud, which for someone who has misophonia like me is a nightmare).
Slowly simmered in stew, hominy picks up all of the flavors of the stew while still retaining its innate corn-ness.
Pictured above is one of two specials using hominy in this week’s dinner line-up.
They are both delicious, and you should definitely order them if you live in Baltimore, but this blog is not about that even though it sounds like a straight-up advertisement.
I love you too much for that.
This blog is really about the stupid preconceived notions that we hold on to for no apparent reason. This one has to do with food, but if you think really hard I bet there are other things you believe that you can’t even identify why you believe them.
Food is a powerful belief system tied to its role in our lives growing up, but other things – politics, sex, relationships, for example – are no less powerful examples of how we cling stubbornly to something because “sometimes it bees that way.”
Something as simple as tasting hominy – this humble little kernel of corn – after dismissing it for so many years makes me think about what else I have dismissed for no reason. What else have I written off? Who else have I dismissed?
What have you cast aside for reasons you can’t name? What is your own personal hominy?