Posted tagged ‘summer’

How I Spent My Childhood Summers in New Jersey

July 25, 2016

Summers are often a magical time, where you take a break from the pressures and schedules of school and just get to be lazy for a couple months. Unless of course your parents made you go to day camp, in which case you still had to catch the bus, take on a full schedule of activities and deal with the drama and struggle of fitting in, just like at school. Such was the case with my childhood summers in the Armpit of America, where I would count down the days for school to end, only to start camp soon after (and then count down the days until camp was over).

Though this may seem like a vicious cycle of misery, camp was never that bad….much like Ronnie and Sammi from “Jersey Shore” (speaking of which, I toured the infamous house, in case you missed it), I just had a complicated love/hate relationship with camp, as described below.

pine.grove.day.campI went to three different day camps during my childhood, but it was only the third that had a significant impact on my life. That camp was Pine Grove Day Camp, located in Wall Township. It was run by a guy who looked like a cute old Jewish man like Mel Brooks but who managed a children’s day camp like a concentration camp. Seriously, the guy could make you wet your pants with one harsh look. But still, he knew what he was doing. Aside from sunburn and mosquito bites and all the times I wished I didn’t have to go each summer, that camp gave me a lifetime of memories from eight summers.

Pine Grove touted itself as a camp “as complete as a sleepaway camp” and pretty much lived up to that description. Sure, it had a few pools, sports facilities, arts and crafts and all that standard stuff, but what set it apart more than anything is that it served lunch. Not just peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but real food cooked in a real kitchen – fried chicken (or as the camp menu called it, “honey dip’t chicken”), meatball subs, grilled cheese, hamburgers, etc., complete with sides and dessert. In fact, the only meal that sucked where those days every two weeks where the option would be tuna and egg salad platters. But any day you didn’t like the main course being offered, there was a range of substitutes you could order – bagels, turkey sandwiches, yogurt. Hell, even if you kept kosher, they would accommodate you. Needless to say, the food was one of the best parts of Pine Grove, especially if you were a fat kid like me.

(more…)

My Tribute to New Jersey Corn

August 22, 2015

It’s been way too long since I last posted, so let’s get back into the swing by talking about something of crucial importance: corn.

corn

That most humble of crops, corn is one of the most widely consumed plants there is. But it rarely gets the respect it deserves. It’s processed and transformed beyond recognition into things like corn chips, corn syrup, ethanol, animal feed and who knows what else. Or, it’s kernels are unceremoniously stripped off their cobs and shoved into tin cans or stuffed into plastic bags where they end up in the supermarket’s freezer section for eternity.

But for two months a year, we get to experience how corn should be experienced – slathering it in butter and gnawing it right of the cob. Sure it’s messy and unsightly, but when it’s summer and the corn is ripe, there’s no better way to eat it. And there is no place that does corn better than New Jersey.

For whatever reason, Jersey corn is the best in the country (take that, Iowa!), offering ears full of juicy kernels as sweet as candy, putting that nasty candy corn shit to shame. But why New Jersey of all places? Some say it’s the naturally fertile soil – or maybe there’s just a lot of fertilizer in the soil. Could it be that all the chemical runoff causes some kind of reaction to make it better? Or maybe when God was creating New Jersey, he knew that one day it would be the butt of everyone’s jokes and known more for corrupt politicians and trashy reality TV stars than anything else, so he blessed the land with the best corn on earth. It’s plausible.

But as good as the corn in New Jersey may be, there is one place that offers corn superior to anywhere else in the state, Samaha’s Farm Market of Aberdeen. This staple of my home town simply offers the best corn there is. I can’t tell you how many summer meals from my childhood to my adult life were made all the more better with Samaha’s corn. It’s so good, anytime we’d make the trip to Long Island to visit relatives, said relatives would implore that we stop at Samaha’s on the way and bring this holy Jersey corn (or as native New Yorkers call it, “cawn”) across the border. And now that I’m living on Long Island, I’m the one demanding delivery of Samaha’s corn.

And it’s definitely worth it. From the minute you eagerly rip away the husk and gently brush away the fair silk to reveal those virginal, cream-colored kernels, you know you’re in for something special. And when they’re in their water bath steaming away, it will seem like the longest minutes of your life as the scent of corn gently caresses your nostrils. Once cooked, you might be tempted to dive right it in, but be careful, it will be pretty hot; besides, the corn, being the temptress that she is, wants you to take it slow and savor every minute.

corn porn

Corn porn!

Woah, got a little carried away there. Anyway, you definitely could eat the corn as is and be perfectly content – it certainly doesn’t need any additions. But there are no heroes when it comes to corn. Go ahead and gild the lily by slathering it with butter and salt – it makes the experience all the better and perfectly acceptable to use a phrase like “gild the lily.”

corn butter

So, if you’ve never had Jersey corn before, I strongly recommend that you make the trip to the Armpit of America and try it – you’ll never look at corn the same way again.