This Monday marked one year since the Pulse club shooting. My city has not been quite the same since, nor should we be. In the aftermath, as the blood drives ended and the shock faded into grief, I began to see more loss around me.
A family who walked through a year of hospitalization with a brother-uncle-son, only to lose him at the end. A first baby born and buried before his due date. Friends struggling to be good parents and partners in the absence of anyone to model these things for them.
I have been thinking lately about grief at a distance. These are not my losses: what does it look like to grieve when others have first rights? I did not know anyone who died at Pulse. My grief for our city’s loss is real, but it is impersonal.
I went back and reread what I wrote after that weekend, in which I mentioned that one of the victims was a student at my university. It turned out that his boyfriend, who was with him that night, was an alumnus. They were memorialized on campus this weekend. It’s a beautiful painting, depicting the two sitting peacefully under a bright sky. It is lovely and loving and it is a reminder that they are gone.
I am learning something I already knew: that loss cannot be papered over. My impulse is to offer phrases of comfort, but even when they are true, even if they help a little bit, there is no fixing grief.
I wonder if it is not often the ones left behind who rage the hardest against the dying of the light.
I wanted a neat resolution to the Pulse tragedy, to all of the tragedies I see around me, and there are none. Loss has a ragged, trailing edge. Grief takes its own time, and it is a slow and uneven process.
On Monday, I settled for small things. I got a rainbow heart sticker for donating blood and wore it all day. I prayed for the families. I let the day be quiet. I tried to accept that my hurt is real, but that others have heavier hurts to carry.
In the end, the only promise I can make is to myself: We will not forget. There is no filling the holes left; perhaps the best we can do is acknowledge them. For the lost, for those who loved them, for myself, I will remember.
Elote: Mexican Street Corn
Food has healing powers. Sometimes it’s in the food itself, its cleansing or vitamins or proteins, but sometimes it’s in comfort flavors, in warmth, in the love of the hands that made it.
So I’ve made us fresh, juicy, vibrant elote. In America, it’s known as Mexican Street Corn. A simple creamy sauce is slathered on hot corn so that it melts in, and topped with sprinkles of fresh cotija and cilantro.
This is a messy food. You will get sauce and corn juice and cotija all over yourself. The best thing to do is to grab an extra napkin and realize that if you’re going to get this disheveled for one ear of corn, you might as well have two.
I roasted my corn in the oven, but I’ve also included instructions for grilling. My version is just a tad spicy (Robby would say medium heat). I usually don’t like that much, but I love this so much that I eat two ears in short order regardless.
You can substitute ancho or regular chili powder for the chipotle powder (test to make sure you like the heat). You can also, if you must, use feta cheese instead of cotija.
One way to get really small crumbles of cotija that will stick to the sauce is to put a chunk of cheese in a resealable bag and just squish it with your fingers.
As often happens, this recipe owes a great deal to Serious Eats.
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 crumbled cotija cheese (can sub feta), plus extra for serving
1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro, plus extra for serving
5 ears corn, shucked
4 teaspoons butter
Lime wedges for serving
Mix together mayonnaise through cilantro. Set aside.
Place a pat of butter on each ear of corn. Wrap in foil, place on a baking tray, and bake for 20-25 minutes at 450F.
Grill on an oiled grate directly over high heat. Turn as the ears start to blacken; remove when all sides have some char, about 10 minutes. (Or wrap ears in foil and grill for 15 minutes; you don't get any char but the corn will be juicier.)
Use a spoon or brush to coat the hot corn in the sauce. Sprinkle with extra cheese, cilantro, and chili powder (if desired). Serve immediately with lime wedges for squeezing.