The tall glass, filled to the brim with shaved ice and sweet corn, towered over the table. Perched regally atop was a lavish scoop of queso ice cream.
I burrowed through the ice with a spoon, attempting to stir the corn and ice together. I hesitated at first, worrying about the likelihood of a mess. Ice strewn all over the place. Spilled milk and melted ice cream on the once spotless table. After a few nervous, curt strokes, I realized my timidity was pointless. The mess I feared was inevitable. I poured more milk and dug deeper into the ice. I held the glass steadily with my left hand and stirred unrelentingly with my right. I churned up the corn with every turn of the spoon while my mouth watered for the sweet summer treat.
A taste of my maiz con hielo [mah-eez con yeh-loh] — literally, sweet corn with ice — instantly hurls me back home, back to the malls in Manila. They are an oasis during the hot summer months, a place of refuge from the grueling heat in the city. The closest shopping mall to our house was only two easy jeepney rides away. As a young adolescent, I spent slow summer days in its meandering, air-conditioned halls. I walked all day tirelessly. Aimlessly. I window shopped until I dropped, browsing through shirts and shoes I couldn’t afford and toys and trinkets I didn’t need.
A meager sum bought me happiness: a plate of barbecued chicken and java rice for lunch and a matinee pass for a Tagalog melodrama. I’ve always liked sad movies. The heartwrenching kind where a tragedy takes place in the first ten minutes but the story’s bida [bee-dah], the heroine, triumphs against life’s odds in the end. After a good cry at the movies, I treated myself to halo-halo or maiz con hielo at the food court downstairs. My afternoon merienda was the highlight of my excursion. I stirred the corn and ice while I watched the world in front of me pass by.
Happiness did not cost a fortune. Life was so simple back then.
Maiz con Hielo Recipe
sweet corn, fresh, frozen or canned
queso ice cream (optional)
Layer sweet corn and shaved ice in a tall glass. Fresh sweet corn is preferred but frozen or canned will do. Shuck fresh sweet corn, cook briefly in boiling water, then carefully strip kernels off the cob with a knife.
Add milk and sugar to your liking and stir everything together with a spoon. Indulge with a scoop of ice cream. Salty and sweet queso pairs wonderfully with sweet corn.