01/19/2012 07:28 pm ET Updated Mar 21, 2012

How Caribbean Corn Chowder Reunited My Grandmother and Me

I am a prideful woman who loves to cook. Oddly enough, this combination provided the perfect recipe to bring my grandmother and I back together after three years of not speaking.
Our ideologies are not aligned; she believes that natural disaster is the result of God's fury against evil. I believe that it is the result of a wounded earth and unprejudiced misfortune. She wakes up and reads her Bible. I wake up with a hangover. These differences caused a strain in our relationship, and whether I wanted to realize it or not, it was time to change things. I had to make the call.

When I heard my grandmother's voice on the other end of the phone, much and little had changed. With age she has become sillier, her laugh more robust and free. She informed me that she was slower now, but still tends to her garden, a bounty of oranges, collard greens and tomatoes that we picked together when I was a little girl.

We spoke of many things; how a woman she once despised was now her best friend, of when she and my grandfather got married they had not a penny to their name, only love. How although she has seven children, she also has a new family of people that reaches from Israel to Los Angeles. I told her about my life, as well; of losses and gains and turning the big 3-0.
What is it about a grandmother's unbounded joy at the sight of their grandchildren? How tickled they are at just the sound of our voices, that we are alive, and happy? And why did I let so much time pass before I put aside my pride, and simply picked up the phone?

This is a story of reunion, but also of food; Caribbean Corn Chowder to be exact. "I heard you cook now?" my grandmother asked me, only slightly able to mask the surprise in her voice. "I do," I replied with pride. The last time my grandmother saw me, I could barely chop an onion. But, a few years ago, something inside of me changed. I wanted to take ownership of the food I put into my body. I wanted to put in the effort and love that I have witnessed all of the women in my family commit to for years. I shared with her some of the recipes I love to make, of the cooking business I began, and the countless cuts on my hands caused by being too anxious.

She was thrilled at the sound of it all. I was too. "I've got a recipe for you as well," she said. I grabbed my pen and paper, knowing instantly that this would not just be a recipe I would soon make, but one that I would hold on to dearly, like a coveted treasure. This was a recipe that my daughter would know one day. And this is a recipe that I'm sharing with you, in celebration of reunions, of lessons, and of family. I challenge you to not only make this recipe, but to call a loved one you haven't spoken to in a while. I hope that both will fill your spirit.

1 small mango, diced
1 sweet bell pepper, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
2 tsp. honey
juice of one lime

Combining all ingredients in a small bowl; set aside.

2 small yams, cubed
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp. flour
3 cups 2% milk
1 cup vegetable broth
3 cups corn kernels
pinch of cinnamon
1 tsp. of ground turmeric
Sea salt and cracked pepper, to taste

Place yams in a microwave safe dish, cover with water and cook on high for five to ten minutes, until tender. Drain well and set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat oil until hot over medium heat. Add ginger and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is softened. Add flour, stirring to coat. Gradually whisk in broth until no lumps remain; add milk. Bring to boil and cook, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened.

Stir in sweet potatoes, corn and spices. Heat soup through and bring just to the boil. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for about five minutes more.

Serve soup, garnish with salsa.

6 servings

*Recipe adapted from