The Suitcase Lady


August 5, 2014, 9:08 pm

“I’m as corny as Kansas in August”, is a famous lyric from the musical South Pacific. We are corny now as well. At the moment I am looking out my kitchen window at acres of corn marching in tidy rows.

That corn wouldn’t exist naturally in the wild; it’s a human invention. About 9,000 years ago, native people in Mexico took a wild grass called teosinte which had hard little kernels and figured out how to breed it into what is now the world’s number one food crop. Corn, more correctly called maize, provides nutrition for about twenty percent of the world’s population.

In its various forms, field, popcorn, sweet and seed, corn is America’s largest crop. Forty percent of the world’s corn is grown in America, more than in any other country. And eighty-seven percent of that corn is grown using only natural rainfall.

President Dwight Eisenhower retired to a working farm and said, “Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from a cornfield.”

As a child, I thought every field of corn I saw was sweet corn just waiting to be brought to our farmers’ market. My mother soon set me somewhat straight saying, “That’s only for cows.” She also told me why we ate it immediately after bringing it home…..the sugar quickly turns to starch and the flavor is lost.

My husband, who grew up in a farm family, taught me how to buy sweet corn. Shortly after we were married, I proudly came home with corn sporting large, deep yellow kernels. Next time, he gently told me, look for small kernels and a creamy yellow color.

It is now the apex of summer and the sweet corn is in. So get out the big kettle, melt the butter and put a big stack of paper napkins on the table. A sweet corn dinner is the ultimate, messy grease feast. Add a leaf lettuce salad to assuage guilt.

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