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Sweet Corn Offers Taste of Childhood
Not to overstate the matter, but I’ve been eating the beejeezus out of sweet corn for the last few weeks, and it’s made me sick. Homesick that is.
I am a Midwesterner through and through, a Hoosier by birth and a country kid by virtue of a series of accidents, some happy, some not so much, that landed me in LaGrange County, a place where eating is the only recreational activity that can give watching basketball a run for its money. The nice thing is you can do them both at once. My Mother never eats at the dining room table during college basketball season. You can’t see the TV from there.
But that’s not sweet corn time, and this is. Back to the corn. The vegetable, I mean. Not my column. Well, that too, come to think of it. The first bite into an ear of corn always, always takes me back to that LaGrange County kidhood, and the summer evenings when Sweet Corn Suppers were on the menu. Corn was the main course, the centerpiece of the menu, augmented by a few sliced tomatoes, green onions, a salad (wilted lettuce if I got to choose), another hot vegetable (green beans were popular, and abundant) and whatever fresh fruit we had on hand.
They were wonderful suppers. No one – namely, me – seemed to notice the absence of meat from the table, and that’s saying something. Back then I was a dedicated carnivore who would have eaten hamburgers three meals a day, six days a week (On the seventh, I would have wanted pork chops or fried chicken. Don’t tell ME I can’t be flexible.
Our sweet corn came from the patch planted over at Grandma and Grandpa McKenzie’s, and it was terrific. Now, we did have some disagreements as to what constituted a good ear of corn. I preferred just slightly on the immature side. Grandpa, on the other hand, liked his fully mature and a little chewy. He said the only ones who ate green corn were Mike and the raccoons; I said that as long as he ate that chewy corn, horses were going to go hungry. Judging by his reaction, he thought his joke was a lot funnier than mine.
This is the only area in which I ever really disagreed with my grandfather, but I stuck to my guns. I could compromise on small stuff like religion and politics, but you have to stay true to your convictions on something important like sweet corn.
Well, anyway, back to the homesickness. I’ve been thinking about it and I’ve decided that what the corn really brought to my mind was not food, but a meal – an evening in the waning days of summer day with autumn just over the horizon; fresh food and plenty of it; sitting at the table with my family, listening to Grandpa’s stories, feeling safe and secure and content. You can’t beat memories like that. Of course, that’s not my only corn memory.
I’m thinking of when I was 12 years old and still getting used to the idea of sweet corn as a main dish. That was the day I discovered, rather spectacularly, that you can have too much of a good thing, even corn. Either that, or those green beans were backing up on me.
© 2008 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.
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