Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sweet Corn

We always called it "sweet corn" when I was growing up.  We'd buy it at Richfield Farms in Clifton, New Jersey.  A heavy-set woman with dark hair, flushed face, and plump arms would be seated in front of a bushel basket loaded with corn.  She would rip the husk down part-way to make sure there were no worms and toss the ear of corn into a large brown paper bag.  Summer had begun.

It did today when we bought our first corn at Busa's in Lexington, the variety called "butter and sugar."  (Busa's does not grow "silver queen," a variety I find much too sweet.)  I steamed the corn for five minutes and ate it with salt and pepper--no butter.  We made a supper of corn, broccoli with olive oil; for dessert, cherries.  

I'll be eating corn for weeks, until summer is over, and always buy it from Busa's, which has been in business since 1920.  They sell their corn the day it is picked.

Here is a depiction of Chicomecoatl, the Corn Goddess of the Aztecs.  Accounts I've read say that every September the Aztecs would sacrifice a young girl to the goddess, pour her blood over the goddess's statue, and flay the girl.  The priests would wear garments made of the girl's skin.  I'm glad to buy my corn at pleasant Busa's, hear only the squeak of the husks as I shuck, watch the jiggling pot lid, and eat a peaceful meal. But should we congratulate ourselves for our civilized behavior?  We have our own forms of cruelty.


  1. butter and sugar corn, that's one of the good things I remember from high school years, eating fresh corn, many ears... an imprint of pleasure from a distruptive time... thanks for reminding me. I had supermarket corn the other day, at a friend's house and it was suprisingly good. I usually prefer farm stand corn...thanks, Mim..

  2. All the rain has not rotted out the crop. The corn is delicious.

  3. I once worked on a farm harvesting this variety. I ate the corn raw five seconds after I pulled it form the plant. Nothing sweeter. It looses that quality as time passes minute by minute -- but it is still good hours later.

  4. PS -- Hart Crane had a lot to say about corn, didn't he?

    I visited Chichicastenango in the Guatemala highlands years ago and found the Indians there still using corn in their supposedly christian ceremonies. On the steep temple-like steps of the church they burned dry corn husks while praying. Inside all the christian images were covered with thick black soot from hundreds of years of similar burning. On the floor (no chairs or benches) women in their gorgeous, everyday costumes sat in a circle of candles on the floor burning husks and manipulating object on the floor. I have some photos of this that I must go back and look at. These natives did not like tourists toting cameras and were very hostile to white outsiders, feeling, I think, that they have been the victims of genocide continuing to that day. (I hear that things are better in Guatemala). So I was very discrete in my attempt to take a few pictures. This business of relating spiritually to what is eaten is remote from our culture, but it has been of central importance to all untouched civilizations.

    And finally -- I recall when I ate corn in the field, it seemed to liquify instantly in my mouth almost like custard. Nothing like it, ever, but I am sorry to say that I had no religious experience.

  5. i am looking forward to it this weekend. i have been soaking the whole ear--husks, corn silk, and all--in water, then putting it on the outdoor grill until the outer layer is brown and papery. amazing!

  6. The story of corn goes on--the eating, too--Susan and Bluedog.