Corny American Pride

I’ve been thinking lately about the things I’ve taken for granted. After living three years abroad, our military family finally appreciates what we have as Americans.

I’m not talking about ethereal concepts like democracy and freedom. I’m talking about the really important things that make a tangible difference in our every day lives as Americans.

I’m talking about Corn on the Cob.

Yes, that sweet vegetarian delicacy indigenous to this great land of ours. Native Americans cultivated “maize” for thousands of years before Europeans discovered the “New World” and the usefulness of corn as a grain, but it was only a couple centuries ago that Iroquois shared with settlers the sweet variety of corn eaten off the cob. Unlike the settlers, Europeans never really took to eating corn straight off the cob. In fact, they are of the general opinion that corn on the cob is hog feed.

So for three long years, we went without.  

It wasn’t easy, because, as far as vegetables go, corn on the cob has always been kinda special to us. Despite the fact that my father was raised at the boardwalk in New Jersey, he was always a wannabe country boy, which is why we had a garden about eight times too big for a family of four, along with a tractor, six chickens, two goats, a cat, and at least two hunting dogs.

As such, my brother and I had chores that were uncharacteristic of suburban children. We were picking green beans, tending goats, and driving a tractor when our friends were getting jobs at the mall. Also, I had the unenviable task of selling the excess eggs, puppies, and vegetables at the end of our road. Corn on the cob was my best seller, and my first real source of income.

Nearly two decades later, my husband-to-be first laid eyes on me when I was sitting rather unlady like on the deck of a beach house, shucking corn. Unfortunately, I was covered in sand and my wet bangs had fallen into an unflattering middle part. Worse yet, the four thick rolls of my belly protruded between the top and bottom of my bathing suit.

It took a shower and considerable work with my curling iron, but I was able to win him over at dinner that evening, not without help from a heaping plate of delicious Silver Queen corn on the cob.

Even my children have fallen under the sweet corn spell. Our middle child, Anna, has always been a worrier. One night when she was about five years old, I tucked her into bed, placing her tiny hands together under mine to say our prayers.

“Now I lay me . . .” I began.

“Mommy?” Anna interrupted. “Yes, Honey?”

“What happens when you die?” she said, her big eyes staring up into mine.

“Uh,” my mind raced, unprepared. “Well, you go to Heaven, Sweetie. Now where were we?”

“Yea, but, what will happen to my body,” she specified.

As I looked into the worried eyes of my precious little girl, I could not reveal the reality of death and bodily decomposition. Panicked, I began to ramble.

“Well, Honey, when someone dies, his soul leaves his body and floats up to Heaven.”

“But . . .” I knew I had to say something, anything, that would quickly distract her from thoughts of dead bodies being buried in deep, dark graves, where they are left to rot into the dirt.

“Heaven is beautiful!” I said, but her eyes still looked worried, “And you can have anything you want,” her brows were still furrowed, “and, and, you can have wings and YOU CAN FLY!”  

“Can I have purple wings, Mommy?”

“Yes! Yes! You can have purple wings!” I blurted, relieved to at long last please my relentless little interrogator. Her eyes fluttered with visions of purple feathers as we finished our prayers.

“Can I really have anything I want in Heaven?” Anna asked as I kissed her forehead.

“Yep, anything,” I replied, and turned to leave the room. As I flipped the light switch, I heard Anna whisper one last question: “Mommy, can I have corn on the cob in Heaven?”

“Yes, Sweetie,” I answered with a smile, “you can have all the corn on the cob you want.”

To this day, our family still yearns for the yellow sweetness of this heavenly vegetable; in fact, we have consumed no less than four dozen ears since moving back to the States a few weeks ago.

We can’t get enough of freshly boiled cobs rolled in butter, sprinkled with a pinch of salt and cracked black pepper. My husband haphazardly chomps at the cob, leaving tufts of missed kernels. I munch methodically from right to left like an old typewriter, occasionally stopping to chew and swallow sweet mouthfuls. Due to expensive orthodontics, Anna gnaws at the youngest kernels on the ends and trims the rest off with a knife. Lilly takes spiral bites around the cob like an apple peeler. Hayden, who despises all vegetables, seems disgusted by our shameless display of gluttony.

When every cob has been stripped of its golden pearls, we sit swollen, with buttered cheeks, giggling about the stuff stuck between our teeth.

We, the People of this great Nation, possess the unalienable right to enjoy distinctly American Corn on the Cob, a liberty which one should never take for granted. Give me hot buttered ears or give me death, I say! Let freedom and the dinner bell ring!

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Comments: 9

  1. Maz September 14, 2011 at 10:26 pm Reply

    As for me…I look forward to fresh corn on the cob more than any other seasonal vegetable.
    However, since viewing the movie “Secret Window”, I can’t see or hear about a “steaming pot” of corn without thinking of Johnny Depp! He even has braces like Anna!
    NEVER let her watch that movie. It may ruin her concept of heaven AND corn on the cob.

  2. Anonymous August 10, 2011 at 12:05 am Reply

    Hey Lisa,
    This was the first time I been to you blog site and this one is the first of your stories I’ve read. I enjoyed it. Tell your hubby and the kids Mr Greg says hello. (We) Nina and Tyler are doing well and we are settling in well.

    • Lisa Smith Molinari August 10, 2011 at 1:28 am Reply

      Thanks Greg! I will have to send an e-mail to Nina and find out all the details — in the meantime, tell her hello from me!

  3. energywriter August 5, 2011 at 1:21 am Reply

    When I lived in Germany we mostly satisfied our corn yearnings with corn bread. Of course we made up for it with fresh corn on the cob when we returned to the US. After a lengthly discussion re: the benefits of eating corn with a German national, I made a pan of corn bread for him to take home. His family’s response, “Interesting.” His wife sent a big plate of cookies in return.

  4. My Traveling Troop August 2, 2011 at 4:37 pm Reply

    My family will eventually go overseas. I wonder what we’ll miss!

    By the way, what is your favorite way to cook corn on the cob? We just got into grilling it with the husks on. Yummy!

    • Lisa Smith Molinari August 2, 2011 at 5:26 pm Reply

      Being a “meat and potatoes” kinda gal, I prefer the old fashioned way — fresh picked and shucked in the same day, then boiled or steamed evenly so that the kernals pop off and are not chewy. Rolled in real butter with salt and pepper. Wipe mouth with sleeve and apply toothpicks for a clean finish.

  5. Diane August 1, 2011 at 8:59 pm Reply

    This is so funny Lisa! I have tried to explain to my parents that we couldn’t get the white sweet corn in Germany to justify us indulging 3 times a week on that sweet buttery corn.

    It is the little things about America that I missed the most! We are taking pleasure in shopping on Sundays, pumping gas without showing id’s & green packets with our registration, overhearing people talking and being able to understand them, trying shoes on before you buy them, etc…

    I am glad to hear that I wasn’t the only one completely obsessed by the corn! Enjoy!

    • Lisa Smith Molinari August 2, 2011 at 5:28 pm Reply

      Don’t forget Di, we got to have corn on our pizza in Germany (Yuk!) and piled on our salads, sometimes with kidney beans too!

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