July 24, 2010
On my way home from Berkshire Wordfest today, I passed a farmstand selling corn. Since I’d just been talking about my mother, I couldn’t help stopping to buy a few ears.
Corn was Mom’s great culinary triumph; nobody made it better. This was because Mom had a farmer who knew exactly what she liked – the youngest, smallest, whitest ears – and he went out to the field and picked them when she called. Mom would put down the phone, put a pot of water on to boil, and hurry over to his place. We’d shuck them quickly, and when we put them in the pot they were just minutes out of the earth. Mom never cooked them long – just a minute or so, to get them hot enough to melt the butter.
Today the farmer looked puzzled when I said that I was looking for the smallest ears, but he obligingly went through the pile, looking for what he called “the puny ones.” Most farmers leave the ears on the stalk too long, so that the kernels swell up until they’re starchy (my mother called that “horse corn”). When I stripped the ears I was happy to see that the kernels were pearly and immature. I dropped them into boiling water for a minute, slathered them with butter, sprinkled salt on top. Then I sat down and ate three ears, all by myself.
They weren’t as good as Mom’s. But they made me happy.
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