Think about a time in America when the providers of farmer’s seed catalogs made a practice of telling broad, overtly dumb jokes and posing brain-twisting riddles instead of the serious but dull metrics of crop production. It was from these catalogs that the seeds of corny jokes were cultivated. Is it only nostalgia? Or were we really more freely lighthearted within our more confined personal borders and lives? For sure, we felt comfortable being silly. For example:
What did the corn say when he was complimented?
What did one ear of corn say to the other?
Don’t look now, but we’re being stalked.
What do you call a mythical vegetable?
All over the United States during August and September, there are Corn Festivals. With festivals come contests, and those concerned with corn include corn eating, corn shucking, corn pitching, to single out a few. In 2019, a world record for ears of corn eaten in 12 minutes was set by Gideon Oji who consumed 57 ears of corn. We should note here that third place is held by Nick Wehry of Torrington who ate 35 ½ ears. It is hard to believe that there is actually a separate competition for maximum number of corn kernels consumed and yet another for the number of kernels eaten with a toothpick. Somehow, that doesn’t sound all that exciting.
Now assuming we are ever able to travel again in my lifetime, there is one extremely corny place I’d like to get to see, that is The Corn Palace.
The folks of Mitchell, South Dakota built their first Corn Palace in 1892 in preparation for the Corn Belt Exposition of that year. They replaced it in 1905 and rebuilt it once again in 1921. Today the Corn Palace hosts everything from agricultural events to popular concerts. Along the years, this magnificent edifice acquired Russian onion domes and Moorish minarets. Its most striking feature is that the exterior murals are redesigned and constructed annually using corn, cob and kernel. Each year a new corn theme is selected and artist compete for the winning design. These murals are put up with the aid of “corn by the number” drawings and tar paper. American knowhow
Native Americans called it maize. They probably still do. The term “corn” was commonly used throughout Europe to mean to any staple food crop, generally barley, wheat and oats. Initially the Europeans called the maize “Indian corn” when they added it to the list of European cereal crops.
This inelegant, handheld food leapfrogged all the world’s Miss Manners’ to ascend to the mouth-watering, butter-dripping, slippery-fingered summer treat that corn on the cob has become. Now that summer is officially in past, you may be ready to try a few other corny ideas. Our website contains many past published recipes from these pages including: Corn Salsa, Corn and Wild Rice Salad, Corn Chive Fritters, and Peaches, Corn, Basil and Red Onion Salsa. For the more ambitious, the website also has detailed instructions on an old-fashioned New England Clambake with seaweed roasted ears of corn. Today’s recipe is Creamy Corn Soup with many options for garnishing. Additionally, here is a link to a fast easy method of freezing some of that flavor for those grey cold winter days ahead: http://allrecipes.com/video/4067/how-to-freeze-corn/
The mighty onion might be the single most taken-for-granted vegetable in the basket. This kitchen staple is the mainstay of many cuisines, an essential flavor for countless meals. Like many essentials, it rarely receives its just acknowledgement for its contribution. In the list of world class cuisines, the onion plays a pivotal character role in each one. The most elegant of Chinese, Middle Eastern, French, Italian and New American gastronomies owe the onion a debt.
In all its many forms, the onion is a member of the Lily family. Its cultivation predates recorded history. Archeological science tells us that since the first bone, piece of stone or antler was made to scratch a tilled row in the earth, the common diet across many peoples and places consisted of bread, beer and onions. Onion traces have been found in Bronze Age settlements dating to 5,000 BC. One early onion story tells of a Sumerian governor along about 2400 BC who was caught using temple oxen to plow his personal onion fields. Fields which had previously been the best of that temple’s gods and which he had recently sold to himself for the temple’s benefit. Political chicanery appears to be as old as politicians.
The onion has and has had many devotees. Arabs believe it increased the fortitude of lovemaking. It was also given credit as a meteorologist when there was a claim that the thickness of its papery skin could predict the severity of the coming winter. Its vegetable prowess continues in modern times. There is a duly registered Parisian religious sect called the Worshippers of the Onion. I’d be curious to know what their membership qualifications entail.
I confess to having a veritable library of food reference material. Then there’s the internet. Despite my efforts, I have been unable to find a consensus on the defining characteristics of each type of onion. My best efforts have yielded the following:
Our website is chock full of good ideas for and with onions, including: Onion Bisque, Blood Oranges, Red Onion and Fennel Salad, Summer Squash and Onion Gratin, and a Bacon and Onion Crustless Tart. This week, however, we are going back to basics with our favorite recipe for Caramelized Onions, great for topping a hamburger, a side dish, in an omelet, a quiche, a one pot chicken dish and on and on. Be warned, though, that you might find yourself just forking it directly into your mouth.
Madison Avenue has nothing on Mother Nature when it comes to packaging. She uses no tree or oil products in which to wrap her produce. Peas come in pods, apples on cores, ears of corn on cobs, artichoke hearts in thorny fists, brussels sprouts on vegetal stakes, melons in rinds, bananas in peels and squashes come in a dazzling exhibition of self-containment. Imagine, a food that provides for its own transport protection, cooking vessel and serving dish. Now that’s farm to table all the way to compost.
Indigenous to the Americas, like tomatoes, potatoes and corn, squash was enthusiastically adopted by those who carted them to foreign markets around the world. Squash is another one of those mystifyingly misclassified fruits masquerading as a vegetable. One begins to wonder if it is because whoever the classifiers were, they adhered to the concept that fruits belong to breakfasts, snacks and desserts, while vegetables belong to main and side dishes. A bias with as much basis as so many others. As far as I know there are no fruit or vegetable police for which these misnomer crimes will create an offense.
Not only does the squash have nutrition in its corner, it is frequently a rich golden orange in color that can brighten up a plate and an appetite in the bargain. There are dozens of squash recipes on our website including: Butternut Squash and Vanilla Risotto, Roasted Buttercup Squash with Cider and Forbidden Rice, Lamb Stuffed Acorn Squash, Pan-Braised Winter Squash with Cinnamon-Scented Couscous, Butternut and Goat Cheese Gallete. For today we’re offering Honey Bear Squash Roasted in Honey, Nutmeg, and Sage.