Now is the autumn of our corn content and certainly we have waited through a long winter to get here. There may be places where the first available corn is used as an ingredient in a recipe, but those places are, and shall remain, unknown to me. In our house, those first ears are dedicated to being eaten on the cob, perfectly cooked to a tender but firm al dente, sinfully coated in butter and conveyed to the mouth by fingers. Only when that initial craving is satisfied will the recipes be hauled out and re-evaluated for seasonal indulgence.
Like so many other market favorites, such as tomatoes, corn is native to the Americas. In this case, Central America, where it has been under cultivation for 9,000 years. The Mayans passed the knowledge and the seeds around. By the time the pilgrims arrived, it was the staple grain of the indigenous people of northeastern North America. Those 17th C immigrants called it corn, as most any European cereal grain was named. However, the Indians of the northeast called it “maize” which is more specific. Their original terminology is being increasingly used to identify this American vegetable.
Americans do love to celebrate their corn. The United States hosts almost as many Corn Festivals during August and September as there are corn-growing counties. Each one has its own specialty: corn eating, corn shucking, and corn pitching to cite a few. As you might expect, there are corn costumes and corny jokes in abundance.
Nonetheless, Mitchell, South Dakota may have outdone them all. The folks of Mitchell 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. 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. These murals are put up with the aid of “corn by the number” drawings and tar paper. American knowhow.
On the assumption that you may have eaten many ears of corn on the cob this summer, and that you might be ready for some other form of the flavor, this week’s recipe is Chilled Corn Soup with Green Chile. There are many more recipes on the website including: Corn Tomato Salsa, Puffed Corn Custard and Corn Wild Rice Salad.