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Living High on the Stalk

By: Angela Gillaspie © May 2001

Whether it's dripping with butter, fried golden, creamed, popped, pickled, roasted, boiled, broiled, or steamed, a type of corn is waiting for you. There's something else about corn too - most everyone can identify with it. Folks from all over have strong feelings and emotions for this versatile grain.

Everything on the corn plant is usable: the husks for tamales and dolls, the silk for medicinal tea, the kernels for food (and leftovers for bait), the stalks for fertilizer, and the cob for fuel, jelly, and makeshift toilet paper.

The two most popular varieties of corn nowadays are white and yellow. Yellow corn has larger, fuller-flavored kernels, which are easy to spot when changing a diaper. White corn kernels are smaller and sweeter and not as noticeable when they get stuck in your teeth.

When my daddy was a boy, he farmed yellow and white corn. The two types of corn had to be separated because cross-pollination would ruin the taste and price (and Lord knows what the neighbors would think).

By fall, the corn would be dried out and ready to harvest. Daddy and a few of his eleven siblings hand picked the corn and took it to the corn crib using their two-horse wagon.

On weekends and rainy days, the kids shucked corn. There was no television to watch Hee Haw or NASCAR, so there wasn't much else to do other than shuck and debug the corn or tip a cow or two.

The yellow corn was shucked, shelled, and cracked for feed, and the white corn was primarily used as income for the family after it was ground on the grist mill into meal.

Occasionally, Granny used yellow corn to make hominy. She soaked shelled corn in lye water until the hull came off; this usually took a day or two. When the skin came off, the corn would swell and it was washed thoroughly to remove all the lye. Then Granny cooked the corn until it was tender, and served it with a generous amount of butter and salt.

After the shucking and shelling were done, there were piles of cobs. Daddy told me (as I rolled my eyes) "When the Sears and Roebuck catalog ran out in the outhouse, we'd use corncobs. You'd be surprised at how soft the cobs were! The yeller corn left red cobs and we'd use them first, then use a white one to make sure we were clean." (Thank God for advancements in toilet paper technology. Amen and amen.)

Another corn moneymaker for my relatives was moonshine. Corn whiskey was distilled in the deep woods from a fermented mash of about 80 percent corn. If you know where to look, you can still find Mason jars filled with liquid fire. I'd write more about this lucrative venture, but none of my relatives wanted to discuss the recipe or the whereabouts of the stills due to the fifty-year pending investigation (although they giggled when they remembered getting the pigs drunk by feeding them sour mash).

Not many grains are as well-loved, well-eaten, and well-drunk as corn (just ask my Uncle Booger).

In my home, we prefer yellow corn on the cob (either roasted or boiled) soaked in melted butter and sprinkled with salt and pepper. Corn gets stuck in our teeth and my kids have perfected the angle and velocity of their corn juice spray when they chomp down. I never realized that corn juice could be used as a weapon. My husband takes the "typewriter" approach to cleaning kernels off the cob. He begins at one end of the cob and takes loud repetitive bites until he reaches the other side of the cob. It goes without saying that I never serve corn on the cob when we have non-relatives over for supper.

I know that I've stimulated your craving for corn plus given you a few ideas to try out on your family. Shuck yourself a heap of plump sweet corn, and perfect your own way of preparing and eating it. (The corn juice spray weapon is merely a suggestion.)


Want more? Visit my Corn Talk page and read some of the comments that folks are making about corn.

Want recipes? Visit my Corn Recipe page!


Thanks to Traci, Dave W., Dave G., and Ben (the Redneck Genius) for advice, support, and corny tips. ~Angela


Copyright © 2001-2017, Angela Gillaspie
Revised - 04/30/01 - 11/21/17
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