Corn must be a generational thing. I say this because kids don’t seem to tuck into an ear of corn with the same zest that I do. It is a taste from childhood, from a different age.
Of course, we are all to blame for tolerating contemporary year-round corn with the taste and consistency of those packing chips in shipping boxes.
I am talking about real corn, recently picked, grown for taste. We were in upstate New York recently, and my wife bought a dozen ears from a farm stand (12 for $3, leave the money in the plastic box) and the next day it still tasted fresh.
The terrible drought in the Midwest has not affected the corn upstate; the only good news from Hurricane Isaac is that there may be some relief for the back end of the Midwest corn crop.
I can get downright Proustian (in emotion, if not writing style) about the memories of fresh corn -- Á la Recherche du Mais Perdu, as Proust might have titled it, boiled corn, doused in butter and salt, the way my mother served it.
We did not have much money – sometimes did not have a car – and my father worked weekends and holidays. So my mom would make a picnic for five kids and we would walk up the glacial hill to Cunningham Park and she would start a fire and prepare a dozen ears of corn, maybe two dozen. I think my kid brother has the dented pot we used.
My wife, after her 13 or 14 trips to India, turns the corn over a flame, daubs it with one spice or another, in homage to picnics with friends in the hills of Pune.
Either way, I get downright sentimental.
In its Labor Day editorial, the Times mentions sweet corn as a rite of the end of summer, like taking kids to college or watching the Open tennis.
The writer must be of a certain age (by definition, editorial writers would tend to be.) Somebody younger might rave about holiday treats somewhat more chi-chi. Corn still makes me happy.
Measuring Covid Deaths, by David Leonhardt. July 17, 2023. NYT online.
The United States has reached a milestone in the long struggle against Covid: The total number of Americans dying each day — from any cause — is no longer historically abnormal….
After three horrific years, in which Covid has killed more than one million Americans and transformed parts of daily life, the virus has turned into an ordinary illness.
The progress stems mostly from three factors:
First, about three-quarters of U.S. adults have received at least one vaccine shot.
Second, more than three-quarters of Americans have been infected with Covid, providing natural immunity from future symptoms. (About 97 percent of adults fall into at least one of those first two categories.)
Third, post-infection treatments like Paxlovid, which can reduce the severity of symptoms, became widely available last year.
“Nearly every death is preventable,” Dr. Ashish Jha, who was until recently President Biden’s top Covid adviser, told me. “We are at a point where almost everybody who’s up to date on their vaccines and gets treated if they have Covid, they rarely end up in the hospital, they almost never die.”
That is also true for most high-risk people, Jha pointed out, including older adults — like his parents, who are in their 80s — and people whose immune systems are compromised. “Even for most — not all but most —immuno-compromised people, vaccines are actually still quite effective at preventing against serious illness,” he said. “There has been a lot of bad information out there that somehow if you’re immuno-compromised that vaccines don’t work.”
That excess deaths have fallen close to zero helps make this point: If Covid were still a dire threat to large numbers of people, that would show up in the data.
One point of confusion, I think, has been the way that many Americans — including we in the media — have talked about the immuno-compromised. They are a more diverse group than casual discussion often imagines.
Most immuno-compromised people are at little additional risk from Covid — even people with serious conditions, such as multiple sclerosis or a history of many cancers. A much smaller group, such as people who have received kidney transplants or are undergoing active chemotherapy, face higher risks.
Covid’s toll, to be clear, has not fallen to zero. The C.D.C.’s main Covid webpage estimates that about 80 people per day have been dying from the virus in recent weeks, which is equal to about 1 percent of overall daily deaths.
The official number is probably an exaggeration because it includes some people who had virus when they died even though it was not the underlying cause of death. Other C.D.C. data suggests that almost one-third of official recent Covid deaths have fallen into this category. A study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases came to similar conclusions.
Dr. Shira Doron, the chief infection control officer at Tufts Medicine in Massachusetts, told me that “age is clearly the most substantial risk factor.” Covid’s victims are both older and disproportionately unvaccinated. Given the politics of vaccination, the recent victims are also disproportionately
Republican and white.
Each of these deaths is a tragedy. The deaths that were preventable — because somebody had not received available vaccines and treatments — seem particularly tragic. (Here’s a Times guide to help you think about when to get your next booster shot.)
From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.