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.
David Vecsey's sweet tale of distant love before the Web, now NYT Podcast, narrated by Griffin Dunne. Please see:
George Vecsey is Hofstra University's Alumnus of the Month! Read a Q&A with George here.