Of Sex and Sweet Corn
“Sex is good, but not as good as fresh sweet corn”, quipped Garrison Keillor. I would have to say to Garrison, quite depends on the corn. Scouting out the seasons best, navigating the myriad of choices is a veritable maize. Not as simple as buying Green Zebra Tomatoes or Black Beauty Eggplant, corn for the most part is still not sold under name or varietal. You are likely to find all of the Sugar Buns and Silver Queens heaped together in one glorious mound.
Here in the country most farmers are unlikely to have a chat with you about sugar to starch ratio or have punchy adjectives on the ready for their latest crop. “Corn is sweet,” they will say or “picked this morning.” And I imagine that echoes what their father and grandfather before them had to say on the matter as well. The farm down the road piles corn on a rickety roadside table, a sign, Fresh Sweet Corn, a coin drop box on the honor system, says it all.
It is up to us then to find our way, to cultivate the instinct, to avoid the sellers who fawn off their cow corn clunkers as the eating kind and to have an eye to spot the best, the young, the sprightly kernels with a snap pop-pop. Look for a lush green husk, full and voluptuous with sticky silk and a kernel that when burst gushes with milk. Once purchased be hasty ‘bout your business, corn should be eaten quickly, as fast as one can manage from farm to table as to avoid the corn’s inevitable starchy decline.
So as we find ourselves on the brink of magic time, summer harvest, a cornucopia of information. A shopping guide to the best summer fruits and vegetables, good, clean and fair vegetables that is, the mantra of the Slow Food movement, and a summer’s wish for us all. A place to try some rad street corn, if you find yourself in New York, Cafe Habana serves up the best in the city. Perfectly charred on the grill then slathered in mayo, cayenne and cotija cheese; this corn is a favorite of hipsters and celebs. And a bit of culinary inspiration- try artisan butter with corn, something fresh churned or in the European style, rich and golden, a grand match with sea salt flakes like Maldon. Or perhaps venture off the cob with a quick pan sauté or oven roasting, the high temp and fast cooking yields a magnificent sugar sweet result, a perfect dish to prove Garrison’s argument, corn better than sex, however one must say that it quite depends on the lover as well.
A Summer Shopping Guide