History of Food

History of Food

Monday, June 11, 2012

Corn on the Cob Day - June 11

There is so information available about corn, I am striving to primarily focus  my post to just corn on the cob.  Although this is my goal, undoubtedly there will be some crossing the lines and the broader topic of "just corn" will spill into this post.  

Corn, aka maize is really a grass. Or more correctly, a grain that comes from a grass. Corn was domesticated by the Aztecs and Mayans in prehistoric times. Over the years the popularity of corn spread throughout the Americas due to it's variety of uses and ability to grow in distinct climates. 

Corn on the cob (known regionally as "pole corn", "cornstick", "sweet pole", "butter-pop" or "long maize") is a culinary term used for a cooked ear of freshly picked maize from a cultivar of sweet corn. Sweet corn is the only variety of maize eaten directly off the cob. The ear is picked while the endosperm is in the "milk stage" so that the kernels are still tender. Ears of corn are steamed or boiled, usually without their green husks, or roasted with them. The husk leaves are in any case removed before serving.

The most common methods for cooking corn on the cob are boiling, roasting, and grilling. Corn on the cob can be grilled directly in its husk, or it can be husked first and then wrapped in aluminum foil. When oven roasting, cooking the corn in the husk directly on the rack is recommended. When roasting or grilling corn on the cob, the cook can first peel the husk back to rub the corn with oil or melted butter, then re-secure the husk around the corn with a string.  Corn on the cob is normally eaten while still warm. It is boiled or grilled. It is then often seasoned with salt and buttered before serving. Some diners use specialized skewers, thrust into the ends of the cob, to hold the ear while eating without touching the hot and sticky kernels. 
Common condiments and seasonings for corn on the cob include butter, salt, and black pepper.

Fresh corn on the cob is not only fun to eat, it’s healthy as well. And even better, most kids love to eat this delicious summertime vegetable.  Without butter, a small ear of corn has about 65 calories while a large ear has about 125 calories.

There has always been those who have said that eating corn on the cob lacks etiquette.  Lillian Eichler Watson, in a 1921 etiquette book, described corn on the cob as "without a doubt one of the most difficult foods to eat gracefully." She added that "it is entirely permissible to use the fingers in eating corn, holding it lightly at each end; sometimes a napkin is used in holding it." Sometimes, however, a short sharp knife would be provided that each diner could use to cut or scrape the kernels from the cob for later eating. She described this as "by far the most satisfactory method" of eating corn on the cob.  Some etiquette books recommend salting and buttering the corn a section at a time just before eating that section, which helps to minimize the mess on the diner's face and hands. Butter dripping down the diner's chin and kernels getting stuck in-between teeth may be a source of embarrassment for the dining experience.

On a personal note...I am from the Midwest.  In the Midwest we throw etiquette out the window when eating corn on the cob.  Since I have relocated to the Northeast I have been using corn cob holders (skewers) to eat corn on the cob.  You may ask why.  Well, my husband is a Bostonian and I think that he uses them because it is more over a regional preference. 

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