Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Great Corn Struggle

Over at Blushing Hostess today and tomorrow, I will pass along a great corn on the cob recipe. But it is not without some trepidation as the Hostess herein that I bestow this upon you. Ultimately, there does need to be some suggestions if you are going to serve corn on the cob to civilized guests.

Corn on the cob is one of my favorite foods on the planet just as it is: shucked clean, wrapped in foil and cooked on the grill. It is also a favorite of mine done a dozen other, unnecessarily complicated, ways. The issue with complicating corn is that, in a service environment, it is already complicated. So think long and hard about who is coming to dinner before you haul out the corn basket.

Be forewarned that the best scenario you can have for serving corn on the cob is outdoors among family or people who know one another so well as to feel nearly as comfortable as family. It is neither an attractive thing to eat in new, nerve-wracking, company, nor a pleasant thing in the aftershocks. Imagine meeting your spouse's new boss or your boyfriend's parents over an ear of corn: What will be more concerning to you" Gnawing the corn from the cob like a beaver on crack? Or possibly the frustration you will experience in trying, fruitlessly, to suppress the inevitable urge to suck and pick corn out from between you teeth? The most experienced guests see corn on the cob, take a lay of the land, and take a pass if they cannot consume the corn without fear of the looming teeth-related poor manners.

One needs to think ahead and consider every last pit fall of the food that graces their table. There are things in the entertaining world that do not mix: Seated, served dinners and corn on the cob. Cocktail buffets and corn on the cob. People in nice attire and corn on the cob. New acquaintances hoping to impress one another and corn on the cob (are you with me so far?). And the list goes on. These are only some of the reasons you do not see corn on the cob in fine dining: Because there is nothing fine about it. Remove it from the ear with a knife if you are bound to serve corn in any of these scenarios.

As for etiquette, forget it. I have read all manner of nonsense from every grand dame of manners who is full of hot air: The little corn-holding skewers that you place in either end of the ear to make holding the ear easier are simply a useless way to take money from you. They do not make consuming corn easier and they have nothing to do with etiquette. Hopefully, your hostess will make things easier on the guest by making an informal, outdoor, sit-down environment which invites you to raise your corn, in both hands, to your mouth and eat it the way God meant you too, with your hands and teeth. It is not an etiquette-applicable food, no matter what they will tell you. Do what feels right, repeat until you have had your fill or badminton commences.

But do serve corn on the cob. I mean, do it with vigor at every opportunity because in my book the season for sweet corn is like life and summers in particular: Heart-breakingly short. But serve it to the people who changed your diapers and whose you have changed, and to the people who rode the bus with you when you had ketchup down the front of your shirt, and picked you up when you scraped your knee jumping rope. Or, the people who stood next to you when you were married, when you were sick, when you lost someone. People, who have seen far worse on one another's behalf than some teeth-sucking. Because corn on the cob is not for the faint of heart or a formal affair.

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