Global warming, terror alerts, stock market decline, rising oil prices, Bush/Kerry shenanigans. My friends, we can’t do much about these things, but we can act to solve a problem that, before yesterday, I blithely ignored. Certain synchronicities have convinced me that this is my calling: to urge each of you to make the world a better place by not—repeat, not—peeling down the husk when you’re considering buying an ear of corn.
A passage from the last chapter of Thoreau’s “Walden” comes to mind: “Say what you have to say, not what you ought. Any truth is better than make-believe. Tom Hyde, the tinker, standing on the gallows, was asked if he had anything to say. ‘Tell the tailors,’ said he, ‘to remember to make a knot in their thread before they take the first stitch.’ His companion’s prayer is forgotten.”
How to handle corn husks, this is my personal tailor’s knot. Hopefully not my gallows’ statement, but a saying of something simple and true. Now, I hasten to add that I do not discount my sister’s comment on yesterday’s post. She too speaks the truth: our mother did indeed teach us to pull back the husk to look for bugs or worms. And there are indeed bugs and worms in some ears of corn.
But let us again turn to Thoreau for inspiration as we try to chart a true corn course. From Chapter 1 now: “But alert and healthy natures remember that the sun rose clear. It is never too late to give up our prejudices. No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can be trusted without proof…Old deeds for old people, and new deeds for new.”
Old and new are, of course, not measured in years, but in attitudes. A fresh, open, clear, youthful mind can inhabit an 80 year old body, while a twenty-something’s psyche can be encrusted in barnacles of unquestioned received “wisdom.” As intellectual as my mother was, I cannot help but recall the time she had the not-so-bright notion that brushing one’s teeth somehow brushed in more cavities than were brushed out, so my eleven (or so) year-old self was made to eat a carrot every night instead of brushing my teeth.
After 365 carrots I went to the dentist for a check-up. Twelve cavities. So much for a mother’s health wisdom. I feel, then, that it is as much out of respect for my mother’s questing spirit, her never-failing drive to discern the ultimate truths of the cosmos (which nonetheless went woefully astray in matters of oral hygiene), that I have come to feel that my calling is to correct her corn buying approach.
The synchronicity I mentioned above came in the form of a newsletter from LifeSource Natural Foods that Laurel shared with me this very morning. In an article about buying corn by Jeanette Jones, Produce Manager, I read:
“Without pulling back the husks, feel the ear down to the silks area. The silks should be dried looking but not shriveled. Husks should be left in place until you are ready to cook the ear. Once the husk is pulled back a few inches for visual inspection, the ear begins to dry out. Buyer beware if the husks have been pulled back.”
And this, in answer to the bugs and worms concern: “Corn worms are one of the few bugs that you will ever encounter in your organic produce [note: we must assume that non-organic produce has even fewer bugs]….Worm damage seldom advances more than an inch from the silk end of the cob. If you happen to get an ear that a worm is dining on, simply break off the tip…I’ve found that those caterpillars know which ears are the sweetest. Finding a worm on our sweet corn may not be fun, but it can be reassuring to know that the corn was grown organically and therefore is not from genetically engineered seed.”
So there you have it. There really is no reason to pull the husk back when buying corn, and there are many reasons not to. The store won’t have to throw away ears that can’t be sold. The corn will stay fresher, and won’t dry out. And you will have demonstrated your commitment to either organic farming, or to a Taoist flow-with-it attitude toward life that knows, “A worm is just a worm, not a disaster.”
I close with the words Jeanette ended her article, “Bon appetit.” Plus an addition in my fractured French: “Pullez vous la husk? Non! Non!! Non!!! Merci, pour leavez le corn alonez.”