shucks, again.

I love a man who knows how to shuck corn.

That's a completely ridiculous thing to say, because shucking corn is not in any way difficult. Wouldn't it be better to love someone because they know how to do hard stuff, like build houses or judo or lion-taming? It's not like corn-related skills are a requirement for dating me. I didn't give him a questionnaire on our first date where he got five points for corn shucking, but minus two points for not ever having taken Calculus. I don't love him for his corn-shucking abilities, I just love that he knows how.

Really, whether they know it or not, everyone knows how to shuck corn. It's like tearing off wrapping paper, which is pretty intuitive, and considering the way my family does it, even a little carnal. No one needs to be told what to do when the thing that you want is covered in thin, papery stuff that can be easily ripped apart and then discarded. The ear inside is not delicate, and it's very easy to tell the part that you eat from the part that you throw away. It's a lot like peeling a banana. It just sounds hard because it's got a special word.

But I suppose if you had no familiarity with corn in its wrapped state, and someone handed you a shrouded ear, you might stare at it for a bit, looking for the opening, stealing glances at your neighbor to figure out what to do. And then after that one time, you'd know how to shuck corn and you could impress some girl in the city who is starting to realize that growing up in a small town wasn't so bad. Dating tip: learn to shuck corn. Actually, just learn to do as many things as possible, because you'll become a more interesting person and the girls will like you anyway.

Kroger has been selling corn for twenty-nine cents an ear for three weeks now. Every time we run out, I go back to the store and buy eight ears. It is some good corn, or maybe it's not that good as far as fresh corn goes, but it's ten million billion times better than canned. I think the farmers must be using chemicals, because there are never any worms. That's a necessary evil of shucking corn that came from my parents' garden. Each ear you open has a couple of little freeloaders living inside, making a trail through the yellow fruit, as if they were on a reality show where they had to eat their way out. You just flick them off and cut out the part they ate from. No big deal. Sometimes there is corn smut, which is also gross but has a funny name. You just cut that out, too. Some of the ears end up looking pretty battle-scarred by the time they make it to the table.

The Kroger corn is sweet corn, and beautiful, with yellow and white kernals in a pattern that could probably reveal the secrets of the universe if we just knew what to look for. The first week we bought it, we had to look up how to cook it. I'll save you some Googling: you boil it, for one to ten minutes, depending on how mushy you like it. I'd never considered my corn preferences, but I have since realized that I like it medium rare. The first time, I ate it with butter and salt and pepper, sprinkling the seasonings on the plate and then rolling the ear around to coat evenly. The second time, I decided that the butter was too far away, and I ate it plain. Sure, it's better with the extras, but not so much that you're thinking about that when eating it plain. You're thinking about corn. It's no wonder the worms love it. I bet I could eat a trail through a giant ear, too.

Kroger has a huge fifty gallon trash can set up right there in the produce department, where you can shuck your own corn before you take it home. But I never shuck in the store, preferring to take it home so I can keep the outer layers for the compost bin. Plus, I get a strange sort of peace from shucking corn, and it's hard to have that moment of zen under flourescent lights, listening to staticky announcements about calls on red line 1. Sometimes I do the shucking myself while Josh is at work so we can have it for supper when he gets home. But I like to wait until he is there, too, so we can shuck together. With only eight ears, it's less than five minutes of work for two people, but it's a sweet and perfect moment.

One of the things that I love about Josh is that we come from the same kind of place. I have a friend who is dating a man from Pakistan, her boyfriend before that was from Ukraine. I'm always a little in awe over her exotic men, thinking of the fascinating travel and new experiences (and food) that having a foreign-born boyfriend, or even one from a different state, would lead to. But then I shuck corn with my beloved, and I am comforted by our separate, yet shared upbringings. It's not just that his accent sounds like mine, it's that we both grew up on mini farms. I wouldn't say that shucking corn was a huge part of my childhood. In fact, I didn't really notice it at all, it was just something we did in the summers, along with snapping beans and picking blueberries. Even when I left, I didn't notice that I didn't do things like that anymore. Only when I came back to my mother's kitchen and it smelled like red dirt and sweat and freshness did I realize that I had been eating vegetables from a can for a year.

Being with a man who knows how to shuck corn is like getting a whiff of my mother's kitchen in July. Josh grew up just outside Winston-Salem, where few people grow their own vegetables and send their children out to feed the livestock. But his family had a piece of land, where they raised sheep and goats and chickens. He spent a lot of time on his hands and knees, pulling weeds in the garden as punishment for various little boy crimes. If I dated a man who did not know how to shuck corn, I would probably never even think to miss it. It is only in watching his experienced hand get the last few threads of silk off that I get a sense of familiarity, which makes me want to nuzzle my nose into his neck.

And I think about how much I love a man that knows how to shuck corn, even though that is still a completely ridiculous thing to say.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Another good way to make corn is to wrap it in aluminum foil (adding salt and butter, and pepper if you like). Then put it on the grill.