Corn for the cows


To listen to this post in French, click below

Some time ago, Walt at Another American in France, in his Kitchen Collection, posted a photo of fancy corn picks and it reminded me of the corn we had when I was a little girl.
In fact, no other family that I know of ate corn at the time. It was the sort of food that Gitta, my mother knew from her youth in Poland. She always said how difficult it was to find corn on the cob at the open air market near our flat. There would be very little and she’d buy as much as she could, because everyone at home just loved corn on the cob.
She always told us how people at the market asked her how she cooked the corn. They’d say things like

Le maïs, c’est pour les vaches ! Meaning, but corn is for cows, not people!

We had one of those big tall stewpots, that she only used to boil corn or lobsters, and she’d fill it up with salted water and pile up the cobs in it.
I remember that she kept some of the leaves husks and beards??? silks and put them in the pot to boil with the cobs. She said that it made the corn taste better. And then the mixture would boil for what seemed to be hours. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the corn.
In those days, corn would make the meal, and we just powdered the corn with salt, and then would have cheese and probably grapes, since this was traditionally in September. There were no fancy corn picks, and as the cobs were boiling hot, we’d use paper napkins to protect our fingers, instead of waiting for them to cool down.
Years later, when I spent two years in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, I found that people boiled their corn for a very short time, but then, the sweet corn that we had there was quite different from anything we have in this country.
Tasty memories indeed.

  1. The photo was taken by El Ramon, one of the best squaredcircle people on flickr
  2. You might want to have a look at my French blog, no need to understand a word of French for that, to see some of my turkey photos, but at your own risk, and if you can take some ugliness 🙂

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17 thoughts on “Corn for the cows

  1. Leaves and beards = husks and silk.
    Yes, sweet corn is very different from the stuff they grow for livestock feed ! Corn on the cob is a great summer treat. Yum !

  2. Ten years ago, my niece from North Carolina ordered corn in a restaurant in Paris. I tried to talk her out of it. Well, it was feed corn and pretty tough. It had obviously been cooked for a very long time. I might have been good, actually, but it was not at all the sweetcorn she was expecting.

    I’ve never seen corn on the cob sold in the markets around Saint-Aignan.

  3. Hi cuz!

    I cannot resist telling you my sweet-corn anecdotes, or should I say sweet ‘corn-anecdotes’ 😉
    I rembember my first corn-on-the-cob most vividly: it was on Labor Day 1964 on Chautauqua Lake, Chautauqua County, (western) N.Y. On the same day I also caught my first (and last) fish ever. It must have been at least two inches long. I threw it back in, I couldn’t stand my own cruelty.

    I was an exchange student then and my host-family had rented a cabin by the lake. We had a grand time, and our BBQs would always go with corn. Years later, when I was a conscript and we were roughing it (ha ha!) in the Norman countryside, with my section we cut across a corn field, ‘borrowed’ a few cobs and made a fire to cook them wild, with the survival touch. Of course we got back to the barracks late that day. My friends had liked the idea but not the fodder so much!!!

    When my mother-in-law first saw us eating corn, she cried out: ‘Mais c’est pour les poules’ / ‘This is just fit for hens! ‘ Cows, hens… same difference.

    From cob to pop… I also had my first taste of *pop-corn* in 1964. When I returned home (to France) I wanted to show off and make some pop-corn for the family. Some novelty! ‘What novelty? ‘ my Pa asked. ‘When I was a child in Bulgaria we had pop-corn frequently, all you need is the proper kind of corn, a frying-pan with its lid and a spoonful of oil. That’s when I learned how to pop corn with no special equipment, from a father who would never cook.

    A-maizing, hey,

    Lee Ho
    (one of your cousins)

  4. Corn on the cob for me is one of the best treats o9f summer! When I was married and the kids were growing up I would make a meal out of it along with sliced tomatoes! My ex didn’t consider it a meal without meat so I would fry a hamburger for him but the kids and I would pig out on the corn!!! I still do that for myself a couple times when it’s in season. My parents always grew corn in our garden so while I was growing up by the end of summer we were tired of it. Imagine that!

  5. Having grown up practically between stalks of rapidly growing corn, in my opinion summer isn’t summer without it. Thanks for taking us for a ride down memory lane. 🙂

  6. My Father in Law, the German baker, said exactly what you wrote,Claude.” Corn is for pigs.”

    Yesterday, to close the Summer season we had a wonderful cookout and featured on our menu was sweet corn. My husband steams it in a giant pot, putting the corn in like soldiers standing in a row.He has an inch of water in the bottom and lets it steam for about 20 minutes. It is delicious. When he takes the lid off, the steam just pours out and the odor is wonderful.

    His Father is gone now but he would be surprised to see how much his grandchildren and great grandchildren enjoy the food he thought was only fit for pigs.

  7. Summer is sweet corn time in the Midwest USA. Many small towns are having sweet corn festivals this time of year. The hybrids have gotten so good now that they are so tender the ears can be eaten raw. Cooking them in boiling water for just 3 or 4 minutes is all it takes. Longer and they turn starchy and begin to lose sweetness. We also roast the ears over a fire, like a barbecue, for a wonderful flavor with just a hint of smokiness.

  8. When I lived in Germany, I was told the corn is for the cows! Back home in Minnesota when I was growing up, my mother would start to boil the water and then ask us children to go get the corn from the garden. By the time we had it shucked, the water was boiling. It was the sweetest, freshest, corn in all the world. makes me hungry just thinking about it.

  9. I love corn on the cob. Or, off the cob. Fresh, frozen or, sometimes even, canned. But, it’s best at a family picnic with BBQ ribs, cole slaw, baked beans or potato salad and dessert. I butter the corn on the cob and sprinkle it with salt, and chow down! Yum!

  10. We had some delicious corn on the cob last evening with dinner. Very sweet! I boil it for about 20 min. and always add a bit of sugar to the water.
    That little girl in the photo…not sure who she belongs to, but she’s gorgeous.

  11. Mmmmm. I love eating corn on the cob too. Unfortunately my attempts to grow it have been disastrous so far. This year there are only four standing of the 24 I planted (!): last year they were eaten by insects(?); the year before that there were only three or four edible cobs. I may as well give up but the problem is I’ve never seen them for sale here.

  12. One of my vivid memories of my year in Paris was going to a grocery store (Monoprix?) and being asked by a “mature” woman who was inspecting a Green Giant can of corn…. “What does one do with that?”

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