90: Corny American Pride

90: Corny American Pride

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Spirit of America

Corny American Pride

This corn will teach to you, should you peel away the husk, and be willing to open your ears.

~Anthony Liccione

I’ve been thinking lately about the things I’ve taken for granted. After living two tours of duty abroad, our military family finally appreciates what we have as Americans.

I’m not talking about ethereal concepts like democracy and freedom. I’m talking about the really important things that make a tangible difference in our everyday lives as Americans.

I’m talking about Corn on the Cob.

Yes, that sweet vegetarian delicacy indigenous to this great land of ours. Native Americans cultivated “maize” for thousands of years before Europeans discovered the “New World” and the usefulness of corn as a grain, but it was only centuries ago that Iroquois shared with settlers the sweet variety of corn eaten off the cob. Unlike the settlers, Europeans never really took to eating corn straight off the cob. In fact, they are of the general opinion that corn on the cob is hog feed.

So, for many long years while stationed overseas, we went without.

It wasn’t easy, because, as far as vegetables go, corn on the cob has always been special to us. Despite the fact that my father was raised at the boardwalk in New Jersey, he was always a wannabe country boy, which is why we had a garden about eight times too big for a family of four, along with a tractor, six chickens, two goats, a cat, and at least two hunting dogs.

As such, my brother and I had chores that were uncharacteristic of suburban children. We were picking green beans, tending goats, and driving a tractor when our friends were getting jobs at the mall. Also, I had the unenviable task of selling the excess eggs, puppies, and vegetables at the end of our road. Corn on the cob was my best seller, and my first real source of income.

Nearly two decades later, my husband-to-be first laid eyes on me when I was sitting rather unladylike on the deck of a beach house, shucking corn. Unfortunately, I was covered in sand and my wet bangs had fallen into an unflattering middle part. Worse yet, my belly protruded between the top and bottom of my bathing suit. It took a shower and considerable work with my curling iron, but I was able to win him over at dinner that evening, not without help from a heaping plate of delicious Silver Queen corn on the cob.

Even my children have fallen under the sweet-corn spell. Our middle child, Anna, has always been a worrier. One night, when she was about five years old, I tucked her into bed, placing her tiny hands together under mine to say our prayers.

“Now I lay me…” I began.

“Mommy?” Anna interrupted.

“Yes, honey?

“What happens when you die?”

“Uh,” my mind raced, unprepared. “Well, you go to Heaven, sweetie. Now where were we?”

“Yeah, but, what will happen to my body,” she specified.

As I looked into the worried eyes of my precious little girl, I could not reveal the reality of death and bodily decomposition. Panicked, I began to ramble.

“Well, honey, when someone dies, his soul leaves his body and floats up to Heaven.”

“But…” I knew I had to say something, anything, that would quickly distract her from thoughts of dead bodies being buried in deep, dark graves, where they are left to rot into the dirt.

“Heaven is beautiful!” I said, but her eyes still looked worried. “And you can have anything you want,” her brows were still furrowed, and, and, you can have wings and YOU CAN FLY!”

After a painful silence, little Anna finally spoke. “Can I have purple wings, Mommy?”

“Yes! Yes! You can have purple wings!” I blurted, relieved to at long last please my relentless tiny interrogator. Her eyes fluttered with visions of purple feathers as we finished our prayers.

As I stood and kissed Anna’s forehead, she murmured, “Can I really have anything I want in Heaven?”

“Yep, anything,” I replied, and turned to leave the room. As I flipped the light switch, I heard Anna whisper, “Mommy?” I turned, hoping this would be an easy one.

“Can I have corn on the cob in Heaven?”

“Yes, sweetie,” I answered with a smile, “you can have all the corn on the cob you want.”

To this day, our family still yearns for the yellow sweetness of this heavenly vegetable. In fact, we can’t get enough freshly boiled cobs rolled in butter, sprinkled with a pinch of salt and cracked black pepper. My husband haphazardly chomps at the cob, leaving tufts of missed kernels. I munch methodically from right to left like an old typewriter, occasionally stopping to chew and swallow sweet mouthfuls. Due to expensive orthodontics, Anna, now seventeen, gnaws at the youngest kernels on the ends and trims the rest off with a knife. Lilly takes spiral bites around the cob like an apple peeler. Hayden, who despises all vegetables, seems disgusted by our shameless display of gluttony.

When every cob has been stripped of its golden pearls, we sit swollen, with buttered cheeks, giggling about the stuff stuck between our teeth.

We, the People of this great Nation, possess the inalienable right to enjoy distinctly American Corn on the Cob, a liberty which one should never take for granted. Give me hot buttered ears or give me death, I say! Let freedom and the dinner bell ring!

~Lisa Smith Molinari

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