Corn, as we all know, is in tons of the foods we eat. It's been fed to the animals we consume, and it's a hidden ingredient (in the form of starch, syrup, oil, etc.) in many, if not most, processed foods.
A supermarket in which all products containing corn were eliminated would be "little more than just fresh fruit and vegetables with a fish counter," Andrew F. Smith writes in "The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink" (Oxford University Press, 2007). It's interesting to note, however, that fish sticks often contain corn -- in the breading.
That's according to Betty Fussell. In her encyclopedic "The Story of Corn" (Knopf, 1992), she also found corn in beer and wine and in an amazing array of nonedibles, including paint, insecticides, toothpaste, lipstick, shaving cream, shoe polish, detergents, tobacco, rayon, tanned leather, rubber tires, urethane foam, explosives and embalming fluid.
It's clear that we are consuming enough (or too many) corn byproducts. But are we eating enough CORN? "Real" corn -- fresh corn -- is a delicacy, a short-lived marvel and a cause for celebration. It is truly an American food, a New World plant that evolved from wild grasses in Central America. If you can get fresh, local corn for your Fourth of July celebration, consider it your patriotic duty.
When Lisa Skye wrote her new cookbook, "I Love Corn" (Andrews McMeel, 2012), she was not out to celebrate the corn in lipstick and embalming fluid. Instead Skye, a producer for the Discovery Channel's "Go Ahead, Make My Dinner," inveigled her many chef and food-professional friends to contribute recipes celebrating fresh corn, on or off the cob.
The recipes here are from Skye's book. The Mexican-style grilled corn, with its coating of mayo and cheese, is not exactly a celebration of the plain goodness of corn-on-the-cob. But it looks so festive -- like a giant firecracker -- that it's hard to resist it on the Fourth of July.
Note: There are many ways to cook corn-on-the-cob. Some home cooks rave about the virtues of the microwave. Others soak the corn in its husk and grill it over coals. I will speak up for the old-fashioned method: boiling.
Bring a big pot of UNSALTED water to a rolling boil. (Salt toughens the kernels.) Add just enough corn to fit comfortably in the pot; you can cook it in batches. Cover the pot immediately and bring the water back to a boil. The minute it reaches that second boil, remove the corn.