Yes, the sweet corn.
Like most folks who grew up around here, I have a powerful, almost instinctual need for the salty-sweet flavor of fresh sweet corn. Over the years, I have learned to love it boiled, grilled in the husks and--most recently-- cooked using a method combining shucked ears, boiling water and a cooler. The corn is placed in a cooler; the water is poured in and the lid is shut. Wait an hour or so and, voila!, perfectly prepared ears via the method we now call "cooler corn."
The sweet corn season usually starts sometime in the latter half of July, with the first brave stands dotting roadsides, downtown parking lots and farmhouse lawns. By the time August rolls around, the season is fully underway. Most years, I'm quick to hit those early stands, but my iffy appetite this year acted to delay my entry into the market. By the time we bought our first dozen ears, we feared we had missed things almost entirely when the owner of the stand announced that it was her last day selling it.
The corn we bought was, of course, wonderful, and I immediately regretted my tardiness.
"Gee," I said. "I wish we could get a little more."
Note to self: Be careful what you wish for.
It was almost like the corn angels had heard my prayer, as bags upon bags of fresh-picked pleasure began appearing on my porch, in my front hall, and on my kitchen counter. We gobbled sweet corn like a frenzied pack of half-starved raccoons. Butter stock rose sharply. So did the price of laundry pre-treatments, as we struggled to erase the tell-tale greasy stains from shirt fronts and laps. Even grandson Cyrus, who, if given a choice, would limit his diet to Kit-Kat bars and grape-flavored Kool-aid, joined in on the corn craze, while his younger brother, John, who eats almost anything, asked if I could set him up with one of those nail-through-a-board corn feeders like the one I use to treat the squirrels who rule our backyard.
Eventually, we came to the realization that we would never be able to consume all the corn we were getting, so we set about "putting up" the overflow. We discovered the cooler corn method is a great way to blanch the shucked ears, while I found that the new-fangled do-dad someone gave us a few years ago is a slick way to strip kernels off a cob faster than you can say, "that sucker sure is sharp." We finally stripped, bagged, marked and froze the last of our luscious largess last Saturday. Just in time, I might add, as I had finally used up the last of my beloved White Sox bandaids to patch up the result of that oh-so-sharp corn stripper.
"Whew," I said. "I think we're set for the winter."
Not so fast, kernel-boy.
As I walked out of church Sunday morning, I met my spouse heading for the car with a pair of familiar-looking plastic bags.
"What's that?" I asked, though I knew the answer.
One of our fellow parishioners had brought an entire pickup-truck load of fresh, sweet, lovely ears of corn. She was the greeter and the ultimate corn angel that day, and handed out both church bulletins and an invitation with a smile.
"God bless you," was the message. "And don't forget to take home some corn."