When I moved to France to really settle here thirty years ago, I lived in Louviers, a bustling town an hour outside Paris, in Normandy. I reveled in the discoveries we made, the adventures we had, the joys and frustrations of adapting to a culture that wasn’t our own.
Five minutes from my home was a small épicerie with streetside crates overflowing with vegetables of every sort. Many came from farms outside of town; others came from the main wholesale market in Rouen, a forty-minute drive away. Five minutes in the other direction was the weekly farmers’ market. Between these lush providers, I had an array of perfect ingredients for every recipe I tested, every meal I made for my family and friends.
Something Was Missing
I discovered that something major was missing from the épicerie and the market in summer – corn on the cob. I hadn’t really thought about it until I lived in France, corn being such a staple on the American summer table, roadside stand, supermarket. But in France, corn was then an anomaly, available only in cans. One summer day I walked into the épicerie and there, in all its glory, was a small mound of shucked corn on the cob. I stopped in my tracks, shocked, excited. And then I got close to it. The kernels were shriveled, the bits of silk dark brown, the whole thing a sad, dry little testament to what might have been.
I got what I needed which didn’t include corn, and went home. I kept thinking about that corn and my concern propelled me back out of the house and into the épicerie where I hailed the owner, whom I really didn’t know very well yet. “Monsieur,” I said. “I need to talk with you about corn. I’m American, I know corn, and I feel compelled to let you know that the corn you are offering is no good. If someone buys and eats it, they will never return to your store because it will taste so bad.”
Monsieur listened with furrowed brow. He didn’t say anything and I stood there after my speech. The silence lengthened and I thought “Oh no, I have just caused an international incident.”
Corn in the Trash
But no. He went over to the corn, gathered it up, and threw it in the waste basket. Then he returned. “Merci, Madame. I didn’t know. We don’t eat corn here. I just saw it and thought I would get some.”
It Only Took Twenty Years
And that was that. I never saw an ear of corn in his shop again. Fast forward to this year in Paris, some twenty years later. I get local produce from Morice Phillip, a grower who lives 45 minutes from the city and trucks in twice a week to market. He has a limited array of seasonal vegetables which are, quite literally, perfect because they are carefully cultivated, carefully harvested, and sold with a smile and a laugh. Buying from him is an exceptional experience.
And It is Even in the Husk!
And he cultivates sweet corn!!! He brings it to market in its husk, just the way one is supposed to do. Of course I bought some, brought it home, cooked and ate it immediately. Heaven. It was corn heaven. Up until this year, corn was a privilege to be had on a visit to the U.S. Now it’s here, a five-minute walk away every Saturday and Thursday during corn season.
Variety of Ways to Cook It
And since it’s readily available it’s fun to think of different things to do with it. The corn rounds you’ll learn to make is a beginning. This method uses little water, results in juicy tenderness and looks so pretty and tastes so good everyone will come back for more, and more.
Simple follow the video. Use enough butter to cover the corn; add either toasted cumin that you’ve ground with salt, or sprinkle with cumin and salt and toss, toss, toss!
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