To hell with kale



‘An Ode to Corn’

Last night was the fourth night in a row that we did not have kale.

Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I don’t like kale. Kale has its tasty uses (see yummy recipe at the end of this post for proof). It’s just that I love corn. Which is what we had last night–yes–for the fourth night in a row. I’m not talking Niblets here, people. I’m talking fresh-from-the-farm-stand corn-on-the-cob corn.

It would be hard for me not to love corn. After all, I grew up in the Midwest right in the heart of Corn Country. My Grampa Henry grew corn. My mother spent her summers detasseling corn. My dad spent his working in a plant that processed Green Giant MexiCorn.

Now I understand that there are a heck of a lot of kale-lovers out there. Enough that there are rumors of a Kale Shortage. Honest. See New York Times article for proof:

‘The Hot Pursuit of Kale and Its Trendy Friends, and Rumors of Shortages’

But hey. Have you ever heard of a kale-eating contest? When was the last time you’ve joined a lively debate over the best kale-cooking methods? Have you ever rushed to the farm stand early to snag the first kale from the kale field? And, speaking of farm stands, when was the last time you were over at someone’s house for a cookout and a fight broke out over whether Round Swamp or Balsam Farms has the best kale?*

*I vote for Balsam Farms. They not only have the best corn, but a blue-eyed dog named (you guessed it) Blue:

Blue at Balsam Farms, photo by Ellen Watson Photography

Now just because I love corn doesn’t mean everyone in my Personal Family does. While the Dude can polish off six ears at a sitting without breaking a sweat, the Child apparently did not inherit the Corn Gene. Actual text exchange from this weekend:

corn text from Child

But we will forgive her. And keep her in the family. Maybe she’ll grow into Corn. But then again, maybe not. She doesn’t (gasp) like tomatoes either.

But back to corn. I’m going to let you in on a secret, Folks. Which is the Best Way Ever to Cook Corn:

  1. Shuck corn (better yet, get dinner guest to shuck). Put shucked ears in big big pot.
  2. Add a little sugar (if you can’t get your corn from Balsam Farms). Fill pot with water. Cover pot.
  3. Bring pot to boil. When it boils, turn heat off; keep lid on. Refresh gin-and-tonic.

That’s it. I promise. I know there a lot of you out there, my own personal brother Scott “Sweet Corn” Henry for one, who swear by soaking-in-the-husk-and-grilling and suchlike methods. And my own Grampa Henry, who advocated bringing a pot of water to boil and then picking the corn. (Nice if you have your own corn to pick; otherwise impractical at best). But I swear: If you turn the heat off right when the pot starts to boil and leave that lid on, by the time you can wrangle everyone to the table your corn will be perfect.

I’m getting hungry now. I think there’s a nice cold leftover ear in the fridge calling my name.

But a promise is a promise. Here’s one for the Kale Lovers, just in time for fall (which I consider the end of Corn Season and the beginning of Kale Season — that is, if kale has a season.) It’s a really tasty White-Bean-and-Kale recipe from the late lamented Gourmet Magazine, by way of

Really Delicious Kale and White Bean Soup (even though it contains no corn)

Amagansett, New York. September 2014

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10 thoughts on “To hell with kale

  1. That is exactly how I cook corn, Alice, with a bit of sugar in the water and not boiling it to death. But I somehow forgot to put the gin and tonic in the water with it. Kale is ok and best in soups. I don’t obsess over it. If I see fresh kale, I might buy it, Might is the operative word.

    • I also (sometimes) sneak some sugar into the water. But, bless their hearts, the Balsam Farms besties know how to grow some darned sweet sweet corn, so haven’t needed it. Haven’t tried the G&T addition yet (except as a ‘side dish’) Thanks, as always for your pithy (favorite word) comments! xoxo

    • Holy Cruciferous, Ellen!
      I’ll just have to moderate my kale intake.
      Or just switch to all-corn all the time.
      For the Season, anyway (!)
      Thanks for the info, and thanks for following me.

    • Oh nooooo! Now that’s a serious shortage!
      I once had this Belgian boyfriend. He introduced me to Nutella (among other things).
      Back then you could only get it at this little specialty grocery in Yorktown.
      I thought Nutella was delicious. And very exotic. Felt the same way about the Belgian. For a while, anyway.

  2. Back in the late 60’s in Jefferson, Wisconsin, de-tassling corn was a great summer job for teen-agers — and my older sister wanted IN.

    Maureen had somehow romanticised the idea of riding around on the back of a tractor with her friends during the months of July and August.

    My dear dad had grown up on a dairy farm, the tenth of eleven kids. Having escaped farm living, the last thing he could imagine was his daughter out in the hot sun working the land.

    While Maureen begged for the privilege of ruining her hands, my dad’s pride delivered a double negative whammy: 1). This was his first-born child and he wanted to be seen as someone who could support the family; and
    2). He had a dream of college educated kids with careers in places like The Phone Company, a place with “long-term benefits.”

    Poor Maureen didn’t get to take that job…but it wasn’t long before Joe Lenz softened about working teens.

    After a couple of years (and as college tuitions loomed) Maureen started waitressing at The Junction out by Ladish Malt dragging down tips to beat the band. My brothers had paper routes and I started babysitting at age twelve.

    Sidebar: that’s another blog, Alice. Who the hell leaves their kids with a 12-year old?! The Doyle, Schweiger and Marsh families, that’s who!

    By the time my brothers and I hit fifteen, my dad willingly signed all working papers. We three worked at the local grocery store. I loved to checkout large carts of food for my friends’ moms and get to know who bought “real” Oreos, Pepsi and Ruffles. The check-out girl job description extended to roasting chickens, hiding in the meat locker to scare the b’jesus out of the butcher, moon-walking on the conveyer belt, and using the store microphone to call one of my brothers to “come up front and bag groceries” whenever they were on break.

    Bringing it full circle, every end of summer you could find all of us at George’s Red Owl eagerly unloading the truck from Spangler’s with fresh corn to sell at a card-table outside the store.

    Just before my shift would end, my mom would call my boss and tell him to send me home with a couple dozen.

    She’d then get the water boiling.


    • Wow, Teresa. I knew there was more than one reason I felt connected to you. Who knew you were a fellow Midwestern Corn Girl! And wait, there’s more: my Dad was one of 8 kids. I also started babysitting at a young age. For my mom (I was the oldest of 5), it was 10. Or maybe even younger! For pay (Hello Meisenheimers, Siegert and Heiligenstein Kids, all 6 zillion of you!), it was, just like you, 12. (I scored a whopping 50 cents an hour.) I’m gonna stop now, because, you are right. There is a whole new post in the babysitting angle alone. Thanks for the idea — and, of course, for the beautifully written feedback. You’re welcome to counter-blog on my blog any day. Now, I gotta go see if there’s any leftover corn in the fridge. xoxoxo

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