Monday

October 20th, 2014

The Village Idiot

How corny can you get?

Jim Mullen

By Jim Mullen

Published Sept. 2, 2014

Hello, my name is Jim and I married a corn junkie.

Demon corn has turned the woman I love into a picky eater who will do anything to support her habit. She's alienated all her friends, most of her family and I've started sleeping in the guest bedroom. It's not unusual to find butter and salt mysteriously missing from the kitchen. I'll come home from an errand and find corn husks in the garbage. Sometimes she eats corn alone.

She has hit corn bottom.

I've heard some of your stories tonight, and I can't tell you what a comfort it is to know that I'm not alone, that I'm not the only spouse dealing with the heartbreak of corn addiction. When Marge W. told the story of finding golden, silken hairs on her husband's pillow, my heart went out to her. Bob L.'s story of the police bringing his wife home after finding her asleep in a roadside stand -- well, I guess we've all been there.

It started innocently enough. We stopped at a farm stand late one summer afternoon and bought six ears for $3. We didn't realize it, but that corn must have been picked just moments before we bought it. That's how the corn pushers hook you. They give you a little taste of the good stuff for next to nothing, and before you know it, you're eating 24, 48, 60 ears a week, paying eight, sometimes nine dollars a dozen.

Then, one lazy summer night, I thought we'd grill a few hamburgers, have a few pieces of corn.

"No, I'll fix dinner," she said.

There were no hamburgers for dinner that night. Just corn. Twelve innocent-looking ears of corn. I ate one of them. It tasted like warm grass.

"What did you do to these?"

"Cooked 'em," she said, a wild look in her eye. She was on her third ear. There were little bits of corn sticking to her cheeks; her fingers were slick with butter.

"But they're not cooked. They taste like they've been in the back of a hot car for two hours."

"Fresh," she said. "Fresh. Boil 'em for 30 seconds. That's it. Eat. Don't talk."

I wanted to tell her that there's a big difference between washing corn and cooking it, but she was gone, tripping on Planet Corn.

That was a month ago. It's only gotten worse. How many times have we had nothing but corn on the cob for dinner? Twenty days in a row? Thirty?

It's hard to explain the problem to people who are used to three-day-old supermarket corn on the cob: the kind I was raised on, the kind I love, with big starchy kernels, cooked the way my mother did -- in boiling water for eight or nine minutes. Fresh corn is an acquired taste. Not everyone likes it. It is tender, it is delicate; much less starchy. Some of the kernels look clear rather than yellow. It does not travel well.

But worse than being a corn junkie, Sue is a corn snob.

"I can't believe it," Sue said. "Mary Nussbaum thinks you can eat corn the day it is picked. How could she put corn that old in her mouth? Doesn't she know that if it's over two hours old, you may as well throw it out? It's not corn, it's compost. Doesn't she have any taste buds?"

So I did what anyone would do for a loved one. I organized an intervention. A roomful of concerned friends and family showed up. It was going well until I realized people had been sneaking into the kitchen just to "taste" her corn. They would come back and I could smell it on their breath, see it on their lips. Some never came back at all. Before the evening was over, she had them eating out of her hand.

Now they all think I'm the problem, not the corn.

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Jim Mullen is the author of "It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life" and "Baby's First Tattoo."

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