I was driving down Main Street the other day, and I did a double-take. The sweet corn person had set up shop again, and there were quite a few people stopping to buy that delicious and homegrown delicacy. Could it really be that time of year already?
The sight of the sweet corn truck immediately took me back to a place in time when husking sweet corn was nearly a daily task on the farm. And like all those chores that involved husking, picking, shelling and snapping, the kids in my family knew it would be their responsibility to accomplish those summertime jobs. The underlying theory was if we wanted to eat it, we would have to help prepare it.
Usually my grandfather would bring in a five-gallon bucket of freshly-picked corn. Sometimes he’d send us to the garden to get it, but I don’t think we ever picked it to his satisfaction; plus he didn’t really want his grandkids wielding a sharp object to remove the ears from the stalks. He’d sit the bucket on the porch, and when we heard Grandma call our names, we knew it was time to get to work.
Sitting on the porch with a bucket between each of our feet, the corn husks were stripped, and the corn silk was picked off each ear. It was usually a hot, summer day, and that corn silk would stick to our sweaty arms and legs. We dreaded it, and inevitably, Grandpa would have brought enough corn in to keep us busy for a while. We knew better than to leave any strands of corn silk on the ears because Grandma would just send it back to us to do it again.
Like the green and wax beans we snapped, the sweet peas we shelled and the berries we sorted, we spent a lot of time on that old farm porch with each other. Yes, our hands were busy, but more often than not, our mouths were even busier. OK, we did eat quite a few berries as we sorted them, but the real workout our mouths got was from talking to each other. With a garden huge enough to feed us all summer long and plenty more vegetables to take us through the fall, winter and spring, you can imagine how many ears of corn, beans, peas and more went through our hands, and you can imagine how many times we begrudgingly left our summertime fun to help with the garden produce.
Funny ... As I look back, I really don’t remember any squabbles or arguments as we three kids sat on that porch in the summertime heat. Oh, there was the occasional accusation that someone was working too slowly or someone wasn’t doing a good enough job, but by and large, the quiet conversations we had are what I remember most. Three kids — all four years apart in age (I was the youngest) — we talked about everything imaginable under the hot, summer sun.
The upcoming fairs were always big on our list of topics. We planned activities for the relatives (the kids) that were coming to visit; we set our itineraries for the next day; we even chatted about the dreaded upcoming school year, which was on the not-too-distant horizon. We giggled. We laughed. We dropped wads of corn silk in each other’s hair, and every now and then, we’d throw a pea or green bean at each other. Bottom line ... that sweet corn and other garden produce afforded us the chance to spend some family time together, void of our adults, where we could be kids and enjoy each other’s company. And of course at dinner time, those fruits and vegetables tasted extra special, since we had helped get them ready for the dinner table.
It’s summer, and in the midst of all the chaos of running to and fro, I’d urge you to set the kids on the porch with a big bag of sweet corn and have them get it ready for your family’s meal. Who knows what lifelong memories that might create!
Tonica News Editor Terri Simon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.