Ever since Michael Pollan scared the crap out of me with The Omnivore's Dilemma, I've been a bit corn-shy. Corn, Pollan revealed, is the backbone of our industrial food complex, and is the primary ingredient in many, many more foods than you had ever imagined. It represents the most evil elements of our mechanization of the food chain, and it's just bad, bad, bad.
Of course, Pollan does not think we should stop eating corn in its purer forms - right off the cob, for instance. He's far more reasonable than that. But for months after I read the book, I was terrified of buying and eating corn, panicking that I was feeding into a system I had no interest in supporting. Then I realized that I still eat Cheetos (king of hyper-processed corn and erstaz cheese) when I'm hungover, and decided it was time to buy and eat some sweet corn, particularly since it happens to be in season.
When I approached the Migliorelli stand at the Union Square Greenmarket, I noticed they'd posted a sign: "No husking." Really? I was always taught to husk an ear of corn, just barely, to double-check that the cob was, in fact, intact and free of blemishes. First, you check that it's heavy for its size (indicating juiciness), then you pull back the husk just a tad. Rule-follower though I typically I am, I rebelled and husked my ears, rejecting only one out of six (it had no kernels on the top inch of the cob - not a good sign).
I brought the corn home and, once all the groceries were put away, the time came to cook it. One problem: I had never shucked corn inside. Ever. Growing up in Connecticut, land of patios and porches, corn shucking was an outdoor ritual. It seems wrong to shuck corn anywhere but the the back steps, holding the cob over a paper grocery bag big enough to catch all the silk. I stood at my tiny counter for a minute, seriously contemplated climbing out onto the fire escape, and then decided to just give indoor shucking a shot. Let's just say there was a fair bit of clean up involved, despite my best efforts to aim for the bag.
Next, I brought a pot of (unsalted - salt makes the corn tough) water to boil and added the freshly shucked cobs to it, removing them a few moments later when they had begun to smell of - you guessed it - corn. Unscientific, I know, but it works. I cooked five ears - clearly too many to eat in one sitting. I set four ears aside to cool and use later in the week.
The fifth I rubbed with butter, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and ate, standing up, in my kitchen. The butter ran down my chin, the corn got stuck in my teeth (This, I remembered, was why my grandfather always cut his off the cob.), and I generally made a mess of myself.
It was lovely.