Discover more from Broccoli Rising, the Newsletter from Ellen Kanner
Broccoli Rising, Summer Corn, and a Small Good Thing
Florida is trying to recover from last week’s double dose of horror and heartbreak. Three innocent Black people were killed in Jacksonville by a hate-filled white supremacist with an assault weapon. Four days later, Hurricane Idalia, having battered the Tampa Bay area as a Category 3 storm, headed up to Jacksonville, as though trying to wash the pain away.
We don’t welcome hurricanes around here but we respect them and we expect them this time of year. That’s the thing about seasonality. So far, it keeps happening. Despite racism, hate and the impacts of climate change, the seasons change because the world keeps turning. We need to keep going, too, even when we hurt.
In the words of Nobelist Toni Morrison, “This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.
“I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge — even wisdom.”
In Raymond Carver’s “A Small Good Thing” , a short story that never fails to move me to tears — SPOILER ALERT — a baker feeds a young couple suffering in the wake of their son’s death. He says, “Eating is a small good thing in a time like this.”
So we take a breath and interrupt the endless drumbeat of bad news to inform you it’s looking to be a good season for corn. The promise of a healthy harvest when so many other crops have taken a hit thanks to climate change or war is a small good thing.
Summer corn is a true seasonal pleasure, but it’s also something more. Eating seasonal produce in its never-to-come-again moment of ripe glory offers us an a-ha moment. It connects us with the rhythms of the Earth, an Earth that sustains us. That the Earth should be so generous should make us grateful, should make us want to repay that kindness. We can. Let us treat the planet and each other with gentleness. There is no season for hate.
Grief and compassion are hard work. So make sure you nourish yourself.
Tomorrow’s Labor Day, so take it easy with maque choux. Easy yet elemental, maque choux features corn, tomato and basil — three summer besties, plus the Creole holy trinity of onion, pepper and celery. It honors the big-hearted spirit of Louisiana, offers the pleasure and bright flavors of summer, nourishment when we need it, and even earns its keep for Whole Grains Month.
2 ears of corn
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion chopped, about 1 cup
1 good-size stalk of celery chopped, about 1 cup
1/2 green pepper about 1/2 cup
1/2 orange or red pepper about 1/2 cup
1/2 jalapeno minced
1 pint grape tomatoes halved
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1 big handful fresh greens such as kale, turnip greens or spinach, well-chopped (optional)
1 big handful fresh basil chopped
sea salt and ground pepper to taste
Working over a large bowl, cut kernels off the corn. Scrape the cobs well, using the bowl to reserve the kernels and any juice from the cobs.
Heat oil in a skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onion starts to soften, about 4 minutes. Then add the celery and pepper. Continue cooking and stirring until vegetables grow soft and fragrant, about another 5 minutes.
Stir in the jalapeno, grape tomatoes, corn, thyme and smoked paprika. Reduce heat to medium, cover and let the maque choux simmer for 10 minutes. Mixture will throw off liquid, creating its own broth.
Remove lid, add optional chopped greens and stir until greens just wilt. Add chopped fresh basil and season generously with sea salt and fresh ground pepper.
Looking for a printable version of this recipe? Grab it here.
Some Things Worth Remembering about Corn
It’s a whole grain, and whaddaya know, September is Whole Grains Month
Corn is naturally gluten-free
Corn is one of the Magic 8, one of the core crops of humanity
For more about the Magic 8, check out Seed to Plate, Soil to Sky, the new book by Dr. Lois Frank.
The MesoAmericans were growing and harvesting corn long before colonists, long before Columbus.
Corn is an age-old sacred symbol of fertility.
Over 90% of the corn grown in the US is genetically modified. Go for organic.
More Ways to Celebrate Corn, a Small Good Thing
Summer vegetable salad and magic dust salad— cool and composed, even when you’re not
Sallie Ann Robinson’s tomato, corn, green lima, and okra soup
Keep the golden glow of summer corn all year ‘round.
Enjoy it as hominy, corn that’s been dried and nixtamilized, or soaked in lye or lime to strip its tough outer hull.
as polenta aka mamaliga or sofkee
and don’t forget popcorn
September is also National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month. These are tough times. No one should suffer in silence. Find a friend, try counseling, and check out What I Do To Get Through. I’m honored to be included in this anthology.
September 4 Labor Day
September 14, 6pm — Psst. Hey, Broccoli Rising subscribers, Broccoli Confidential’s back! Please join me for a free virtual cooking class just in time for Rosh Hashanah. Details next week delivered straight to your inbox. Sweet!
September 15 and 16 Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year begins at sundown on the 15th
September 24 and 25 Yom Kippur, Judaism’s Day of Atonement begins at sundown on the 24th.
Wishing you a sweet and shining new year.
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