Betty Fussell wrote in her book, Crazy for Corn, "Today, we speak of corn as a $20 million dollar crop. Anciently, Pueblo Indians spoke of corn as the fifth element: there was earth, air, fire, water—and corn."




While I was walking through our kitchen yesterday, I got a phone call from a friend who is also an aspiring poet/writer specializing in food and, shall I say, "sensual writing." As I was listening to her latest passages, one of my chefs set a hot pan of roasted corn down on the counter to cool right by me. He had roasted it in the husks and I tore off a little of the ridged, warm, pliant wrapper and pressed it to my lips.

"Oh man," I helplessly let out. My friend on the phone replied, "Norman likes that part, eh?" But it was the corn. I didn't explain. I didn't wish to diminish her happiness. But now I was hopelessly distracted into a glowing memory connection and while limbs were writhing on the other end of the phone, the only ears I wanted to nibble were coming into view through memory-land.

It was an early dusky evening in the late summer of my rural Illinois childhood. Our windows were always rolled down in the summer then - and as we pulled into the church parking lot it was as if an airshaft to sweet heaven was pouring directly down and engulfing us all. I couldn't get out of the car fast enough. The men and women working there had bushels upon bushels of corn that grew in the fields all around us and were working feverishly to meet the crowd's demands.

Whatever else was served escapes me.

It was the corn with the farm fresh butter, hot and dripping past my shiny jaws.

The honeyed corn smell mixing and meeting with the grill's charcoal wood fires smoke.

It was facing the tip and knowing just to bite those tiny white nibs at the end for the zenith glorious rays of its light saber shape.

It is corn. The Fifth Element.

I'm Norman Van Aken and that's my word on food.

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Copyright © by Norman Van Aken, 1997
*Works consulted: NRV and "Crazy for Corn" by Betty Fussell