It’s fair time — After showing your livestock it’s unusual food time — mostly fried, like Twinkies and funnel cakes. A newie lately is bacon dipped in chocolate.
Still, the one food that most of us have at the fair (as well as at home) is — corn on the cob covered with melted butter and whatever else is available.
As we enjoy our “roasting ears” as my Texas friends call them, we can enjoy the knowledge that corn originated in America, somewhere in the Andes. This gift to all mankind was called “maize.”
The term maize is a derivative of an early American Indian word mahiz. The newcomers called it “Indian corn.” Today, “Indian corn” refers to the ornamental corn of Halloween and Thanksgiving fame, especially the blue corn.
According to American Indian belief, corn was of divine origin, “the food of the gods that created the earth.”
Corn pollen is central to all Navajo ceremonies. Every shaman carries corn pollen and no shaman would undertake a healing ceremony without it. Corn pollen is associated with Changing Woman, who created the Navajo and gave them corn pollen as a means of contacting her.
When I enjoy corn on the cob I think of that. It truly is food of the gods. The idea of using this wonderful grain for fuel to burn in our motor vehicles is repugnant to me, especially when I consider the government subsidy it receives.
If a person’s diet is dominated by corn with few other vegetables, pellagra is a risk because corn doesn’t contain niacin (vitamin B3). Pellagra causes dermatological, gastrointestinal and neurological symptoms and ultimately death.
Although historically most corn grown in the United States and Canada is used as animal feed, the grain has many other uses — cosmetics, ink, glue, laundry starch, shoe polish, medicines, fabrics, ornaments. Don’t forget corncob pipes and, of course, ethanol.
Christopher Columbus took corn back to Spain, and by 1500 A.D. it was being grown there. By the 17th century it was a major crop in many European countries.
I had a friend who grew up in Austria, and she told me in that nation corn was feed for their animals, not themselves.
The Portuguese introduced it to East Africa and Asia and from there it was just a matter of time until it arrived in India and China through established trade routes. It was flourishing in China in the 18th century and reached Korea and Japan soon after. Corn is now one of the most widely grown vegetables on Earth, especially in the Americas. The United States and China lead world production.
The four main varieties of corn are sweet corn (that we enjoy off the cob), dent corn, also known as field corn (for livestock feed and industrial products), ornamental corn and flint corn.
What about popcorn? A sub-variety of flint corn makes popcorn. Its soft, starchy center facilitates the “pop” in the fluffy movie-snack favorite.
I’ll see you at the food booths during the fair. I plan on sampling ALL the tasty, bad-for-me treats. After all, the fair only happens once a year.
Glenda Price has been a contributing editor to New Mexico Stockman magazine since 1982. Contact her at: