A Kernel, and the Truth

Standing at the farmers market a couple of weeks ago, looking at a pile of corn, I was kind of sad.


Jim Crawford, the farmer at New Morning Farm in Hustontown, Pa., and the proprietor of this stand in Washington, D.C., had just told me that next week would be the last week for corn this season.

I was suddenly overwhelmed with a feeling that I didn’t do enough with corn this year. It was separation anxiety. It was about to disappear, and I’m not going to see it again for eight months.


Eight months!


So you understand my mood.


Jim is one of the farmers profiled in the book Mario and I wrote, “America: Farm to Table.” In the book, Mario wrote recipes that feature Jim’s corn. So, while I consider Jim an expert on a lot of things, I consider him an expert on corn possibly most of all.


I told Jim that the corn I had bought the previous week that was probably the best that I had had all season. The kernels were thicker, and it tasted sweeter. Thinking this was particularly insightful, I waited for Jim to be impressed with my keen palate and tell me about some meteorological phenomenon that was probably at play, maybe a phase of the moon, or that the crop is sweeter at the end of the season, like a late-harvest wine grape. Not only was I sure Jim was about to compliment me, but I had envisioned more than one avenue he could take to get there.


“Nope,” he said. “Our corn pretty much tastes the same from the second week of the season through the end.”


So much for my laser palate.


My excitement for the corn season was kicked off when Mario tweeted on May 30 — at 10:44 a.m., not that I was paying a lot of attention — a photo of Sweet Corn Fregula from Otto Enoteca Pizzeria.


That brought back memories.


As I was cooking my way through Mario’s Babbo Cookbook — I swear I’m going to finish that, eventually, by the way — the Charred Sweet Corn Fregula was one of the contorni I really loved. So when I saw the tweet, I wanted to make that dish again. Immediately!


Or, in four months. As the corn season was about to close. Whichever.


The important thing is, I got to it. It was dinner that night. I didn’t even mess around with it as a contorni. It was dinner. And it was fantastic.


And I decided that maybe Jim was wrong. Maybe that corn was a little sweeter than the rest of the corn I had this season.


It was sweeter because of the sorrow that we’d be parting for so long.


Jim Webster works at The Washington Post. Mario and Jim’s book, “America: Farm to Table,” (Grand Central Life & Style) is available now everywhere books are sold. Follow Jim on Twitter: @jwscoop.


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