Technically tonight was the second time we ate sweet corn this summer, but this is the first batch we've made.
In central Pennsylvania, there are a few unofficial markers of summertime: the opening of Massey's Frozen Custard (for Carlisle folks, anyway); the appearance of fireflies (and, later, the humming din of cicadas); and the arrival of local sweet corn.
Benjamin and I went to our favorite farm stand today for yarrow to plant and more berries to eat. The owner dumped a wooden bushel full of freshly picked bicolor sweet corn into a pile on one of the tables, and I couldn't resist.
When I was a kid, we ate corn all the time in the summer. I remember sitting on one of our patio chairs with a brown paper grocery bag at my feet, stripping the ears of their green husks and fine strings of silk.
There are plenty of tasty ways to eat corn. I happen to love the Mexican street-food preparation, which slathers a roasted ear in a concoction of mayonnaise, chili powder, lime and cheese. My favorite, though, is also the simplest: boiled for seven minutes (What can I say? I'm particular) and then bathed with butter, salt and pepper and eaten right off the cob.
There are also lots of ways to literally eat corn. Some people start at the end and go horizontally to the other end before starting over again on the next row, typewriter-style. Some people start at an end and circle all the way around and out. Others start in the middle and do a combination typewriter-circle (I've been told this is "weird" by nearly everybody who's watched me eat corn).
I am convinced that no one, however, is as good at eating corn as my father. No. One. He is good at lots of things, great at some things, but he's downright masterful at a couple things: finding excellent parking spots and eating corn. He starts at one end and bites down in a manner that's both forceful and delicate, leaving no trace of the kernels that were once there. His cobs look as if someone's taken a corn zipper to them when he's finished. They are clean and smooth, unlike my mother's and my corn, which are raggedy and often have entire kernels still intact.
My father can barely stand to eat corn-on-the-cob with anyone else. He inspects our discarded cobs and shakes his head in disappointment at our performance. It doesn't matter that he's perhaps the only man on earth this compulsive about how corn is "supposed" to be eaten and that practically everyone's corn is raggedy when they've finished with it. In my father's view, his way is the only way to eat corn. I suppose he has a point: If you want to really enjoy something, you'd better make every bite count.