Thanks to fertile Midwestern plains, commodity-focused agricultural policy, a foreign policy that makes cheap petroleum a high priority, and an innovative agricultural industry, Americans are truly the 'people of the corn.' As the film "King Corn" and the book "The Omnivore's Dilemma" have well documented, corn appears everywhere in the U.S. food system.
And yet, Americans are not taking full advantage of this amazing grain, as I learned during my recent trip to Asia.
Fit to a Tea
The movie theater, with its cool air and hot popcorn, is a classic refuge on a scorching days. Thanks to Korea's centuries-old tradition of herbal, fruit, and grain "teas" (explained by Kateigaho International Edition), you can get part of the movie experience at a lower cost and with far fewer calories. How? With "Corn tea," a beverage made from roasted corn kernels steeped in water.
I learned about this product while walking through a convenience store in Seoul looking for something or other. I didn't have time to buy a box, but soon after I got home I went Oakland's biggest Korean market (Koreana Plaza on Telegraph Avenue) in hope of finding it. It wasn't hard to find — the tea aisle had bags and bags of roasted corn in various shapes and sizes. I picked the organic brand (O'food, not to be confused with the huge Irish conglomerate).
During the Bay Area's 'heat wave' last weekend, I brewed a glass and let it chill. It tasted a lot like unsalted popcorn. And yet it was a drink.
The second item is a hard candy called "Creamy Corn," which I picked up in Singapore's Chinatown. The candy, which is made in Malaysia, has a pleasant, but disorienting, flavor resembling the soupy slurry known as creamed corn.
Many restaurants have bowls of mints on the cashier's counter, or provide a mint with the check. Given the dependence of the American food system on corn, it would be fitting for them to give out 'Creamy Corn' candies instead.