About Corn Maven

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Ethicurean name Corn Maven
Why’d you pick that? I feel a special affinity to corn having grown up quite literally surrounded by it on my family’s farm in Iowa. I love the word “maven,” although I confess I’m not much of an expert on anything; I’m more of a “Jill-of-all-trades” kind of gal, maven of none.
Real job Itinerant graphic designer and at times a project manager/editor.
Dream job Starting a CSA on my family’s farm — or growing as much of my own food as possible — while continuing to build deeper, life-sustaining alliances both locally and globally.
Best meal ever My birthday dinner this past April at Fuego at Los Posada in Santa Fe. We never dine like this and in fact made reservations without knowing much about this place. We ordered the Chateaubriand of Oregon Country Natural Beef and the Rancho Cieros Organic Baby Greens — we chose between eight premium vinegars for this salad, each described in detail, like they were fine wine.
Favorite meat Filet mignon
Favorite fruit An heirloom peach
Favorite vegetable Yukon gold mashed potatoes (unpeeled but well scrubbed)
Vegetable I eat only when I have to be polite Eggplant (because I got sick after eating it once)
Favorite dinner growing up Homegrown steak filet, mashed potatoes with butter and Anderson-Erickson sour cream, and green beans from the garden. Oh, and for dessert: homemade — and homegrown — rhubarb crisp.
Processed crap I can’t manage to live without Sour Cream — love, LOVE, love the stuff.
Sexiest food to me A perfectly ripe peach
Most embarrassing cooking incident Fixing my first turkey for Thanksgiving with friends from my college days. I had no clue what I was doing. Thanks, Sara, for being there for me!
Most traumatic food experience [Bed &] Breakfast egg-thing on toast which was so salty and thickly creamy, and just plain icky — but I ate most of it anyway because the cook was dining with me, and only me.
Attitude about sell-by dates They’re pretty ridiculous, in most cases, and slightly informative in others. I trust my instincts (and my sense of smell) and am willing to suffer the consequences. Trusting our own instincts? Now there’s a concept.
Has your cooking ever made anyone sick? Not that I know of…

newspaper62.JPGFood background I grew up on a 700-acre farm in northeastern Iowa in the 60s and 70s. (Today, my father farms, along with my cousin, about 1,300 acres and barely makes a profit; not surprisingly, they grow corn and soybeans. In the 70s, my father was doing very well financially.) My mother cultivated a garden filled with such things as asparagus, beans, peas, tomatoes, rhubarb, raspberries, and my father planted sweet corn — I still think it’s sacrilegious to eat fresh sweet corn before July. We raised cows and pigs on our pastures until they “went to market.”

[That's me with my mother and father in a 1964 photo that ran with a news article when my dad won "Corn County (Iowa) Young Farmer of the Year." At the state level, he came in fourth out of 99 county winners.]

Today I live in Oakland and buy organic as much as possible (even though it costs more), because I see myself as voting with my $$ for the kind of world I want to live in and also because I worry that I’ll pay later for consuming too many awful pesticides.

I have a small organic garden in my own backyard; I love reconnecting to the land in this way and becoming more intimately involved with the cycle of life again.

Yes, I adore a juicy steak, but I’m saddened by how cows are treated when they are sentient beings too. I love corn, both the plant and its cultural story, but not the way this plant is being misused and mistreated today. I’m outraged by seed patenting and the takeover of GMOs.

It’s ironic, but corn’s cultural story is to America what wheat’s is to Europe and rice to Asia. This distinctly American seed is still revered by the Maya, the Navaho, the Oneida. Maybe we need to examine our culture’s story to get to the root of our food woes … and some of our other problems as well.

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