Out of the Heartland…

Out of the Heartland…


…Come the simplest yet most satisfying of foods.  One of my absolute favorites is corn on the cob.  What could be more ordinary, right?  Wrong.  Like so many things in life, it’s all in the presentation.  When I was a kid, we had a corn patch on our farm and I would be sent out on a summer day to pick a couple dozen ears and bring them in for lunch.  That was all we would eat – a corn feast, with butter dribbling down our chins as we chomped along the length of the cob like old-fashioned typewriters, yelling “ding!” at the end of each row.  I had forgotten the simple joy of that experience, until we went to the Livingston Roundup in Livingston, Montana on the Fourth of July, l994.

There they had sweet corn, fresh out of the fields, speared at one end with a wooden skewer.  For a buck you could buy an ear of corn and dip it into an enormous vat of melted butter, then drench it in salt and pepper.  It was glorious!  See photo below of my daughter Alice, now 23, on that memorable day.  The simplicity, luxury and abundance of the presentation was breathtaking – all of us East-Coasters just gathered around and stared.  And what a metaphor for the bounty of America on our national birthday!

Food stations are so popular these days that a corn on the cob station seems a super-easy thing to do.   In addition to offering steaming corn on the cob, just add butter, salt, pepper, parmesan, and cotija cheeses to sprinkle on the corn.  This is best done outside, though if you provide a tray over which the corn can be sprinkled; it can also work at an indoor buffet.


Serves 6
Prep time: 30 minutes


  • One dozen ears of corn*
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Grated Parmesan
  • Crumbled Cotija Cheese**
  • Butter


  1. *Get the freshest corn available, preferably picked that day.  

  2. The leaves should be bright green and feel moist to the touch, and when you sniff the corn silk it should smell sweet.
  3.    I prefer ears that are smaller in circumference, as they are younger and tend to be more tender.
  4. **This is a hard Mexican cheese that can be crumbled into a wide-holed pepper shaker.

  5.   Ideally, the corn will be plucked straight out of the steaming pot and the cheese sprinkled on it, so that it melts a bit on the cob of corn.
  6. For a dozen ears I put out two sticks of butter and tell guests to simply rub the corn over the sticks of butter before adding other seasonings.

  7.   If you’re serving a big crowd, melt the butter in a pan with sides tall enough to allow a cob of corn to be dipped into the pot.
  8. Slip corn into boiling water; cook for seven to ten minutes, depending on the size of the ears of corn.  

  9. Serve immediately.

Corn picks are nice to have, but unless you’re eating in a more formal setting I prefer to do without them.  They tend to get thrown away by mistake, and hey, corn on the cob is a naturally messy food.  Part of the fun of eating it is having a devil-may-care attitude about the mess.

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