Corn Beards and Happy Inconveniences

The modern food industry is an amazing creation. When I was a kid, we grew corn in our family garden, and I spent many summer evenings sitting outside shucking corn with my parents and grandma. It wasn’t an activity that I particularly enjoyed at the time, but I can still remember the sounds, the smells, and the sweltering summer heat and humidity.

Now, I don’t need to shuck and clean corn anymore. Ears of corn that are already shucked and completely prepared are packaged up and available to me at the local grocery store. It beats having to sit around shucking corn before dinner.

A few weeks ago, I noticed that the unshucked corn was less than half the price of the neatly shucked corn in the nice packages. I’m trying to save money, and every little bit adds up, so I gladly picked out a few unshucked ears of corn and went on my way. I saved about $2, but I gave up some convenience. And now, I’m back in the corn shucking game.

But, as it turns out, my 4-year-old daughter loves to shuck corn with me. Tonight before dinner, I carried the corn to the back porch and she came running right behind me with an empty bucket for the finished ears. She laid claim to half the corn and got to work.

I finished my half quickly and spent the rest of the time patiently watching her. She worked like she always does, slowly and methodically peeling back each leaf of each husk, listening to the sounds and anticipating the sight of the first kernels of corn. Each time when she reached the tangled mop of corn silk, she giggled loudly and said “Dad, can you do the corn beard? It’s kind of yucky!” My 8-year-old son, who was too cool to shuck the corn and came outside just to jump on the trampoline, even caught the fever tonight and joined in.

This corn ritual that I thought I would never do again has become one of my favorite activities with my daughter. It doesn’t take long, no more than 10 minutes, and I wouldn’t trade that time for the convenience of the neatly packaged corn again.

It turns out that when they prepared and packaged the supermarket corn, they didn’t just remove the husks and silks and the unattractive ends of the ears. They removed the magic, the mystery, and the joy of discovery that comes from having a little less perfection and a little less convenience in your life.

I just needed a 4-year-old to show me.

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