Sunday, October 12, 2014

Corn

"Roger was, of all things, singing now, if one could call it that. Or chanting, at least, the words to a very bawdy Scottish song, about a miller who is pestered by a young woman wanting him to grind her corn. Whereupon he does. 
'He flung her down upon the sacks, and there she got her corn ground, her corn ground...' " 
-  from A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES - by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 6, Ambush
When Dougal MacKenzie told Claire in The Wedding episode of Outlander that he was tickled by the thought of grinding her corn, the remark provided "fodder" for days worth of jokes on social media. Overnight, he went from War Chief of the Clan MacKenzie to being a "corn star" and a "corn dog." Of course, if you have read the book, OUTLANDER, you know that this scene with Dougal was something added to the TV show. In the book, he does tell Claire that he is attracted to her but it happens later in the story and the subject of corn never comes up.

However, "grinding corn" is part of the story eventually. (Which makes me think that the writers of the TV script have either read the books or had some coaching from Diana.) Books later, you will find the scene above, starring Roger MacKenzie and his wife, Brianna. And that's all I'm going to say about it. You'll have to read the books to get the whole story.

Botanical Information

Family: Poaceae
Genus: Zea
Species: Zea mays
Common names: maize, also called corn in the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia; in Britain and other parts of the world, "corn" is the word used for cereal grains in general.

Maize was first domesticated by the indigenous people of Mexico. By 2500 BC, cultivation of this crop had spread throughout the Americas. Explorers brought maize to Europe and other parts of the world in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. Maize is is adaptable to various climates and conditions and thus has become a staple in many parts of the world.

Today, maize is the the principal grain grown in the Americas. About 40% of the total worldwide production is grown in the US. It is surprising that, with popcorn, sweet corn, tortillas, corn chips, grits, masa, and corn meal seemingly coming out of our ears (sorry), only about 10% of the maize produced in the US is used for food for humans. The rest is used for animal feed, to produce ethanol and to make plastics, adhesives and textiles.

The Corn Palace

You will find this unique attraction in Mitchell, South Dakota. I saw it years ago on a cross country road trip. The "palace" is a large building used for basketball games, stage plays, graduation ceremonies and the annual Corn Palace Festival. It features large murals on the outside walls of the building - elaborate mosaics made with seeds and multi-colored corn kernels. I know it sounds corny (sorry, I couldn't resist), but the effect is really quite stunning. The murals are changed every year, and if you ever see this building you will appreciate what an undertaking that is. The Corn Palace will celebrate its 125th anniversary in 2015 and is currently undergoing a major renovation that is expected to be complete in April. So... now you have a reason to visit South Dakota.

Corn and NASCAR

Before there was NASCAR racing, there were bootleggers needing to outrun the Feds. They used corn to make their moonshine and, as this entertaining article on NASCAR's website explains, "They souped up their cars to haul their bounty, and then ran from the law like their behinds were on fire."

Prohibition was eventually repealed, but moonshine is still made in the South and good ol' boys are still driving as fast as they can. They just don't have moonshine in the trunk anymore.



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