This is the only way to eat corn on the cob

Grilled corn on the cob Photo by Vankad/Shutterstock

In episode 7 of the Cottage Life Podcast Season 3, we’ll listen to a piece about the best late-summer food, which first appeared in our August 2007 issue. Listen here or visit cottagelife.com for access to all of the episodes.

Boiled or grilled, on the cob or off, summer corn is delicious. But it’s going to be extra delicious smothered in butter, calories be damned. 

You’d think that actually getting the butter on the corn would be a straightforward process, but it’s amazing the number of ways this can be done. I know people who start their summer meals with a slice of heavily buttered baguette on their side plates, on which they roll their cobs before eating the bread itself. Another family I know makes “butter presents”—small cubes of butter individually bundled in cheesecloth which they rub on the kernels. It’s beyond impressive that they take the time to do this, but, frankly, both are a bit too fussy for us, a family with a firm belief in an extended pre-dinner cocktail hour. Of course, if it’s ease of execution you’re after, you can simply slide a slice of butter over the cob with a knife, but good luck keeping it from slipping off. 

In my books, the most effective way to get all that yellow goodness slathered between the kernels is the Kelly family free-for-all: put a pound of butter on a large, sturdy plate, and roll the cobs directly in it. There are usually upwards of 12 eager eaters jostling for position around our cottage table, and all are keen to get to their cobs while they are still hot. But being first isn’t always best. The block is still flat and hasn’t reached its trademark cradle shape, a stage of perfection attained only after six or seven cobs have tilled a golden furrow. It’s at this point that each kernel nearly butters itself. 

Some will point out this method’s not very polite, certainly by our city dining standards. And, I admit, the butter does begin to look unappetizing, particularly when the husker hasn’t been diligent about removing all those silky corn hairs. But what about eating corn on the cob is polite or pretty? Regardless of whether you go at it back and forth, typewriter style, or follow a circular pattern, you’re going to end up with a good portion of it either plastered to your cheek, dribbling off your chin, or stuck in your teeth. You don’t eat it to look good; you eat it because it tastes good. 

Being a large group, my family can unwrap a package of butter early in the weekend, and by Sunday it’s very nearly gone. Next weekend we’ll start a new block. In-season corn deserves nothing less. We have the rest of the year to be tasteful with our condiments.

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