Food for Thought

It’s Green Corn Time on North Caicos

red-tasseled-cornStory & Photos By Jody Rathgeb

Green corn on North Caicos

When Agnes comes out to the yard, she laughs and calls out, “Jody, you look TI.” I hold out my arms, displaying myself for her and thinking about what she sees. I am sitting on an overturned bucket by the fire, my knees together to maintain modesty in my shift, my hand wrapped around a half-nibbled, blackened ear of local corn. Yeah, I guess I do look like a Turks Islander, with the exception of my white skin.

It’s green corn time on North Caicos. Susie and Clifford each brought home an armful of ears, so there’s plenty to roast. Susie and Spring “caught a fire,” as they say, with me tagging along and contributing a few small sticks from the yard. Now we’re all gathered around, tossing ears — some shucked, some in husks — into the coals, then flipping them away from the heat with sticks. A few hot jiggles from hand to hand and it’s a feast.

The dry, chewy kernels separate from the ear cleanly; this is the opposite of American hybrids with their high water and sugar content. Our ears are closer to popcorn in texture and flavor. There are, in fact, occasional pops as the corn roasts. Eating is a workout for the jaws, but the reward is a satisfying taste of island life.

Our conversation is light and superficial as we focus primarily on eating. Clifford and Susie mock-argue about whose corn is better, identifying different ears as “soft” — not a prized quality. I volunteer to eat one of the soft ears and I have to agree that the hard corn is superior.

And then there is the counting. Spring and Alison are in competition, setting the bar higher and higher as they pull ears from the fire. We all start to tease Alison about eating only the smallest ears. She responds by leaning back and unzipping the fly of her jeans, a gesture that jars with her petite, demure appearance.

I, of course, am the slowest eater. After three ears I take a break, but I’m eventually shamed into a fourth. Spring and Alison are up to ten; Clifford has seven or eight cobs at his feet. Susie says only, “I don’t count. I just ate a bellyful.” Agnes, who has joined us, quickly matches my count.

We can’t finish it all. There’s just too much. I lean back on my bucket seat, splaying my legs, no longer caring about appearance. I look around and realize we are all in the same posture. Green corn has brought this greenhorn Turks Islander into the fold.



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