Saturday, December 05, 2009

Creamed corn's origin

I asked the girl at Gene and Paul's Fresh Meats if she knew where creamed corn came from.  She told me, "Aisle 3 on the left."  Since I was buying a can I had picked off the shelf, I already knew that much. 

Some people say creamed corn is a mid-western dish, born in the heartlands of Iowa where they have plenty of time to spare and plenty of corn to invent new recipes.  There is a certain train of scholarship that points to the origin of creamed corn being nowhere else but on the corner of Stoughton Street and Columbia Road, where Yaz's International Dublin House now stands, #7 Stoughton Street to be precise.

"Maize and butter" is reported in minutemen's diaries as being a local staple while they were encamped on Dorchester Heights.  Alexander Hamilton noted that he and General George Washington dined on "Indian samp, sweet cream, a bit of smoked pork and garden roots" when they passed through the vicinity of Lower Mills.  Before it was Boston's biggest and best neighborhood, Dorchester was a prosperous farm town.  As preposterous as it sounds, the blue ribbons for the largest, juiciest, yellow corn ears were won by Dorchester farmers in the 1885, 1886, 1887, 1889, 1893-1898, 1903, 1912-1914, 1916, 1921-1926, and the 1954 Massachusetts State Fairs.

Nowadays you'll see more cauliflower ears than corn in Dorchester, but this is a place that still savors its maize and knows how to cook it.  DelMonte Foods, America's largest cream-style corn producer reported in its 2009 report to shareholders that southern Boston, as opposed to South Boston, was a growth area for its family of canned, creamed corn, products.  Despite the demand for ready-made preparations, Dorchester's Star Market chain outlet go through more fresh and frozen corn inventory than any other outlets within the corporation. 

Dorchester loves corn and the home cooks who live in Dorchester know how to cream it.  Dorchester also consumes a disproportionate share of heavy cream and butter.  Supermarket managers know what recipes and local dishes are popular in their neighborhoods.

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