A Kid Shucking Corn: Meditations on Being Present

A Kid Shucking Corn: Meditations on Being Present

My mother is a true-blue Midwestern farm girl, born and raised on an 80-acre homestead north of Detroit. We visited the farm often when I was a child, and even though most of the land lay fallow at that time, I loved that peek at a lifestyle so different from my reality in the suburbs. I loved the big old decaying barn, the smell of livestock and hay from neighboring farms, and most of all, this time of year, returning home with bushels of fresh Michigan sweet corn.

Shucking corn was the only chore I enjoyed as a kid. It meant being sent to sit on the back steps with an armload of corn and a paper grocery bag for catching all the husks. I loved every aspect of the task: the thick shhhuuuck sound of the husks being pulled back, the translucency of the delicate, clinging silks, the raw perfume of the pearly yellow-white ears once exposed to the air. While shucking corn, I never anticipated how glorious the corn would taste later, always boiled and crowned with soft butter and salt on a huge platter in the middle of my family’s dinner table. Alone in the fading evening light, I was entirely present, focused only on the sensory details of that moment. I didn’t know it then, but it was my first foray into something like meditation.

Since then, I’ve come to realize that how we eat may be just as important as what we eat. Being present throughout the whole process of preparing a meal can turn it from a chore into a beautiful sensory experience. And then, of course, there’s the eating—raise your hand if you’ve ever been transported by something as simple as slowly savoring a ripe heirloom tomato. Eating and making meals like this is, in a way, a spiritual practice; a wonderful reminder to be “awake” as often as possible.

Of course, there’s no better time than now to indulge in the sensual nature of food; gardens and local farm markets are overloaded with fresh fruits and vegetables, each offering inspiration for your next meal, be it tried-and-true, like my family’s mountains of boiled corn, or something new, like the following Summer Corn & Coconut Soup recipe. What new tastes, smells, sounds will you discover simply by being present while making your next meal?

It’s been years since I last visited my mom’s family farm, but it’s the end of August and the window for Michigan sweet corn is only open for so long. I’m thinking this weekend will be the perfect time for a drive out to the country to find a roadside farm stand, so I can come home, sit on the back steps of my own home, and happily shuck away, perfectly present in the fading evening light.

RECIPE: Corn & Coconut Soup

Image and recipe used with permission from

I like tradition as much as the next gal, especially when it comes to enjoying summer produce. But now that the weather is actually cool enough to fire up the stove without turning my house into a sauna, I’m ready to get a little more creative with my farmstand finds—with an eye on health, of course.

This recipe from Gena over at incorporates two of my favorite flavors—corn and coconut milk—for a rich, nutritious, vegan (!) soup that I bet will be an amazing complement to the cooler evenings upon us. I imagine perfection being a bowl of this, with a little green salad and some fresh peaches for dessert.

Serves 4

3/4 cup chopped onion
1 small bell pepper, chopped
1 small clove garlic, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup coconut milk (full fat or light)
2 cups almond milk, plain
Corn from 3 large ears of corn, fresh (or 1 bag, frozen)
2 tsps curry powder

1. Sauté the onion, pepper, and garlic in the oil until golden (about 8 minutes).

2. Add the coconut milk, almond milk, all but one cup of the corn, and curry. Bring to a boil.

3. Simmer for 10 minutes, until the corn is cooked through. Add salt and pepper to taste.

4. Optional: Using an immersion blender, puree the soup till creamy, then add last cup of corn and heat through to serve. If you don’t have time, simply add all the corn when you add the almond and coconut milk, and cook through.

5. If you like, garnish with fresh herbs (such as cilantro) and serve.

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