Allow me to set the scene. My father would drive his Ford pickup truck to a local farmer’s corn field. He and the farmer would harvest the corn and throw it directly into the bed of the pickup truck. My father would return with his truck load of corn and we would all gather under the pecan grove of trees located in the front pasture near our house. At this point, it was all hands on deck. My father wielded a machete to cut off the tops and bottoms of each ear. The rest of us shucked the cobs. The cleaned cobs were collected into buckets and brought into the house. Because I was the youngest, it was my job to remove the silks from each cob. My mother would then wash each ear and use a small brush or knife to remove the stubborn silks. Once washed, my grandmother, Lillian, our help, and my mother began the task of cutting the corn away from the cob. I was never allowed to do this because I was deemed too young and did not have the skill of using the sharp, small knife required to cut and “milk,” or scrape the cob of its flavorful juices. My mother was always watchful to only cut halfway through the kernel and then scrape the remaining to create a creamy corn mixture.
Now remember, corn is a summer crop. So are tomatoes and peppers. Cajuns, like all farm folks, waste nothing. Dishes are made using everything available. Hence the creation of corn maque choux, or smothered corn. My ancestors are Cajun and we have been known to make some really wonderful dishes with few ingredients. Quality and freshness are key to good food.
So the cut, milked corn was added to a pot with chopped tomatoes, green bell peppers and banana peppers. This was cooked and then laid out to cool. We did not have central air conditioning in those days. We had window units and oscillating fans to cool the many pans of smothered corn. Once cooled, the corn was bagged and frozen.
Sunday lunches were always special at our house. Both of my parents were great cooks with a deep appreciation for food. When you live on a farm, you live so close to your food source. You cannot help but appreciate the effort it takes to create food. A typical Sunday lunch would be some kind of roasted meat; a hen, a beef roast, or pork shoulder. The sides were always rice, and sometimes corn maque choux, and whatever else the garden had provided. It was at those moments that shucking all of that corn was worth the effort. Every bite of that corn was savoured.