Story of Corn: The Myths and History, The Culture and Agriculture, The Art and Science of America's Quintessential Crop

Overview

Now in paperback for the first time, The Story of Corn is Betty Fussell's mesmerizing account of the extraordinary grain that built the New World. In a form as uniquely hybrid as its subject, it blends history and myth, science and art, anecdote and image, personal narrative and epic to tell the story of this amazing crop and the people who for centuries have planted, eaten, worshipped, processed, and profited from it.

In an authoritative, wise, and wholly original ...

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Overview

Now in paperback for the first time, The Story of Corn is Betty Fussell's mesmerizing account of the extraordinary grain that built the New World. In a form as uniquely hybrid as its subject, it blends history and myth, science and art, anecdote and image, personal narrative and epic to tell the story of this amazing crop and the people who for centuries have planted, eaten, worshipped, processed, and profited from it.

In an authoritative, wise, and wholly original blend of social history, art, science, and anthropology, Fussell tells the story of corn in a narrative that is as uniquely hybrid as her subject. The great epic of this amazing grain makes clear that all the civilizations of the Western hemisphere have been built on corn. 250 photos and line drawings.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
Putting this book down is as hard as leaving an ear of fresh buttered corn half eaten.
Los Angeles Times
Fussell . . . can get away with phrases like 'the sexiness of corn' without sounding loopy. The way she writes about it, it is -hypnotic, alluring, sustaining, and not a little bit mysterious.
New York Times Book Review
Fussell . . . is totally and passionately in love with corn, and she treats it the way Cecil B. DeMille treated a Bible story-with zest and romance and hordes of gorgeously costumed extras.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Fussell ( Food in Good Season ) documents the history of corn on many levels in this well-researched book. As food, fertility symbol, genetic marvel, and subject of ancient myths, corn is one of the oldest food staples and a truly American food source. And because the author covers so much material, it's best to approach The Story of Corn bit by bit to avoid being overwhelmed. While it's fun to read about the history of popcorn (popcorn poppers dating back to A.D. 100 have been found in Peru), it's downright fascinating to read about what corn meant to native North and South Americans. Apparently corn was used in everything from funerals to birth rituals; corn images are embedded in the Hopi language. Fussell even tracked down a retired moonshiner to find out how corn was used to make corn whiskey and its more socially acceptable cousins, bourbon and Peruvian chicha . The author, descended from Nebraska farmers for whom corn was a mainstay, weaves her family's history into the larger saga. And along the way, she unfortunately consorts with some rather highfalutinok language (``The migration of my ancestors was across continents, up and away from the earth navel of fallen man. My own journey had been down . . . into the darkness of seeds and roots to find my dead mother and her mothers . . . in the womb not of Eden but of Mother Earth''). But the volume is otherwise so absorbing and well written that she's easily forgiven. Photos not seen by PW. (July)
Library Journal
Like a modern variety of Zea mays , this book is a sophisticated hybrid, a skillful blend of history, science, art, and anthropology. Written in a lively and nontechnical style, with 150 photographs and 100 line drawings, it is an accessible, handsome volume. Fussell, food journalist, historian of foodways, and author of cookbooks, including the highly recommended Food in Good Season ( LJ 9/15/88), is known as a likeable and knowledgeable writer. These qualities are evident in this tour de force about corn, covering every aspect of this important commodity and offering an extensive bibliography. Anyone reading all or a substantial portion of this book will never pass a cornfield again in quite the same way. Recommended.-- Richard Shotwell, Hancock Shaker Village, Pittsfield, Mass.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780865475458
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 6/15/1999
  • Pages: 356
  • Product dimensions: 8.08 (w) x 9.18 (h) x 1.23 (d)

Table of Contents

1 A Babel of Corn
Corn Mad 3
The Popcorn Connection 9
What Is the Corn? 15
Corn, U.S.A. 21
2 Seeds of Life
The Language of Myth 29
The Seed of Blood 29
Corn Cannibals 38
The Circles of Chaco Canyon 47
The Language of Science 59
Solving the Corn Mystery 59
In the Name of Divine Progress 67
The Corn War 76
The Corn Race 86
3 The Daily Round
The Language of the Seasons 99
The Sacred Corn of Inca and Aztec 99
The Desert Farmers of the Southwest 113
Buffalo Bird Woman's Garden 121
The Language of the Machine 133
The Ocean-Desert of Nebraska 133
The March of Mechanical Time 143
"Corn Sick" Land 154
4 Flesh and Blood
The Language of Food 167
From Piki to Cornflakes 167
Green-Corn Cooking 176
Ash Cooking 195
Cornmeal Cooking 209
The Language of Drink 249
Chicha in Peru, Moonshine in Arkansas 249
The Language of Commodities 265
Squeezing the Molecule 265
5 The Sacred Round
The Language of Ceremony 281
Dancing Up the Corn 281
Gathering In the Corn 286
Tearing Out the Heart 291
Drinking Down the Sun 296
The Language of Carnivals and Kings 301
Hoopeston's Sweet-Corn Magic 301
Courtland's Cornhuskers 304
The World's Only Corn Palace 311
6 Closing the Circle
The Night of Shalako 323
The Blessingway 326
Selected Bibliography 335
Index 345
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