Corn History in American Cuisine
Contributed by: Kori Puckett
If you could pick a single food that exemplifies the Americas, what would you pick? No food really screams American like corn. In the U.S., corn is really popular in Southern food. Some popular corn dishes in the South include cornbread (also known as hoecakes or johnny cakes among some Southerners), corn pudding, creamed corn, succotash, and old fashioned buttered
corn on the cob.
I'll give you an idea of just how central corn has always been
to the American diet with a little bit of corn history...
Corn is completely native to the Americas. It was only grown by
the Native Americans, thousands of years before Christopher
Columbus arrived to the New World. Petrified cobs have been
discovered that are thousands of years old to prove this.
The Native American name for corn was mahiz, which the early
settlers called maize. In Native American language usage, the
word "mahiz" means "that which sustains us." Cultivating corn
turned the Native American tribes from nomadic to agrarian
societies. They may have even used corn to brew beer before the
European settlers arrived.
Columbus traded with the Indians in the West Indies and took
corn back to Spain. From Spain, it was introduced to the rest of
Western Europe then eventually spread to the rest of the world.
English and German settlers named corn after their generic term
for an edible grass crop. They called it "Indian corn" to
differentiate it from other grains.
The earliest settlers in America may very well have died from
starvation if the natives hadn't introduced them to corn. The
settlers were taught how to grow it by planting kernels in small
holes with small fish and covering them up. The fish acted as
The Indians also shared their various ways of preparing corn,
such as pounding it into meal to make cornbread, corn soup, corn
cakes, and corn pudding. Corn was also used by the early
settlers as money and to trade for meat and furs.
The love of corn goes very deep and way back into our history.
The first governor of the Plymouth Colony, Governor William
Bradford, said once "And sure it was God's good providence that
we found this corne for we know not how else we should have
And the reverence for corn that the settlers in the U.S. had
back then still goes on today. It's the largest crop in the U.S.
It regularly graces dinner tables, including Thanksgiving dinner
ever since the year 1621. Small towns all around America's
heartland celebrate the harvest with corn festivals. In Iowa,
the nation's #1 corn producer, about half the farming land is
devoted to just corn!
It's also one of the most widely distributed in the world. In
fact, street vendors around the world sell husked corn, which
developed from American settlers adapting the native style of
roasting corn without the husks.
So the next time you come down South or have a hankering for
some Southern food, be sure to order up some of America's
This article is written by Kori Puckett, a food addict who
enjoys desserts, Southern U.S. cuisine, and practically anything
with carbohydrates (she's not an Atkins diet fan). Visit her
website at http://www.Southern-Country-Cooking-Recipes.com and
get easy, authentic Southern recipes right now.