Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xii

This book would not have turned out nearly so well without the generous assistance of friends from the world of food, farming, and academe. These folks introduced me to experts, directed me toward resources, sent articles, and occasionally fed me or put me up for the night. For these helpful kindnesses...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-4

It would be hard to overstate the importance of corn to the United States. Or, to be more accurate, it would be hard to overstate the importance of maize.
The term corn actually means “the most important cereal crop of a region.”1 Hence, wheat was traditionally the corn of England, oats were the...

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1. From Oaxaca to the World, or How Maize Became Corn

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pp. 5-16

Maize is a grass, like other cereal grains. However, it has a far larger seed head than any other cereal grain. That was one of the things that caught Columbus’s attention when he first saw piles of maize in the Caribbean.1 However, though maize was new to him, it was already ancient in the...

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2. Out of One, Many: The Unity and Diversity of Corn

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pp. 17-25

When speaking of corn, for most Americans, the first thing that comes to mind will almost certainly be sweet corn, perhaps followed by popcorn. This response may be different for those who rely on, grow, or study the other types of corn, but say “corn” in most nonfarm locations in the United...

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3. Birth of the Midwest and the Corn Belt

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pp. 26-34

Cather’s enthusiasm was definitely not misplaced. The Midwest, including the Great Plains of Cather’s childhood, is ideally suited for growing corn. Other regions grow corn, but nowhere else comes close to matching the Heartland. The top ten corn-producing states are all in the...

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4. Cities, Transportation, and Booming Business

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pp. 35-48

Although the story of the Midwest is primarily a tale of farms spreading toward the horizon, two other elements were absolutely essential to the growth and sustaining of the Midwest. People did not make the difficult decision to leave their homes, and then make the difficult journey to the new...

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5. Sow, Hoe, and Harvest

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pp. 49-74

It is almost unimaginable how much farming has changed in the last 150 years. In the early 1800s, farming practices were not dramatically different from those of four thousand years earlier.1 Though some advances had been made in the late 1600s by English agronomist and inventor...

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6. From Field to Table

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pp. 75-91

While tons of corn were being shipped to the big cities, a lot of it never left the farm. Much of what stayed behind went to feed farm animals, which will be discussed in the next chapter, but a lot of it was also destined for the tables of the people who grew it. Corn appeared at almost every meal...

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7. Hooves, Feathers, and Invisible Corn

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pp. 92-110

While there are numerous ways to prepare and enjoy corn, the vast majority of corn grown in this country is actually not consumed by humans—or, to be more precise, it is not directly consumed by humans. Most of the corn crop in the United States goes to feed livestock, especially large livestock...

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8. Popcorn: America’s Snack

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pp. 111-122

“Try the new taste sensation! Free! Popcorn popped in butter—a revolutionary new method just patented! Try a bag for free!” So cried Charles “C. C.” Cretors, inventor of the popcorn machine, at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago.1 This was not the first time Americans had had...

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9. Transformations

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pp. 123-134

Hogs were long considered a great way to “transform” corn into a marketable commodity. However, it was not the only transformation the grain was destined to undergo. These transformations have, in many cases, had a surprisingly great impact. Most people have heard that transformed corn is everywhere...

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10. Embracing Change—and Questioning Change

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pp. 135-158

Perhaps it is because the United States is a nation of immigrants and pioneers, but there is something in the American spirit that has tended toward exploration and innovation. And perhaps the immense openness of the prairies and plains made it natural that big ideas and big changes would...

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11. Celebrating Corn

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pp. 159-172

Most things central to people’s lives, from family birthdays to the Fourth of July, are happily celebrated. Corn is no exception. Corn festivals, corn mazes, and corn-eating contests dot the American landscape, but, not too surprisingly, they are most abundant in the Midwest. From corn...

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12. Living with Corn: Early 1800s to Early 1900s

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pp. 173-186

In the early 1900s, students in Illinois would have memorized those lines from Governor Oglesby’s speech.1 People understood what had built the region, shaped society, and created the world in which they lived. It was corn, and they were connected to and dependent on the corn. All midwesterners...

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13. Living with Corn: Early 1900s to Present

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pp. 187-203

One reads often these days about huge, corporation-owned industrial farms, and while those do exist, they are actually a remarkably small part of the corn story. In fact, the vast majority of corn is grown on family farms. According to the 2012 Corn Fact Book, produced by the Corn Farmers Coalition...

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14. Eating Corn: Recipes and Histories

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pp. 204-223

From the days of the first settlers right up through the beginning of the twentieth century, for most Americans in rural areas, every meal included corn. Cornmeal mush would likely appear at breakfast. Corn soup or cornbread, and possibly both, might accompany the midday dinner. At supper, corn pudding...

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15. Questions, Issues, and Hopes for the Future

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pp. 224-237

The population of the planet is 7 billion and growing. One of the most urgent issues facing the world today is how to feed 7 billion people. People worldwide do a surprisingly good job, considering how quickly the population jumped to this huge number—and yet there are still millions who are...

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Buying Cornmeal

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pp. 238-240

Numerous options are available to those who wish to cook with stone-ground cornmeal. Check with your local grocery store to see if they don’t already carry this product (often in the natural products aisle).
There are numerous local brands...

Notes

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pp. 241-266

Sources and Bibliography

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pp. 267-274

Index

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pp. 275-292