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Kathleen Murphy column: What to do about corny obsession

I put myself through a fairly lengthy chore every August — one that produces a ton of garbage but only a little product — to produce something I can’t eat.

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Columnist Kathleen Murphy contemplates her obsession with buying excessive quantities of sweet corn.
Steve Kuchera / 2020 file / Duluth News Tribune
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I have been thinking about obsessions as of late.

Specifically, what makes something an obsession? Do I have to be focused on it all the time? Is it something I constantly do without thinking? Or does it just take me over and drive me crazy until I do whatever thing I’m obsessed with, regardless of how pointless or dumb it is?

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Kathleen Murphy

When does it start becoming an obsession as opposed to just a thing that I regularly do?
I am thinking about corn. The sweet variety one buys from the back of a rusty truck, the corn still ensconced in drying husks, wisps of silk threads tickling everything they touch. The kind where you ask for a dozen but the teenager manning the truck throws 14 or 15 into the bag because they just want to sell out and go home.

That is the sweetest, most delicious kind of corn. A sure sign of autumn approaching. I’m a little concerned that I’m obsessed with it.

For starters, I have a medical condition that makes it difficult for my body to digest the tough skin of vegetables. Such as corn. I really shouldn’t be eating it. This did not stop me from heading to my favorite corner truck stand and purchasing six-dozen ears of corn (or likely seven dozen by the time the girl threw all the extras in there so she could go home).

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Kemella Homola, 7, struggles to lift a large pumpkin as Greta Watt, 7, laughs at DC's Best Produce on the corner of Central Entrance and Arlington Avenue in Duluth.
Tyler Schank / 2019 file / Duluth News Tribune

My favorite stand, for the record, is the one on Central Entrance, not far from that one driveway that used to stand between the now-demolished gas station and equally demolished Pizza Hut where students used to hold car washes to raise money.

My favorite memory of the car wash driveway is when the DNT published a standalone photo of a student waving down cars for his car wash, all smiles and enthusiasm. Unfortunately for him, the principal of his school saw it the next day and quickly realized the student should have been in class and was indeed skipping school to hold the car wash. Tough break. Maybe the kid was too obsessed with skipping school, or raising money, or something other than school.

Huie’s Chopsticks Inn will permanently close Aug. 31. When it does, the city will be without a Huie-owned or -operated restaurant for the first time in at least a century.

Or maybe I’m obsessed with adding a quick little Duluth memory into every column, no matter how big a reach.

But back to my corn obsession. I buy a giant burlap bag of corn on the cob every year — sometimes two bags. I then spend an inordinate amount of time in the kitchen shucking the corn, picking those pesky silk wisps from between the kernels, parboiling in batches, then cutting the kernels from the cob and storing them in zip-top bags.

All so I can fill my freezer with 10 freezer bags of corn that I really can’t eat. And seriously, how can all that work only produce 10 gallon-sized bags of corn when my garbage can is overflowing with 13 gallon-sized garbage bags filled with husks and cobs?

I did it again this year. I did it without thinking. I just pulled into the corn stand, forked over 40 bucks, and drove home with an excessive amount of corn on the cob. I basically sentenced myself to an entire afternoon in the kitchen to prepare a food I will barely be able to enjoy. These are the times I regret my children moving out on their own. They sure were handy as corn shuckers.

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Sarah Hodgson, right, of Hermantown, picks up produce at a sweet corn stand in Pike Lake in 2014.
Bob King / File / Duluth News Tribune

Here’s the thing: I still have four freezer bags from last year. They’re likely all freezer burnt and tasteless by now, but I can’t make myself throw them away. I just placed them on the top of the pile so I’d use them first the next time, then grabbed a fresh one from the bottom the next day when I cooked a casserole that needed corn.

I feel as though "obsession" might be the right word. I put myself through a fairly lengthy chore every August — one that produces a ton of garbage but only a little product — to produce something I can’t eat. To make matters worse, my five children who did eat the corn no longer live with me. I have very little reason to be freezing this much corn. But there I was, sweating through an August day, parboiling corn.

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Well? What’s the verdict? Am I obsessed? Or is this something that I do?

Kathleen Murphy is a freelance writer who lives and works in Duluth. You can reach her at kmurphywrites@gmail.com .

Related Topics: DULUTHFAMILY
Kathleen Murphy is a freelance writer who lives and works in Duluth.
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