The Corn Laws

Dramatis Personae: The English postdoc who studied in America; The American masters student now studying here; The two Australians.
The Scene: A Bruntsfield café.

The American: Have you noticed how they’re really big here on tuna and corn? Whenever I get a sandwich it’s got these kernels of corn in it. And corn on pizza?

Ms Australian: That’s true.

Mr Australian: Yeah, it’s weird, considering it’s not even a very British ingredient... You realise that what we call “corn” isn’t what the word means here? It’s just the general term for grain—like wheat, or barley.

American: Oh... so it’s not, like, corn corn?

Ms Australian: No, they call that sweet corn. Or corn on the cob.

Mr Australian: Or maize, usually.

American: Ohhh... right.

Mr Australian: Yeah, it surprised me when I first realised. Like, the Corn Laws of eighteen-forty-whatever: they applied to all grain; they weren’t about corn.

American: I was wondering about that! I’ve been reading about those, and I kept thinking, what was the big deal? It’s just corn, right?

Mr Australian: Yeah, when I learnt about them in high school, I knew they meant more than just corn corn, but somehow it never really sank in that that’s all they meant—grain. Until I came here and kept hearing about this “maize” stuff.

Englishman: So... hang on. In America, “corn” just means maize?

Mr Australian: That’s right. And in Australia. We don’t use it as a general word for “grain”.

Englishman: So what’s cornbread made out of?

Mr Australian: Corn. Sweetcorn.

Ms Australian: If it was just made of wheat it would be bread.

Mr Australian: And corn syrup—that’s made of corn too. Maize.

Englishman: Ohhhhh. I always thought...

Ms Australian: How would you make a syrup out of wheat?

Englishman: So this corn-fed chicken on the menu—that would have been fed maize?

Ms Australian: That’s why the meat is yellow.

Mr Australian: Well, in America maybe. Over here, you couldn’t be sure until you saw it. They probably mean “grain-fed”, because that’s what UK people think “corn” means. If they meant corn-fed, they would have said “maize-fed”.

Ms Australian: So it’s just ordinary chicken?

Mr Australian: I guess. They’re probably just using it as fancy menu talk: “finest poultry, lovingly reared on H2O and food.”

All: Ohhh.

Unanswered Mysteries

  • Why had the Englishman never noticed the difference between Corn Flakes and Wheaties?
  • Why is it so hard to get creamed corn in this country when every second sandwich filling is fifty percent niblets?
  • What’s the deal with cornflour? I know it’s not corn flour, like polenta—but isn’t “grain” flour just... flour?
Here’s what people said about this entry.

wow, never thought about that. AND until you said it did not realise that i haven't really seen creamed corn in this country! how bizarre, how bizarre.

Added by shauna on a Monday in October.

What on earth is creamed corn, and what do you do with it ?

Added by John on a Monday in October.

It’s a kind of semi-liquid corn mush, with half-mashed kernels in it. Comes in 400g cans. You heat it up and serve it on toast for breakfast; delicious. (You can find it here if you look around—Green Giant brand—but it isn't as ubiquitous and cheap as it is in Oz.)

Added by Rory on a Monday in October.

Hiya Rory

I was just reading your latest feed article about bogus science. Despite everyone in the electrical eng department at HW telling them it was a bag o' shite the physics dept sent Jason and I over to Alabama to see this turkey. We got a free trip to the States out of it and, as we expected, it sucked! This was just after we merged with physics and I think it raised a few eyebrows...

"Patent and Trademark Office recently issued Patent 6,362,718 for a physically impossible motionless electromagnetic generator, which is supposed to snatch free energy from a vacuum"

Added by Gareth on a Tuesday in October.

So you snatched a free trip from a vacuum?

Added by Rory on a Tuesday in October.

Creamed corn is the sort of horrible bad-cafeteria food I have always assumed America had to take responsibility for. If I can palm that one off on Australia...well, all right!

And at breakfast? Ooh...that's an unpleasant thought indeed.

Here's my addition to the questions: if polenta is Italian, did they only develop it after Columbus hauled back a bunch of maize? And, more importantly, why'd they bother? Not that I don't like polenta, but it seems like a roundabout sort of thing...supplement all that pasta and rice with yet a third grain just in from the New World? Weren't the tomatoes enough to deal with?

Added by BT on a Wednesday in October.