They certainly are dedicated to corn.
On Friday, Sept. 19, the Wendell Berry House hosted its 8th Annual Corn Roast to promote the importance of eating locally-produced food. For attendees that arrived at the 4:00 p.m. start time, the ambience was immediately set by the sight of the residents of the house, mostly clad in overalls, gathered together to husk corn as a group. Being very welcoming hosts, they gave each visitor an enthusiastic greeting and invited the newcomers to either join in the husking or to explore the yard. Once the produce was properly prepped, the cook, adorned in a plaid shirt and a green apron fired up the charcoal grill. The roast had begun.
There was quite a variety in the attendees of the event. From professors to students, from upperclassmen to first-years, the diversity was evident. Many residents of nearby honor houses also came over to see what their neighbors were up to.
As the guests grabbed their corn, buttered it and began eating, residents of the house mingled around the yard to inform guests that “music will be starting soon.” Hearing those words often caused a look of confusion on the patrons’ faces. Music had already been playing for the last 20 minutes in the form of early 2000s alternative hits out of a speaker near the house. The puzzled expressions remained until Agnes A Capella lined up and began belting their tunes. With each track, a different member of the group stepped forward as the lead singer while the others sang backup. As they sang, visitors took their seats on the scattered arrangement of old wooden chairs and worn cushions that fit very well with the folksy vibe of the event. At one point, a passing group of bicyclers veered off their course to stop and see where the music was coming from. That was not the only musical entertainment available, however, as later on at the event, four members of the accordion club came by to play a few ditties for the crowd, beginning with a fitting old Norwegian tune.
The roast’s commitment to corn did not end on the cob. Also available was the incredibly underestimated treat, candy corn, and the ever-popular snack, popcorn. Corn was everywhere. As for beverages, visitors could choose from a table covered in a variety of mugs, with images on them ranging from a Snoopy Christmas to Unitarian Universalism and fill it from the large pot full of ice, Lipton tea and lemon wedges. The tea was very divisive, some finding it rather weak, while others thought it was the star refreshment of the evening. The food, however, was all-around well-received.
Between the good food, quality music performances and general mingling that occurred, the 8th Annual Wendell Berry Corn Roast should definitely be considered a success.
“It’s all about food-focused sustainability,” Wendell Berry House Co-president Kate Seybold said. “We want to promote the importance of local food and fostering strong food communities. All of tonight’s corn came from a local farmer.”
When asked why corn rather than any other produce, Seybold responded with a variety of reasons. “Well, right now is the tail end of the corn season. Also, Minnesota has a lot of corn. On top of that, it’s easy to make and everyone loves it,” Seybold said.
On a final note, for the curious, investigations determined that the Wendell Berry House does not make its residents start wearing overalls, as much as it attracts applicants who already enjoy wearing the practical denim article of clothing on a regular basis.
Photo Credit: SIRI KELLER/MANITOU MESSENGER