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A month or so ago, I rediscovered grapefruit juice. It's delicious, and mixes well with sparkling water. And then I discovered a ruby-red variety that was even tastier, sweeter somehow. But I was duped!! I let myself be duped. With time I realized that the tasty ruby-red concoction wasn't grapefruit juice, it was "grapefruit juice cocktail." When I eventually caught on, I looked at the ingredient list and found that it contained more high-fructose corn syrup than it did grapefruit juice.

In Mayan mythology, human beings were created from corn. The gods had tried first to make them from mud, but that didn't work out. So they tried wood, and that didn't work either. Finally, they tried corn, and voila ... The Mayas thought of every kernel of corn as sacred, since not only did it sustain human beings but also represented the cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth. In fact, the achievements of Mayan astronomy and mathematics can be traced to the cultivation of corn.

Well, it turns out that we really are "los hombres de maíz." We're eating corn all the time without even realizing it. When you eat a hamburger or a chicken sandwich at a fast-food joint, you're eating corn. That's because the animal that the hamburger or sandwich came from was raised primarily on corn. If you drink a soda, all of the calories come from corn. Even more than 20% of the calories in your fries are from corn: from the corn oil that the potatoes are fried in. Scientists know this because they can trace the unique carbon imprint of corn through the food chain.

So, what's the problem? The problem is that the industrial cultivation of corn means using huge amounts of fertilizer, pesticides, water, and machinery, which in aggregate seriously degrade the environment. And every acre devoted to corn is an acre not devoted to something that we can eat directly, like vegetables. What's more, a corn-based diet is not easy on the cows, since they haven't evolved to eat corn, but rather grass. The stress on a cow's system from such a diet means that the cows need lots of antibiotics. Could this be good? And if we're getting our calories from corn, we're not getting them from other food sources that might be better for us. What about the environmental benefits of (corn-based) ethanol as a fuel? I'm not convinced.

What I'm wondering about is how to reconcile this pernicious corn with that grain that was so sacred to the Mayas. Maybe the answer lies in how we view corn. The Mayas had a healthy reverence for its power. We, on the other hand, perceive it mainly as a commodity. We truly are "hombres de maíz," but, for the most part, we're blissfully unaware of the fact.



Maybe I'm A-Maízed

I seen a movie called Children of the Corn and (Spoiler Alert) people DIED!

Re: Maybe I'm A-Maízed

Yeah. I just looked it up and I see that it's based on one of your neighbor's stories. The entry started with the grapefruit juice experience, I was just going to leave it at that, then I recalled a reading from one of my textbooks, then I did a little googling (corn in the american diet) and voila (not the same as viola, which is bigger than a violin). I hope I was able to tie these loose threads together.

February 2018



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