Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis smiling in front of a dense cornfield

Eating Challenge
Can you go a week without eating corn? We did!

Corny Corn Maze
Master the maze to get an earful of corn fun and facts.

So You Want to Be a Farmer?
See how corn farming has changed and try your hand at the cornulator.

Alternatives to Ears
Find ways around high-fructose corn syrup and fatty burgers.

Eating Challenge: Wendy

I think of myself as a pretty savvy eater—much of the food I buy is unprocessed, and I gave up high-fructose corn syrup as a conscious decision years ago. I think I'm still eating a lot of "hidden" corn, especially when I eat out, so I thought I’d start paying attention to my diet in the week before I start, to see when I might be eating corn without noticing it.

I owe a big part of being able to eat unprocessed food to where I shop—I get most of my food from farmers markets and a natural food coop called Rainbow Grocery. I am reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Vegetable Miracle, which is all about reclaiming our food from big industrial-scale manufacturers, and going with smaller, local food choices. While I am far from where she is in growing her own food, cooking dinner every night from scratch, baking bread and making cheese, after initial skepticism about how I can fit this into my lifestyle, I am inspired to use the corn challenge as an opportunity to make some more changes in the way I eat.

The weather has been cold and rainy, I crave Mexican food, the best comfort food readily available in my neighborhood. I decide to throw all caution to the winds, and have a corn heavy meal: Mexican hot chocolate (sugar), chiles rellenos and a chicken enchilada with thick corn tortillas, so good. I wouldn’t be surprised if the chile relleno is fried in corn oil. There will be none of that next week!

Week Begins

Day 1: Monday

A bowl of sautéed tofu and vegetables
Tofu with veggies
I was all set to make oatmeal this morning, when I had to run out unexpectedly. No time. Luckily I had gotten some corn-free soy protein powder from Rainbow, and put it in the blender with apple juice, a banana and some almonds and dried cranberries. I was so cocky last week about how I never eat processed foods, and now I’m experiencing doubt. The soymilk I had in my tea had riboflavin in it. While I don’t see it in the list of corn-based additives, I’m not entirely sure where it comes from. Hmmm. When lunchtime comes, I can see I’m going to have to get more creative, or I’ll be getting most of my protein from soy products. Since I haven’t planned ahead, I decide to rely on an old standby: ginger tofu and veggies with brown rice. I put the rice on and go back to work for half an hour, then chop onion and tofu, and put them in the wok with some mustard seeds, turmeric, ground coriander and chile powder. After they’ve browned, I throw in a sliced zucchini and grate some ginger. I top with Bragg’s soy sauce and some sprigs of cilantro, and voila. That wasn’t too bad, but it did take more time than I usually take for lunch. I’m glad I work from home!

Day 2: Tuesday

After oatmeal for breakfast and a shake for lunch, I told my partner that it’s his turn to make a corn-free dinner. He made a rice clay pot with wild fish and vegetables. There were a couple of scallops, but I decided to refrain rather than try to research if they were farmed and what they ate. I made a kind of cherry crumble with oats and cane sugar. Later that night I made hummus from garbanzo beans, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and parsley. This will serve me for lunches to come. I got a surprise when I looked at one can of garbanzo beans in my pantry that came from an international produce store—it had sugar in it. Who would expect that? In the list of foods that I’ve looked at, it seems that sugar is allowed only if it’s specified cane or beet sugar. There are a lot of products with non-specified sugar in them. Before I started paying attention to that I think I just associated the words “high-fructose corn syrup” with alarm bells. Now I’ll be more discerning about sugar as well.

Day 3: Wednesday

A bowl of potato leek soup
Potato-Leek Soup
No breakfast, went to yoga and came home famished. I had pita bread (no yeast) with hummus and sprouts. For dinner I found a great recipe for Creamy Potato-Leek Soup. I had some beautiful leeks that I had gotten from Rainbow, and plenty of fresh rosemary in my garden outside. It was really quick to make and very satisfying. I also made spaghetti squash with olive oil, honey, salt and pepper, a very healthy meal.

While I was cooking, Dave and I talked about the rules for the corn challenge. I told him to go to Curt’s blog to see what he was eating. As I cooked, Dave gave me a running commentary:
“Hey, he’s eating corn!” (Curt had decided to make an exception for corn as nature intended it to be eaten)
“He’s eating grass-fed lamb!”

As one commenter on the blog wrote:
"Are you going to skip meat from animals that eat corn normally as part of their diets, such as chicken and pork? What about dairy from cows fed a diet partially supplemented with corn? Hey, you made your complicated bed, I’m just asking about the sheets."

It has become apparent to me that anyone who does this is making up the rules as they go. I was using the corn allergen list to guide me, and also not eating animals, as it seems to be really hard to determine if they’re truly eating grain or not. I looked up one of my favorite local dairies, and even though their cows are grazed much of the year, they do eat corn. So I decided to forgo dairy and meat, it just seemed easier that way, rather than to find a farm that doesn’t use corn at all.

I just found out about my first transgression. It seems that I didn’t read the label on the pita bread, and it does contain yeast, which is grown on corn. Oh well. I thought that because it wasn’t puffy it didn’t, but I was wrong. Hard to admit but there it is. Then I had a tiny bit of brandy to compound things. I will start fresh tomorrow!

Day 4: Thursday

A plate of tuna salad with sprouts, greens, pepper and tomatoes
Tuna Salad (Day 5)
I had my shake this morning, then did some work, and did a quick shopping job. I was in heaven when I found that one of my favorite junk foods, potato chips, didn’t have any corn. The kind I got had potatoes, safflower and/or sunflower oil and salt. Find the corn there, I dare you.

What’s for dinner??

I don’t know. I’m getting sick of this. It’s harder than I thought.
We had rice pasta with chard and white beans. It was pretty good.
At the end of the evening, Dave asked me, “What’s the first thing you’re gonna eat when you get out of corn jail?”

Day 5: Friday

Same breakfast, I would really like to eat some eggs. Dave was home today and made a beautiful lunch salad with tuna, just in the nick of time when I was running out of ideas. For dinner we just had basmati rice with nuts, raisins and broccoli.

Day 6: Saturday

Dave’s quote of the day: “I quit smoking cigarettes, but I can’t quit the corn.”
It’s official, Dave has dropped out: 11:00. He got the point.
Today I had my first restaurant meal: Thai veggie red curry, hold the baby corn. I asked them if there were any other oils than coconut, and they said no, so halleluiah! For dinner we had wild salmon with beet salad and rice. Rice has been my staple grain.

Day 7: Sunday

The weekend is harder. I really felt like some kind of burger, and I looked at the veggie burgers I usually eat and they have molasses in them, and no, it doesn’t specify what the source of it is. After working out, I wanted something substantial, so I made a traditional breakfast with home fried potatoes, but with tofu instead of the eggs. It was satisfying. Then I started marinating eggplant for my last supper, and went out to go shopping and for a walk on the beach. When I came back, I realized that I was feeling really good. We had salad, then grilled eggplant and Portobello mushrooms, with pasta and tomato sauce.

Now it’s Monday, and, perversely, now that I can eat anything, I’m not quite ready to yet. I think this diet was making me feel pretty good, and eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. It wasn’t that much harder than the way I usually eat, but did require more planning. After a couple of weeks eating regularly, both of us are noticing that we felt better corn-free.

See how Jen fared in the eating challenge >>

Take the challenge and share your experiences >>

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