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A Corny, Yet Amazing, Tribute to Julia Child

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A Corny, Yet Amazing, Tribute to Julia Child

Games & Humor

A Corny, Yet Amazing, Tribute to Julia Child

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What could be a more appropriate tribute to a cook than to have her likeness rendered in food? When children run through a corn maize in western Massachusetts, they're actually running through the hair and down the arms and into the pots and pans of the world's favorite French chef.

Reporter Karen Brown of member station WFCR went for a visit.

KAREN BROWN reporting:

If you happen to be flying over the Holyoke Mountain Range this fall, you'll pass over bucolic rolling hills, the glistening Connecticut River, the face of the late Julia Child. Oh, you weren't expecting to see Julia's face? Well, it was almost someone else's.

Mr. MIKE WISSEMAN (Farmer): You know, we were thinking of Marilyn Monroe and Indira Ghandi and...

(Soundbite of laughter)

BROWN: That's Mike Wisseman, the farmer who for the past six years has turned seven acres of his cornfield into the face of someone famous. He teams up with a local artist, Will Sillin, who designs the maizes. They've done King Tut, Babe Ruth, Albert Einstein, and this year, Sillin says, they couldn't resist carving their edible crop into a tribute to one of the world's most famous chefs.

Mr. WILL SILLIN (Artist): She's just a lot of fun and an exuberant personality, and I just thought it was somebody that everybody would, you know, get the spirit of.

BROWN: But how to translate that spirit into corn? Sillin found a photo from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It shows a gleeful Julia posed in her kitchen. He copied it onto a grid chart and mowed here image into the cornfield.

(Soundbite of a mower)

Mr. SILLIN: And she's in the process of about to thwacking something with a big meat tenderizer, so the lines will end up being in the trails in the maize.

BROWN: Sillin's teenaged sons do the grunt work, whacking at the razor sharp corn leaves and packing down the earth for baby strollers. Surrounded by eight-foot tall corn stalks, they've just finished Julia's mallet, at least they think they have.

(Soundbite of thwacking)

BROWN: The real maize-goers will have an aerial photo to consult.

Mr. SILLIN: You'll be motoring through the maize and all of a sudden you have no idea what part of the maize you're in. But because it's a portrait, you know, you might recognize the fact that you're walking through an eye or you're walking through hair, or hey, these are fingers.

BROWN: But the locals are getting too good at the annual maizes, so Sillin and Wisseman have upped the ante. They have created obstacles and games inside the maize, all of them of course food related. Sillin's favorite is a self-made potato cannon.

Mr. SILLIN: We have a compressed air, pressure-controlled spudzooka. And we'll probably have some pots and pans strung up on a wire and they'll try to hit the pots and pans with the potatoes. And they should make a pretty satisfying bang when you hit something.

BROWN: And true to Julia Child's cooking style, nothing gets wasted. When the season is over and the lines of her face have been trampled by thousands of wanderers, the surviving corn gets harvested. Anyone hungry for Julia's famous corn chowder?

For NPR News, I'm Karen Brown.

(Soundbite of mowers)

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