FROM THE PUBLISHER’S DESK — Aug. 10, 2010

Carol Bunton-Benkie lives in Indiana, the area some folks call the heartland of America. To be precise, she lives in corn country.
For the past 31 years, Carol has made her living selling the American Corn Cutter. Her product is billed as “America’s finest corn cutter,” and I can vouch for that.
An American Corn Cutter is a bright yellow, 13-inch-long, two-blade device (for double-cutting action) used to strip corn from a cob in one quick movement along a durable plastic holder.
There’s been one in my family for, well, as long as I can remember, and I’m 41 years old.
My grandmother, Verna, used hers to cut corn she packed away in plastic baggies, canned in Ball jars or prepared fresh for the Sunday dinner.
I loved my grandmother with all my heart, but she’s been gone for 21 years. So it’s the little and unexpected things — an American Corn Cutter, for example — that still keep her close.
Last summer I asked my mother whatever happened to Mamaw’s corn cutter. Mom had it and still used it when she made creamed corn. I asked if she could bring it down and show me how to use it. (That I had to be taught how to use such a simple device is the perfect indicator of just how poorly I perform in the kitchen.)
Since then, my grandmother’s corn cutter has remained in my possession, and I use it, on a regular basis, to make creamed corn, which basically consists of stripping every bit of corn from several cobs and dropping in a little butter. I, as my mother instructed, heat it on high, stirring constantly, and adding salt, to taste, near the end.
This is how my grandmother did it. It’s how her only daughter-in-law, my mother, learned to make it. And it’s how I make it.
I realize this is a very basic “recipe.” Many creamed corn dishes call for cream or milk, sometimes even sugar or creamed cheese. But the Stevens’ version of creamed corn is all about the sweetness of the corn itself, and the American Corn Cutter, which pulls out every morsel of corn from the cob, makes it perfect every time.
Recently, I noticed that the cutter’s two blades were getting a little rusty. On very close examination, I noticed the side of the cutter had been embossed (being yellow on yellow, almost impossible to read) with the words, American Corn Cutter Co. Inc., Winamac, Indiana, U.S. Patents #2.863.478.”
I wondered if the company still existed, so I went to the Internet. To my surprise, I immediately located a website — www.americancorncutter.com. — where I could order a brand-new corn cutter or just replacement blades.
But, because I am, after all, a reporter by trade, my curiosity had been piqued. So I picked up the phone and dialed the number on the website for orders.
A friendly woman answered. I assumed this was one of the many unnamed folks working in some massive room taking online orders. I explained I was calling from a newspaper in Tennessee and would there be anyone there who could tell me about the history of the American Corn Cutter?
“Why, yes,” the friendly voice on the other end of the line said. “Hold for just a moment.”
When the voice came back on the phone, she explained she was the owner and could tell me all about her product.
Carol Bunton-Benkie and her first husband purchased the American Corn
Cutter Co. from the product’s inventor, John Drybread, in 1979, and she’s made her living making and selling it ever since. She put children through college with the money earned from sales.
Now 70 years old, Carol still makes her living the same as she’s done for the last 31 years.
She declined to say just how much she and her husband paid for the company — only saying that Drybread demanded a lot for his product and buying the company required a “giant leap of faith.”
Looking back today, Carol wonders if it was kismet that led her to Daybread’s product, which she discovered in a classified ad in a newspaper that arrived by mail.
“It was the one and only time we received that newspaper,” she said. “We’ve never gotten it since.”
Drybread, Carol said, had trouble selling the company.
“He wanted quite a bit of money for it,” she said, “but he wasn’t giving people a lot of information. But, for some reason, we felt like it was something we could try and develop as our family business.
“We could see the potential, and it’s certainly been good for us. It’s supplied our livelihood all these years.”
Because Drybread was so secretive, Carol wasn’t really sure how long he had been selling the product before she and her husband bought the company in 1979 — but, she said, it had been for many years.
That I know was certainly accurate. My grandmother had hers long before 1979.
Carol estimates she sells 10,000 corn cutters every year — from her home in Wanatah. You can find them in seed catalogs and some hardware stores.
She was proud to point out that the American Corn Cutter, as its name implies, is completely made in the U.S.A. The only thing that’s changed with the cutter over the years is the move from rust-prone Swedish steel to rust-resistant stainless steel for the removable blades.
“It is a totally U.S. product,” Carol said. “Nothing is foreign on this product whatsoever.”
The plastic mold is made by an American company. The stainless steel is bought in the United States, and the blades are stamped here, too.
“And then,” Carol said, “we assemble each one. It’s an at-home business. … A lot of people have had our American Corn Cutter for many, many years. They don’t wear out. I have calls like this all the time, just calling to compliment the product, saying how much they love it, that it was a Christmas gift or they had used their neighbor’s and now had to have one of their own.”
Running her company, Carol said, “keeps me young, keeps me interested in life.” She hopes her children and grandchildren will, one day, continue to operate the company.
For me, the American Corn Cutter comes with precious memories of my grandmother, so it was especially pleasing to learn the product’s legacy as a true American success story and proof that American ingenuity is alive and well.
It was a great privilege for me to talk to Carol, surely a great American businesswoman who still believes in making a quality, durable, made-in-the-U.S.A. product.
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Contact the American Corn Cutter Co. by calling 1-888-797-5385