Everyone likes corn -- even "godless Communists." Case in point: Nikita Khruschev.


He thought corn was the key to ending the Soviet Union's chronic food shortages. In fact, in 1955, he gave a big speech announcing plans to plant miles of corn. Kinda like ... Iowa.


That's just what Iowa corn farmer Roswell Garst wanted to hear. America was in the middle of a corn glut, driving down prices. Garst figured he could unload the surplus on the Soviets; plus, bonus, it would promote world peace.


Garst asked the State Department to let him sell corn to the Commies. This was right in the middle of the Red Scare, but the government reluctantly OKed Garst's plan, figuring the Ruskies would never deal with a cantankerous capitalist. Wrong! On his first trip to Moscow, Garst sold 5,000 tons of corn seed and became best pals with an ex-farmer: Khruschev himself.


Four years later, Khruschev became the first Soviet leader to ever visit the U.S. The only two guys he specifically asked to see were Eisenhower at the White House and Garst on his farm.


The media freaked out. Life Magazine ran a cover photo of Khruschev waving an ear of Garst's corn. For many, it symbolized a thaw in the Cold War.


However, the good vibes only lasted a few years. Khruschev never did solve his country's food shortage and, by 1961, the Berlin Wall was under construction.


As Roswell Garst once said, "Hungry people are dangerous people."


Roswell's Weapon

Grown by Ashley Guillaume of the High Life Lounge in Des Moines, Iowa (very near Coon Rapids.)

  • A small amount of dry vermouth

  • 4 oz. (or appropriate amount for glass size) corn vodka

  • strip of bacon

  • morsel of blue cheese

Swirl vermouth in a chilled martini glass to coat the sides. Then discard the excess. Shake vodka with ice until very cold and slightly diluted. Strain into the coated glass.

Stir and strain into the martini glass. Garnish with Niman Ranch pepper bacon -- an Iowa mainstay -- twisted around the blue cheese. Say something corny, preferably in a Russian accent.

The Dinner Party Download
The Dinner Party Download is a fast and funny hour of culture, food and conversation: “public radio’s arts & leisure section.” Hosted by Rico Gagliano and Brendan Francis Newnam and produced by American Public Media, the show airs weekly on more than 130 public radio stations across the U.S.