Toss on your suburban sombrero, gather your mariachis and lets celebrate Cinco De Mayo mid-century style.
Tequila, salsa, tamales, mole, No importa! For a real south of the border taste treat you couldn’t beat a can of Green Giant Mexicorn.
Ho Ho Ho!
With festive red and green peppers tossed in with the familiar Jolly Green Giant sunshine yellow niblets, it was easy to imagine yourself down Mexico way.
In our 1960’s East Coast neighborhood the closest we got to anything authentically Mexican was the cement lawn ornament we had on our front lawn. (The same lawn that ironically would be expertly mowed by Mexican landscapers some 40 years later)
No black lawn jockey for my liberal suburban family, por favor! No sireee, this was the era of the burgeoning civil rights movement, and we had our ear to the ground.
For our ranch style hacienda we tastefully installed a decorative stone statue of a Mexican hombre complete with a sombrero and a colorful sarape whom we affectionately called Senor Pancho.
Ay Carambe !
We didn’t need Cinco de Mayo to celebrate Mexican culture, because frankly the holiday was never even discussed in any of our classrooms. Nibbling on some Fritos or popping on a sombrero and chowing down on some Mexicorn was all a good suburban family would need to add a little bit of Mexican spice to their lives.
As with most mid-century suburban adventures into foreign cooking any relation to the country of origin was no importa!
Just as adding a few slices of Dole pineapple to a dish made it Polynesian, or a dash of soy sauce turned a humdrum recipe into something oriental so the with the help of the Jolly Green Giant and his Mexicorn, even a ho-hum meatloaf transformed into a Mexican fiesta.
Mexicorn was as authentically a Mexican dish as Chicken chow mein was Chinese food, Americans were content to eat have their ethnicity watered down, suited to their tastes. The great American melting pot had yet to be fully stirred.
AYE! AYE! AYE!
Crossing the border of good taste, in the 1950’s, Green Giant ran a series of corny ads featuring all American icon the Jolly Green Giant decked out in a traditional sombrero hawking Niblets Mexicorn.
Women appeared in national costumes this 1952 ad that had the Jolly Green Giant posed as a bullfighter -El Cameon ( The Champ) while three adoring women in traditional dresses looking on.
“Don’t let the bullfighter get-up fool you,” the company assured the women. “It’s your old friend the Jolly Green Giant reminding you that for a gay surprise in fine eating nothing can match this Niblets Brand Mexicorn. Everybody loves this so will you. Muy Mucho.”
In the Valley of the Green Giant
The Minnesota Valley Canning Company developed the Giant as a product trademark in 1928. This American icon became so popular that the company eventually changed its name to Green Giant in 1950.
The original giant wasn’t green or jolly and they quickly changed his skin color from white to green adding foliage to the outfit. In 1935 ad executive Leo Burnett decided to rename him the Jolly Green Giant.
The Green Giant would soon become as beloved and trusted as Betty Crocker.
In 1947 the Green Giant Company still called the Minnesota Valley Canning Company was one of the first companies to advertise nationally with a Mexican theme.
Introducing middle Americans to Niblets Mexicorn its ads featured the familiar Green Giant strumming his guitar, singing a Spanish song and wearing a sombrero and a colorful serape over his shoulders.
The trusty green giant pictured on the label assured Mrs. America that the product remained good and trustworthy, and that just like the Giant, the all American corn had just been dressed up for the occasion for variety.
And not to worry, not only was there nary a hint of exotic cilantro or chile peppers in this colorful fiesta of sweet red and green peppers nestled with those famous golden kernels that might give it a whiff of authenticity, the corn came straight from the hacienda of the Jolly Green Giant.
Packed at the fleeting moment of perfect flavor, American homemakers could rest assured no Mexican migrant hands touched the product grown in the safety of sanitary Minnesota.
© Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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