Malachi's Promise "And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to the fathers...." Malachi 4:6

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Fresh or Stale, Buttered or Plain

I sometimes pull a bag of potato chips out of the cupboard and eat a few. Now and then I enjoy pretzels. Once in a while I like corn chips. But I always love popcorn. It doesn't matter if it's fresh or stale, buttered or plain. All I ask is that it’s salted.

The first time I tasted popcorn was the same day I burnt my finger on my mother's iron. I was 4 or 5 at the time. After she had finished the real ironing she unplugged the iron and set me to practice my ironing skills on my father’s handkerchiefs. I moved the still-hot iron too close to the hand smoothing the handkerchief. I probably howled. To console me Mom pulled out a box of movie-theater popcorn that my father had carried home the night before (after having taken my older brother and sister to a movie). I loved the popcorn with my first mouthful. My mother could never have guessed what was to come of having introduced me to popcorn that morning.

Lucky for me I grew up in a home with a popcorn popper. By the time I was 8 I was putting it to good use. But there was one challenge to satisfying my desire for popcorn. My mother was very particular: I could make popcorn only on the weekends. (Only once, when my father wanted popcorn, did my mother relent and let me make it on a week night.)

On Saturday afternoons or evenings (or occasional Sunday afternoons) I made popcorn. I did not, as most people might do, make one or two poppers full and be done. I couldn't do that because I had to plan ahead for a week's worth of eating. Two poppers full would have been good for the day but I knew I would want popcorn the next several days. So I made a roasting pan full-–and my mom’s roaster was no small pan. Take a 60" string, make the ends meet, lay it in an oval, and you will see the size of her roaster. Every week I filled it to the brim with popcorn, then made more and mounded it high. You can imagine that by Sunday, Saturday's popcorn was stale and by Monday or Tuesday, no one else was interested in eating it. To me it was delicious both fresh and stale.

Our popper looked similar to the one shown at left with its three pieces. The bottom had electric coils and a removable plug. The handled section looked like a pan but had a spherical bottom. This was where we put the oil and popcorn. Our popper’s lid was also glass and through it we could watch the first kernels get hot, jump, and then pop. As more popped they covered the bottom of the pan and within minutes all we could see was the mass of fluffy corn juggling and rising higher and higher. It was the kernels on the bottom that popped. Our popper probably held 3 quarts or a gallon.

We never buttered our popcorn. My mom thought that the oil used for cooking it was enough fat. I never knew people put butter on popcorn until we visited my father’s cousin, Evie McClelland. One summer evening we drove the hour or so to their home in Sharon, Pennsylvania, for an impromptu visit. Evie and her husband, Cub, were midway through a bowl of popcorn. She offered the rest to my sister and me. I didn't understand why it was wet. My sister told me it was butter. Sure enough, there was a half-melted spoonful of butter in the bottom of the bowl. Evie's popcorn was delicious, of course, but I didn't feel deprived for eating unbuttered popcorn at home.

As a young adult in college I learned that some people had very specific methods for making popcorn. One person insisted you had to wait till the pan was hot before putting the oil in. Another said the only way to get good popcorn was to put the oil into the cool pan and wait till it got hot before adding the popcorn. I didn’t notice that their popcorn tasted better than or different from mine. My method was simple: put the upper pan on the bottom, measure oil into the popper, add the popcorn, put the lid on, put the plug in the outlet, and wait. And watch. I can't remember how long it took to make a popper full, but not long.

The first time my brother brought his fiancee, Jan, to our house he prepared her for the popcorn situation. He told her not to be surprised if I brought in a roasting pan full of popcorn and asked her if she wanted some. I think they had a discussion about the reasons for popping such a large a quantity. My brother related that story to me about 10 years ago. It was then that he first learned why I made so much popcorn at one time. A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

Through the years I've tried other kinds of popcorn poppers. Air poppers produce popcorn that looks delicious but tastes like packing peanuts--unless it's drenched in butter. And we have one of the old-fashioned stove-top hand-crank poppers. It makes okay popcorn. But for me, nothing compares to the popcorn made in our old popcorn popper.

These days I buy Orville Redenbacher's Smart Pop! 96% Fat Free and pop it in the microwave. Of the microwave popcorns I've sampled, it's the best I've tasted. But if you ever find one of those old popcorn poppers, please send it my way.

I hope you'll please excuse me. I'm going to make myself some popcorn -- just one bag for now because I can make a fresh bag tomorrow.



This post is a contribution to Carnival of Genealogy #108: Food! which is hosted by Jasia at Creative Gene. The poster is courtesy of footnoteMaven, who makes the most beautiful posters. Thank you both.

28 comments:

  1. Love this post! You have this in common with my younger daughter. She loves to make popcorn and considers any movie theater experience to be incomplete without popcorn.

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  2. I agree with your daughter, Greta. The question of whether to go to a movie or not always involved whether we were buying popcorn. I'm pleased to know there are other popcorn lovers out there.

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  3. Great Post Nancy, I had forgotten all about the old popcorn popper. we had one just like that, hmmm wonder if my older sister has it now ( she hangs on to everything) I loved the memories of learning to iron, I too started out on my dads hankies, and he had many a hankie with a nice brown print of an iron on it....to match all our pillow cases :)
    I miss those days thank you sharing with us.

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  4. My family's technique was to put oil in a cold Dutch Oven type pot. Let it get hot, but not burning, add 1/3 cup of kernals and gently start shaking the pan when the first of the kernals start to pop. When the popped corn got to the top it was done.

    My parents would make it on Friday nights. I still love it now.

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  5. What fun!!! That makes me hungry for popcorn! I'm going to keep my eye out for a popcorn popper like that.. . and I never know you thought the air popper caused the popcorn to taste like packing peanuts without lots of butter! Ha! And to think that we made it almost every day growing up :)

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  6. I thought maybe I was the only one who would pop a large quantity of popcorn so I could have plenty for later.

    And totally agree on the taste of air-popped corn - the packing peanut analogy is perfect.

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  7. What a great memory! I like the story of your brother and Jan. I have fond memories of air-popped popcorn growing up, but I never knew you didn't like it.

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  8. Tracie, if you sister has your popcorn popper and you get to use it, I hope you'll let me know. I can sit here and imagine you eating that delicious popcorn!

    My mother was so vigilant about my ironing that it wasn't till I was in my teens (and she quit looking) that I scorched something.

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  9. Dee, it seems that there are more of us than I realized who love handfuls of popcorn.

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  10. Ah, Brenna and Natasha, the things moms don't tell their children so they'll eat! I'm glad you enjoyed the air-popped corn. It was only because of the butter and salt that I could eat it.

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  11. We had one of those old popcorn poppers too. They really did make distinctive (better tasting) popcorn.

    Thanks for participating in the COG!

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  12. Pop corn, my personal addiction is peanut butter. My mother used to buy the popcorn that came in the disposable popper, cook on the stove top, rip open the tin foil stuff, eat, toss in the trash. Wow, thanks for the memory blaster. LOL

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  13. I can almost hear the kernels popping after reading your post!

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  14. Oh Nancy, how I loved this. A trip down memory lane. Popcorn is to this day one of my very favorite snacks.

    And I always enjoyed watching the corn pop as a child. We should have a girl's night in.

    -fM

    P.S. And thank you for your kind words about the posters. I so enjoy making them.

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  15. Fantastic, Nancy! You've stirred up (I'd say shaken up, but that's for martinis) a bowlful of memories with this. I'm going to sit back and and enjoy them for a few minutes.

    I adored the bit about your brother not knowing why you popped corn in industrial quantities. It must have been an amusing conversation when you enlightened him.

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  16. love it drowned in butter. I know it's awful, but I can't help it. We always popped ours in a pot in hot oil, now we have the air popper, maybe that's why I need the butter.

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  17. Really struck a chord here - we had popcorn for Sunday night supper the whole time I was growing up. With milk in a bowl, like cereal!

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  18. Susan, my brother left for college about the time I turned 6 so he probably didn't have a clue what was going on at home. When I told him why I popped so much, I think he was taken aback. He didn't say much after that. He is a tease and I wonder if he thought he'd hurt my feelings.

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  19. Carol, I remember my sister persuading my mom to buy jiffy-pop once, but that was the only time we had it when I was a kid. When my girls were younger we tried it a few times. Yes, you and peanut butter! I commented on your COG post.

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  20. Judy, drowned in butter is good. I like it that way now but I can't eat it everyday (or else I'd be a large barrel!).

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  21. Pat, you're only the second person ever to mention popcorn in a bowl with milk. I remember my dad saying that they occasionally ate it that way. For a college PE course once I was required to list all foods I'd eaten and the calorie content. Popcorn wasn't on the list. I persuaded the professor that popcorn was just like cereal because my dad had eaten it that way. I had completely forgotten that. Did you look forward to popcorn in milk for Sunday suppers?

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  22. I can remember my folks buying TV Time Popcorn for me because I'd seen Annie Oakley talk about it on tv. This was back in the day when they had stars of the shows doing commercials. But when Jiffy Pop came along my Mom started buying that, No pans to clean up later!

    Good post. I might have to go to the movies this week so I can indulge myself with popcorn!

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  23. Oh, my. Popcorn. Wonderful post. Here are my highlights:

    1. Sneaking the enormous 15 cent bag from the McCrory's dime store into the neighboring movie theater, to avoid paying the highway robbery price of 75 cents at the concession counter. I'm sure they *never* suspected.
    2. College popcorn for us was made in a popcorn popper with a splash of butter-"flavor" oil. Ugh. We devoured it, though. In college you'll eat anything.
    3. Cheese popcorn. Still a guilty pleasure, no matter how messy it makes my fingers.

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  24. Bill, growing up we probably had either TV Time or JiffyPop once but my mom was so conservative with money, it was considered a luxury, I think. Thanks for sharing. If you went to the movie, I hope you enjoyed the popcorn!

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  25. Liz, I rarely went to the movies as a kid but when I was a little older, I didn't hesitate to sneak in a bag of popcorn, sometimes the homemade kind.

    And cheese popcorn. I didn't discover it till some years after I was married. I love it just as much as plain but eat it much less frequently.

    Thanks for sharing your memories.

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  26. Nancy - What a fun post! We didn't have a popper like yours, but I remember being fascinated by Jiffy Pop. Later on we had one of those air poppers, and you're right on that one. The popcorn did taste like packing peanuts. Not only that, the popper blew the popcorn out so hard the kernels ended up all over the floor. Not so great for a snack, but a mighty fine cat toy!

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  27. I just re-read this post again and recently saw this recipe: http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/perfect_popcorn/

    I wonder how this way would compare to grandma's popper...

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