April 8, 2016
In her novel, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand’s fictional hero, John Galt, believes that “every man … exists for his own sake, and the achievement of his own happiness is his highest moral purpose.” I also believe this … in regard to popcorn. I love popcorn. It makes me happy, and I don’t want to share it with my husband. Of course, my parents badgered me about sharing when I was young, “Share that toy! Share that candy! Share that book! Share with your sister. Share with your friends, or the dog, or that lady over there on the park bench.” I got it! Sharing is good. But I will not share my popcorn any more.
When Bob and I were in the nascent, unrealistic “I love you, Schmoopie; everything that’s mine is yours” phase of our relationship, I happily shared. Over the years, however, I have become more and more annoyed each time Bob pilfers my popcorn during a movie. Here is an approximate version of the conversation we have upon arrival at the concession counter. Me: “Do you want popcorn?” Bob: “I only want a little. Just a few bites of yours, if that’s okay.” Me: “Well, even though I could eat an entire ‘Medium’ by myself, I will let you have a few bites.” Soon after we are seated in the darkened theater, a disembodied paw stealthily creeps into my personal space and begins rummaging for the popcorn. We constantly bump into each other’s greasy fingers as we grope around inside the box for more corn, like squid attempting to latch onto mackerel.
A few weeks ago, my patience finally petered out. We went through the usual “concessions concession”. Me: “Do you want popcorn?” Bob: “No. If I eat popcorn, then I’ll get thirsty and I’ll drink a lot of Coke, and then I’ll have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the movie.” Me (with my temper spring-loaded in the honked off and locked position): “Well in that case, I’ll get a ‘Small’ even though I could eat a ‘Medium’ all by myself, but you have clearly stated to me that you are not having one single kernel of my corn, so I will trust that you mean what you say. Raise your right paw and swear to me that you really mean it!” Bob: “Hey there, Mrs. Redenbacher, don’t pop an artery. I’ve said I’m not having any popcorn today and I really mean it.” (You know where this is going.) We found our seats, and I began eating from my “Small” box when from my left side appeared The Paw! I gave him a dangerous but semi-friendly smile, thinking, “He is a good and kind man. I will contain my urge to break his knuckles and graciously share a few bites with him.” The Paw proceeded to appear again and again and again. I casually moved the box to my right where he couldn’t reach it. Soon there came a tap on my shoulder and a whisper in my ear, “Could I have just a little more popcorn?” “No!” I snapped. The Paw quickly went limp and dropped out of sight. I calmly ate the rest. On our way to the car, I said, “Sorry I was such a shrew about sharing, but you had to learn a lesson. From now on, if you want popcorn, you must have your own box. The Paw is not allowed to cross the line of demarcation between your seat and mine. Make sure you have properly assessed your popcorn requirements before we line up at the concession counter. This hurts me to have to be so rigid … but when it comes to popcorn, the achievement of my own happiness is my highest moral purpose.” He laughed. I shrugged. (I think he thought I was kidding.)
Speaking of movie theaters, I am reminded of a true story told by my friend, Darla Stiles. She and her husband have a good friend whom we will call John. After admiring a certain woman for some time (we’ll call her Mary), John finally worked up his nerve to ask Mary for a date. To his delight, she accepted his offer of dinner and a movie. In an effort to look as svelte as possible, John poured himself into a pair of tight jeans. Dinner went well, and they moved on to the theater. During the previews, John’s jeans began to give him the squeeze after having eaten such a hefty meal earlier. He was becoming more and more miserable when he had an idea, “Why don’t I just nonchalantly unzip? It’s dark in here. No one will ever notice.” So, he did. Soon afterward, however, a woman wearing a voluminous skirt began working her way down their row of seats. “Oh no!” John gasped quietly. “I am going to have to stand up to let this woman pass by and my jeans are unzipped! What if Mary sees me and thinks I am a deviant?” In a split second, he made a brilliant decision. “As soon as this woman is in front of me, I will stand up and zip up at the same time. Mary will never even notice!” Unfortunately, as she walked in front of him, he zipped her billowy skirt into his pants. The horrified woman had no idea why this strange man was tugging at her clothing. As she struggled to get away, John tried to pull her back so he could separate his pants from her skirt. Poor Mary sat there motionless, watching the two writhe around in the aisle. (No, Mary never accepted another date with John.)
For sure, Iowans love their popcorn. After all, how many states can boast of having the world’s largest popcorn ball? Sac City’s weighs in at 5,000 pounds! But wait, as if that weren’t mammoth enough, an 8,000-pound ball is going to be created by Sac City’s residents this summer! What if that thing breaks loose? Butter mayhem, no doubt! I suggest that we roll aside our discussion of popcorn-ball superlatives and head into the kitchen where we can enjoy some normally proportioned recipes. I don’t want my readers living in fear of being mowed down by a boulder-sized snack.
How about some glamorous popcorn? My friend Laurie Sloterdyk makes this elegant treat called “Popperazzi White Chocolate Popcorn”. I first tasted it when my friend Shayla From served it in a spectacular MacKenzie-Childs black-and-white-checked pedestal bowl. It was eye-popping and so good! She had gotten the recipe from Laurie (who had modified a Jolly Time Popcorn recipe). To make this treat sparkle and pop, you can sprinkle edible gold glitter or gold dust over the top. It is sold at Kitchen Collage in Des Moines’ East Village, or Michael’s, or other places that sell cake-decorating supplies. If you want to make glitzy take-home favors for an engagement or anniversary party, pour the popcorn into clear bags and tie with a cool ribbon. If you’re having an Academy Awards party, serve it in a big bowl for a showstopping snack. I do wonder, though, if I ingest too much of this gold-flecked treat, will I begin to look like an Oscar?
Popperazzi White Chocolate Popcorn
Popperazzi White Chocolate Popcorn
- 1 (3.2 ounce) package butter-flavored microwave popcorn, popped
- 1 cup salted cashews
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 1 (12 ounce) package white chocolate morsels
- Ground cinnamon
- Edible gold glitter or gold dust (optional)
Pour popped corn into large bowl; discard all unpopped kernels. Microwave white chocolate morsels in a glass 2-cup measuring cup on high for 30-second intervals (for about 1 1/2 minutes total; don’t overheat). Pour over popcorn and stir gently until evenly coated. Add cashews and cranberries and stir again. Spread mixture on a nonstick baking sheet. (Note: Tracy places a long sheet of foil on the counter and skips the baking sheet.) Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon. Allow mixture to harden—about 30 minutes. (At this point it may be sprinkled with edible gold glitter or gold dust. Tracy prefers the edible gold glitter.) Break into pieces and serve in a bowl or in individual cellophane bags, or store in an airtight container for up to three days.
When our book club made the annual trek to Naples, Florida, for a few days of fun this past winter, our hostess, fellow book club member and fantastic cook, Linda Koehn, made addictively delicious popcorn, popped in a large pan on top of the stove. What made it so craveable? Extra-virgin olive oil and sea salt! (Linda says, “The better the oil, the more delicious the popcorn.”) We had planned to have popcorn while we watched the Academy Awards, but we were so full from her amazing dinner that we had to forgo the popcorn until the next night while waiting for the spectacular sunset over the Gulf. I asked Linda to explain how she makes her popcorn. This is how she does it: Cover the bottom of a Dutch oven with a good brand of extra-virgin olive oil (1/3 to 1/2 cup). Add three unpopped popcorn kernels and cover with the lid. When you hear them pop, add about 1/2 cup of popcorn to the pan and cover with the lid. (Keeping the lid slightly ajar will help release steam to keep popcorn crispy.) Shake pan often over medium-high heat until the popping slows way down. Pour into a bowl. Add butter—1/4 cup (or less) to the pan. Pour melted butter over popcorn and stir. Add sea salt to taste.
Linda also talked about a memorable herbed popcorn appetizer enjoyed at Almanac, an excellent restaurant in New York City. In the fall, guests were greeted by award-winning Chef Galen Zamarra as he presented them with his special seasoned and seasonal treat to enjoy before their meal. Linda does not have Zamarra’s actual recipe, but she thinks the following flavors could inspire a similar version of this memorable appetizer: olive-oil popped popcorn; various dried herbs such as rosemary, oregano, dill, thyme; crushed red pepper flakes; citrus zests; perhaps a bit of nutritional yeast, and of course, sea salt. Experimenting with interesting flavor combinations sprinkled over olive-oil popped corn could certainly provide some very tasty results. I’ll give it a try soon, and you should too! Linda also related another interesting way to use popcorn. Her mother “dipped popcorn in pink candle wax in the spring, glued it onto long twigs and called it cherry blossoms.” Linda said it looked good. I can imagine that it did!
My friend, Sara Brayton, is a big fan of the West Bend Stir Crazy 6-Quart Electric Popcorn Popper (widely available in stores and on the internet). It features a built-in well where butter can be added to melt and drip down onto the popping corn. The plastic dome cover doubles as a serving bowl. Sara says it makes great popcorn, and it is so easy to clean. Nifty, huh?
And finally, I will share my own guilty pleasure, “Tracy’s Oven-Roasted Popcorn”. Pop a 3.2-ounce bag of Pop Secret Movie Theater Butter Popcorn (the tastiest of the commercial microwave popcorns, as far as I’m concerned) in the microwave oven and pour it into a large bowl. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter (not margarine) and mix it into the popped corn. Spread popcorn on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes at 250 degrees (no need to stir it). Remove from oven. Let it cool for a few minutes and then munch away! Butter can sog and toughen popcorn; roasting the popcorn after buttering it gives it a delicate crunch.
Whenever my friends and I play Mah Jongg, our most essential snack is, what else, popcorn! Skinny Pop Popcorn purchased from Costco is our favorite. And we’ve been known to wash it down with a bit of the bubbly. As we stack the tiles and discuss the issues of the day, we become oblivious to the little pieces of popcorn, salt and hulls clinging to our lips, chins, teeth, and décolletages. At the end of the afternoon when we push away from the table, our shoes crunch around on the popcorn scattered around like peanut shells on a bar room floor. When night comes and I pull off my clothes for bedtime, bits of popcorn come flying out of my underwear. I’ll think, “Yikes, where has all of this been hiding?” I don’t want to know the answer. I just put on my pajamas and go to bed.
If I were prescient enough to know when my last day on earth would be, what would I plan to eat for my final meal? Popcorn, of course! Whenever I ask the “last meal” question of others, I am often fascinated by their answers. I certainly have many meals that I adore, but popcorn is the one thing that I crave almost every day. Some day I am going to write a post about what some of you would choose for your last meal. I will ask you respond on email rather than comment on the blog (that is, when I’m ready to feature that story)!
Thank you for popping in today. I hope you and your friends will plan to come back for my next post on April 22nd.—Tracy Mullen