Saturday, March 14, 2009

Popcorn Made Me Feel Old: and How to Make It Real Good

Sharie and I had some friends over a while back and I made popcorn for us. Now, I like microwave popcorn, don't get me wrong, but when I'm getting serious I make it on the stove top like Paul and Silas used to. Our friends are in their mid twenties and when I made the popcorn they couldn't believe I made it the old fashioned way. I got a kick out of their surprise. I felt like a popcorn rock star for a second. Later I was thinking about it and it finally occurred to me: they have never had it any other way than from the microwave. To them I was making it like the pioneers did. I went from feeling somewhat cool to feeling old real fast.

It amazes me how quickly times change. I just turned 40 about six weeks ago and I can remember when we didn't have microwaves, personal computers, cordless phones (let alone cell phones), VCRs or DVD's, or cassettes and CD's. How did we get along without these essential things? Are they really essential? I suppose these are the kind of things that one begins to ponder in old age.

By the way, here is how I make such great stovetop popcorn. Some of you might think, "Well, duh." But younger folks are losing this art form quickly. It is truly a tragedy.

1. Orville Redenbacher is the man. I use a mixture of his white and yellow popcorn. Yes, I buy two different kinds and mix it. I'm serious about this stuff. It comes in a jar with the actual kernels, you know, like Paul and Silas used to buy.
2. Peanut Oil. Yes it has a little more fat but it's the good kind of fat so don't worry about it.
3. Here is the big secret: You've got to use popcorn salt. It's real fine, almost a powder and it sticks to the popcorn much better than table salt. You don't need any butter to make the salt stick and you don't have to use that much. As a matter of fact, I never use butter, you just don't need it when you use these fine ingredients. Popcorn salt is hard to find sometimes but if you look hard you can find it. I buy it online.

I put about three or four tablespoons of peanut oil in my Revereware pan and heat it up on medium/high. I go ahead and pour out about a little more than a third of a cup of popcorn so it is ready to go. I place one kernel in the center of the pan and put the lid on. I listen closely and when it pops I quickly pour the rest of the popcorn in. I shake it a bit and when the popping starts to slow down I take the pan off the stove quickly and pour it in a huge bowl. I have just a few seconds before it burns so I have to move quickly at the end. Then I dust the bowl with popcorn salt. Yes, that's right, I dust it. Then I toss the popcorn several times and I dust it once more. That's all it takes.

BTW, I make good popcorn but my father-in-law is the real master. He puts a huge butch of the corn in a little sauce pan and pops it up till the lid starts to raise. Then he pours off the popped corn and puts the pan back on the burner and pops more. He repeats this until all the corn is popped. He doesn't even lose any popcorn. When I try his technique I always pour too much in the bowl so that it pops in the bowl, blowing popcorn everywhere. He is the master, I am simply a padawan learner.