Somehow, over the weekend I got this crazy idea that rather than microwaving a bag of Pop Secret for movie night, it would be fun to make homemade popcorn on the stovetop instead!
What was I thinking?!
I had stumbled across a newspaper article earlier in the week that talked about how wonderful homemade popcorn is: simple to prepare, fast, convenient, tasty, and vastly superior to boring old microwaved popcorn, which contains ingredients like partially hydrogenated soybean oil and artificial butter flavor and propyl gallate (whatever that is!) for freshness. My favorite ingredient? “Color added.” Yum! I love me a big ol’ bowl of “color added” every once in awhile! By the time I’d read the article and the accompanying recipe for “perfect homemade popcorn,” I was questioning my sanity in ever buying the microwaveable garbage. On my next grocery shopping trip, I bought a bag of popcorn kernels, and I eagerly promised the kids a “fresh, real, and delicious” homemade popcorn experience for our customary Saturday night movie.
8:00 rolled around. Go time. It takes approximately two and a half minutes to microwave a bag of popcorn, so we’re used to firing up the movie a few minutes after eight and having time to spare afterward before going to bed. I figured making popcorn from scratch might take a little longer, maybe seven or eight minutes, so I informed the kids that we’d be starting the movie a few minutes later than usual. No big deal. I consulted the popcorn recipe I had cut from the newspaper (because seriously, I’d never made it before – popcorn-from-scratch is a lost art these days, like riding Big Wheels and rewinding video tapes). The first step was to coat the bottom of a 3-quart pan with vegetable oil. I can only surmise that “coat the bottom” means different things to different people, because after coating the bottom I added the requisite single layer of popcorn kernels, only to find them bobbing along in the currents of what was a veritable sea of oil.
“Shit!” “This simply will not do,” I muttered out loud. I lifted the pan, tilted it carefully, and poured out the majority of the oil. It still seemed like there was an awful lot left, but what could I do? It was coating the kernels. In retrospect, I could have – should have – dumped the whole thing and started over, but I still believed things could be salvaged and the popcorn would be great. So I covered the pan, turned the heat to medium, and waited for the kernels to start popping.
“Maybe you should turn the heat to high?” Rusty suggested.
“Can’t do that,” I replied. “The kernels will burn. We’ll just have to wait.”
Seriously, what was taking so long? The oil was bubbling away like mad by now. The kernels were dancing around, weaving and bopping. Doing everything except the one thing they were supposed to be doing.
And then, at long last, there was a pop and one of the kernels bloomed into the fluffy white flower it was destined to be. We all broke out into applause and gathered around the pan excitedly, waiting for the others to start popping.
“Are you sure you shouldn’t turn the heat up?” Rusty asked.
At this point I wasn’t sure of anything, but I stubbornly insisted we follow the instructions and maintain a medium heat setting so the popcorn wouldn’t turn out blackened and scorched.
Oh, how that lone kernel teased us! Getting our hopes up with promises of an all-out onslaught of popcorn explosions, and then failing to deliver. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, but was actually only…well, you know what? It was an eternity!…another kernel popped. Followed by a few more. They were timid and seemed to be going about the popping business half-heartedly, but at least something was happening. When you’re microwaving a bag of popcorn, once things get going, they happen fast and furiously. Not so with popcorn in a pan. It took a good ten or twelve minutes before I decided we had enough for two bowls (Audrey had, by now, surrendered all hope for homemade popcorn and had microwaved – and eaten – a bag instead). I filled bowls for Rusty and I, added some melted butter and salt, and took a bite.
Mmm, I thought while chewing. Pretty good. The real butter made a difference. Only I kept chewing.
I don’t know why, but the popcorn was – well, chewy. And dense. Heavy-tasting. And, despite my insistence on keeping the heat on medium, there was a slight burned taste to the stuff, anyway.
I dumped mine out about 1/3 of the way through. To add insult to injury, the movie we had planned on watching was 2.5 hours long, and it was already 9:00, so we scrambled to find something a little shorter and settled on Dracula: Dead And Loving It. Even the combination of the late, great Leslie Nielsen as the titular Count and Mel Brooks as Van Helsing couldn’t save this dud. But, at least I learned a valuable lesson. It’s pointless to fight progress. Microwave popcorn exists for a reason, even if it does contain propyl gallate.
I’ll never stray again.
- The secret to making Oscar-winning Popcorn (foodlanguages.wordpress.com)