One of the consistencies of my life is popcorn.
Growing up we often, almost daily, cooked it on the stove in our popcorn pot with vegetable oil and just a little salt. On special dinner nights my Mom would make a spicy tomato soup to drink alongside. It was hard work for a 10 year old to get just the right amount of soup in your mouth and then cram a bunch of popcorn in. Too much soup and the popcorn would wilt, too little and there wouldn’t be enough spicy umami tomato flavor.
College brought freedom and more microwave usage; these were the years of bright yellow carcinogenic slightly burnt puffs. I loved the toasted pieces and started more than one bag on fire trying to get just that extra bit of brown.
I did have respite between college years as a camp counselor on the Puget sound. Back to the old days of stove popped. We were the sailing counselors and so far away from main camp we didn’t have electricity. By headlight and candlelight we made propane stove top popcorn after our teen campers where put away to sleep (or makeout) in their teepees. The three counselors would hunker around our schedules for the next day or week or session planning, deciding breaks, gossiping, laughing, crying and or singing and definitely snacking.
Post college popcorn and I had a falling out. Well we just weren’t consistentlyallthetime together. Slowly, as I grew and grew out staying out dancing all night and walking home across Portland at 4am, it came back. When I moved to Philly for nursing school we always meant to get a microwave but never did so in came an air popper and popcorn was back. And it was back with Old Bay Seasoning.
We moved to LA and popcorn was there full force. With ICU nursing came experimentation. I wanted homemade caramel corn or kettle corn or garlic corn or sirachia corn. I wasn’t happy with salt. I wanted flavor. I wanted more and better and some worked, others didn’t and I was left with my fair share of burns.
Now I am back in Portland and wiser. I know that modern air poppers make the best lightest pops but do not allow for melting the butter in the provided tray. You must brown butter on the stove. Sometimes I still get wild with my flavors and sometimes (Oh Artisan Portland you will hate me) I add nacho cheese flavoring. Sometimes I am fancy and add a tiny bit of truffle oil to my butter and fine grate parmesan cheese over top. This flavor I stole from Chateau Marmont. Sometimes I am pure with salt and butter.
As a wise old middle ager I am passing on popcorn to my daughter. 2 or 3 afternoons a week the two of us huddle around a large bowl of popcorn and I watch as she, Miss S, dances around the bowl excited, trying to grab fistfuls in her 2 year old hands and cram the popcorn in her mouth. She tries so hard that she only grabs a few kernels and gets in one time with most falling on the floor. I carefully (knowing the chocking hazards) smile and laugh with her.