Oftentimes, when looking back on past relationships, most of what you can remember are the bad things and this, usually, is colored by the ending of the relationship. It has nothing to do with how you feel about that relationship now, and what you have learned about yourself since that time. Since I began writing about food, I have spent hours thinking about my food experiences and what foods I love and the origins of these things and the people involved and I realized that there are a few foods that fit into the category of What I Learned from my Ex- Boyfriends.
One item that comes to mind is learning how to make popcorn on the stove. Growing up we had one of those air popper machines that you plug in and had a little butter tray that the hot air melted as it blew the popcorn through its yellow plastic funnel. To keep the popcorn from flying everywhere we held a dishtowel from the edges of the top of the chute and draped it down to the bowl to catch those errant kernels. The butter was melted then drizzled over the popcorn but was really only tasted on the few pieces that actually soaked it up- it seemed impossible to get an even spread of butter. At my grandmother’s we had a treat- Jiffy Pop. Jiffy Pop was fun because of the way the tinfoil pouch grew tremendously as it cooked and it covered the kernels more evenly and didn’t leave the popcorn soggy with butter. Then there was the advent of microwave popcorn. Open the package, throw it in and five minutes later, salty bliss. But as I got older I became suspect of what chemical preservatives were in both Jiffy Pop and microwave popcorn and generally was dissatisfied with my popcorn options. Around that time I began dating a classic hippy- a geology grad student at UVM who spent his free time converting diesel cars to run on vegetable oil so he knew a thing or two about keeping things natural. I don’t remember Steve ever eating much but I do remember that he used to pop popcorn on the stove and that it was the best popcorn I had ever had. There was always the perfect amount of butter and salt that seemed to absorb right into the kernel as it popped. When we parted ways I decided saying goodbye to Steve did not need to mean saying goodbye to his awesome popcorn. It took awhile to get my system down but now I have made countless bowls of delicious wholesome popcorn. I control the butter, the salt and am not subjected to something predetermined by Orville Redenbacher, the folks at Jiffy Pop or any other less prominent microwave brands.
I have included a recipe of sorts below to help you cook up this tasty treat. I do recommend using a pan you don’t care much about as I have completely ruined a pot from the high heat, and hot oil. (Many know this pan as my Popcorn Pot.) At this point I have it nailed down to eyeball amounts of kernels, butter and oil ratio. In case you didn’t read my explanation of my recipe philosophies ("English Majors, Plain Speaking and Absolutes"), be warned that I am a generalist at heart and my ‘recipes’ reflect that…
Three handfuls of corn kernels
1/3 a stick of butter (at the very least!)
A few tablespoons of vegetable oil
Pinches of kosher salt
Heat the butter and oil, add salt. Add corn. Shake pot back and forth to avoid scorching. As the popcorn pops, listen carefully for longer pauses between pops to know when it’s finished. When in doubt, it’s better to have a few extra unpopped kernels at the bottom of your bowl then burnt ones. Unless you like that sort of thing, of course.