I have always been convinced of not possessing an inner child. When I am playful, I am so in an adult way, new-born babies leave me quite indifferent and I find a conversation with a 6-year-old a drag. No, I am not the Grinch but it’s common knowledge among those who know me that childhood leaves me cold. The only exception is the three-year old daughter of a friend whose appeal is her beautiful caramel locks and a vocabulary beyond her years – what I recognize in her is an “old child”, exactly who I was growing up.
Bear with me and I will explain how popcorn factors into this story. At times I am ridiculously reminded of how “not American” I am – on the phone with my friend Michael, with whom I share a passion for food and books, I tell him how I made popcorn from scratch a few nights ago. Slight pause on his part, audible scratching of the head and then “So?” “No, I mean, I didn’t buy one of those bags you pop in the microwave – I put kernels in a pot and watched them pop”. I know he can hear the pride in my voice but can’t help himself from making me notice that everyone holding a US passport over the age of 5 has made popcorn from scratch at some point in their life.
Still. As a chef, my dinners usually consist of cereal (Special K with Rice Milk), hot cereal (oatmeal with maple syrup) or a piece of dark chocolate with bread or rice cakes and I am not dissimilar from most other chefs out there, who spend their day tasting bits of this and that. “Bland and comforting” should be emblazoned on my kitchen cabinets. I usually associate popcorn with a movie and, as I was planning to sit down and watch a movie on my couch, I decided popcorn was in order. And the popcorn I made was spectacular.
Start with melting about 1/2 cup of butter in a saucepan (make sure it has a tight-fitting lid) and add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and 2 or 3 tablespoons of sugar. Stir and add 1/4 cup of corn kernels. Coat them with the butter and put the lid on the pot. If you are like me, you will choose a pot with a glass lid. I wasn’t too sure what to expect and I kept on peering inside for what seemed forever. The corn just sat there, nestled in the bubbling butter. How long does it take to pop? Ottie and I stood at the stove for a good 8 minutes before the first kernel jumped up, hit the lid and became a white, fat butterfly. In a few seconds, a whole dance was orchestrated, humble yellow kernels transforming themselves in snowflakes, making a racket that made Ottie run for cover, while I giggled like the three-year old I never was.
Once the kernels stop popping, the popcorn is ready. Pour it in a bowl, sprinkle some salt, a tad of cinnamon and sit on the couch with a feel good movie. The sugar will have caramelized, the salt will enhance the flavor and you will never look at popcorn the same way again. Your dog, on the other hand, will demand earplugs.