I woke up intending to be serious. I always have serious intentions. It’s a character flaw.
I got up yesterday morning, with a deadline approaching, and for once I was ready to produce 800 rambling words just bordering on coherence. But serious coherence.
I’m the last person you’d eyeball as having even a touch of ADHD. I’m actually the opposite. I plod. I have mule genes, probably. I’ve spent a fair amount of my adult life doing methodical, boring stuff for hours without getting distracted. My imagination seems to be alive and well; it’s just not very interesting.
But I would nail this one. I had it all plotted out. A historical anecdote, a contemporary political anecdote, a personal anecdote, then (and by now I’m desperately counting words and using a lot of contractions, etc.) a concise observation on our society and I’m done. Whoosh, column written.
I wrote about popcorn instead. Because I have an active imagination, as I said. Just sort of dull.
It was going to be a quick blog post, but I got a stray thought. I pick up stray thoughts like a crazy cat lady. It’s another flaw.
Here it is, then: I was thinking about the phenomenon I suspect most of us experience, when we come to rely on technology to the point that we forget the origins of doing simple things. This is a fact of our lives and I don’t lose sleep over it. I just wondered about it.
And this all started when I read an article about popcorn. For many of us, popcorn comes in a bag that we put in the microwave. This has been going on a long time, long enough that maybe we never think to deconstruct the process. The point of the article was, what’s so special about Orville’s bag? Why couldn’t we just put some popcorn kernels in a brown paper sack, nuke it for a couple of minutes, and achieve the same result?
We could. I’ve done it. For you. I’m not a big popcorn eater, but I got curious. It tasted OK. And if you need motivation, read the list of ingredients on one of those microwave bags sometime.
But then a stray thought came to my back door and made whiny noises until I let it in.
Again. Not a popcorn person here. It’s fine. It’s nostalgic. It makes me think of drive-in movies. It’s good once in a while. I’m not an aficionado.
I grew up in the Middle Ages, though, without microwaves or fancy hot air popcorn makers or hardware stores that handed out bags of the stuff. When you wanted popcorn in the 1960s, you generally had to go out and kill the kernels yourself.
Popcorn-making is a pretty simple science. Apply heat and wait for the explosion. My neighbors essentially do this on the Fourth of July and I’ve seen no signs of remarkable intelligence on their part, which isn’t fair but there you go.
So I did a little research, scraped my memory for recollections of Mom, and tried to forget about Jiffy Pop, which seemed like cheating. I wanted something that was as much fun to make as it was to eat, but I wanted to get back to basics.
Alton Brown gave me a few suggestions. I took a few more from around the Web. Maybe you do this all the time; hooray for you. But this is what I settled on.
A mixing bowl like this. You probably have one. Probably made of tin. Put a couple of tablespoons of oil in the bottom, toss in 3-4 kernels, cover it with foil (punch a few holes in the foil), and set it on the stove over medium-high heat. It’ll be OK. It won’t melt. It won’t even get that hot. Wait a couple of minutes.
When the kernels pop – and they will – remove the foil, toss in about a third of a cup of kernels, replace the foil, and start to gently shake the bowl over the heat. If it gets too warm, use a oven mitt or pot holder. Another couple of minutes and all hell will break loose. This is the fun part. From my experience, the popping experience will be short, less than a minute (the shaking ensures even heating, which you want in order to get all the kernels done at the same time). Don’t hang around, waiting for that last kernel. Pull it off the heat, take off the foil, avoid the steam, and you’ve got popcorn, good popcorn. Apply salt and butter, whatever. Make sure you have dental floss. Enjoy.
Listen: I’m not one of those people who worship the old ways. Some of the old ways were not so good. Burning people at the stake for amusement, etc. I appreciate central heating. I like having a washer and dryer. Cars are handy. You can have my smart phone when you pry it out of my cold, dead hands (also? It’s password protected).
But popcorn is fun. And now we have packing material, our colons are in good shape, and I’ve got a column all ready for next week, assuming I don’t get distracted, which, as I say, can happen occasionally. And it’s anybody’s guess about coherence.