Hop on Pop
I did not inherit my father’s brilliant mechanical abilities (he was a diesel mechanic on the C&O--later the CSX—railroad for thirty years), his lanky frame or his man-of-few-words demeanor. I turned out to be a writer and a salesman, both occupations he didn’t quite cotton to, and I continued my mother’s side of the family’s line of refrigerator sized hillbillies. And of all the words used to describe me, laconic is not one of them.
What I did inherit from Dad was his left-handedness, and his pathological love of freshly popped corn. Imbued with the unique brand of Stoicism common to men from Appalachia, Dad rarely displayed a preference or enthusiasm for anything. Other than roller coasters, popcorn was about the only thing that really seemed to rouse his interest. If we went into a store, back in the days when some stores had little snack counters in them (the Target near me still does), Dad absolutely could not walk past it if there was popcorn popping. And if they weren’t making it when we came in, and we were already in the store when they started popping a fresh batch, he would wander away without a word and return with a bag.
At home, popcorn was our favorite snack. We popped a bowl almost every night, and we all loved the stuff; maybe not as much as Dad did, but still. Even after I left home, popcorn was a constant for me. It remains my favorite snack and, like Dad, I am pathologically unable to pass by the freshly popped stuff. I could be attending a funeral and, in the middle of it, if I smelled popcorn popping, I’d have to go get some immediately. I can’t help it, it’s genetic.
Over the years, though, I traded my dedicated popcorn popper for the much easier microwave. I got used to eating pre-buttered and –salted popcorn from small bags. I picked a brand and remained loyal to it, and so it was from then on. Until my circumstances changed, and microwave popcorn became a luxury I could no longer validate. I tried the cheaper brands, but they were not satisfactory. So, I did without.
Then, one magical and glorious day, I found something on the Interwebs that changed my life as radically as anything since the moment I discovered girls (4:36 PM, October 12, 1978). I discovered how to make microwave popcorn with a brown paper bag, bulk popcorn, a little oil, and some salt. It was a revelation to me, something so simple, so obvious, and yet so earth-shaking in its implications.
The method is simple. You’ll need one lunch-sized brown paper bag, about a tablespoon of oil, between ¼ and 1/3 cup of popcorn, and a teaspoon or so of salt; though, in my experiments, I’ve discovered that you can use a variety of different seasonings. My favorite uses Tony Chachere’s More Spicy Creole seasoning, though I’ve also had some success with a mixture of salt and fake cheesy powder. There are a variety of different seasonings available these days, so play around and see which ones you like best.
Add all ingredients into the bag*, then seal very tightly. I fold it once, seal it tight by running my thumbnail and forefinger along the seal, then do it again. You have to hold the steam in to get proper popping going on. I then place it in the microwave on a plate, which makes clean-up easier, and set the timer for 2:20. The time, of course, may vary; my microwave is 1200 watts, and I believe the psychic energy from the dimensional portal in my front closet may affect it, as well. The point is, stay close to the microwave during the popping. When it slows to a few pops every couple of seconds, it’s time to take it out of the microwave or risk an acrid black snowball of failure.
The end result is real popcorn, of which you control all the elements, at a fraction of the price of the store-bought microwave kind. And since you know it passes the muster of someone genetically predisposed to love popcorn, you know it turns out great. Plus, there’s the added bonus of knowing that somewhere up above, my Dad is following that smell.
* L&L NOTE: Try our Microwave Popcorn Popper as an all around easier option! And yes, we are giving a free one to Jeff so he can enjoy this reusable option!