I Made Popcorn

This is really lame, and I apologize. Again, I started school this week so I didn’t have time to cook anything or eat anywhere interesting. Last night I came home hungry and I made popcorn. My technique was a mix of a few I’d learned. Second kottke reference of the day: I read kottke’s Popcorn Hacks post a few weeks ago and found it interesting. He says you can make microwave popcorn in a large pot. When you dump the bag in, you let the chemical “butter” melt and then coat the kernels and when the first one pops you cover and shake a lot until it stops popping.

That second part is the same one Nancy Silverton advises with her caramel corn recipe. It’s a great technique and I’ve done it before with vegetable oil and organic popcorn kernels. So last night I merged the two ideas and melted 2 Tbs of normal non-chemical butter in a pot, put 1/4 cup of kernels in and coated them all:

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I covered it and when the first one popped, I began to shake vigorously. Lots of popping and when it subsided I dumped it into a bowl and sprinkled with kosher salt:

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This was very fresh tasting and enjoyable. It wasn’t as naughty as movie theater popcorn or microwave popcorn but offered many of the same pleasures.

You know, I think if I have one food philosophy it’s not anti-fat (obviously) or anti-carb (no kidding): it’s anti-chemical. That’s the biggest change that’s come over my life since I started food blogging: in my old life, I ate processed foods like it was my job. My favorite thing to cook was a frozen California Pizza Kitchen pizza or Pillsbury cinnamon buns. Now I actively avoid anything that involves a periodic table to understand the ingredients. It’s not a philosophy that has a real following anywhere because the ends aren’t obvious: it doesn’t make you skinnier or prettier or maybe, even, healthier. But it makes you appreciate and enjoy food more: like with the popcorn, those three elements–popcorn, butter and salt–were each in their purest form and your mouth can feel the difference. And once you start thinking on those terms, it’s difficult to enjoy, say, a McDonald’s apple pie the way you might have when you were younger. But it makes real apple pie all that much better. [END SERMON]

12 comments

  1. I’m totally with you on the anti-chemical food philosophy… and that it doesn’t make you skinnier, prettier or a whole lot healthier (depending on what you eat; I don’t think popcorn is that bad). But I’d like to believe that maybe we’re less likely to build up lots of weird chemicals in our bodies that would turn into crappy degenerative diseases when we get older.

    Or maybe we’re doomed anyway. But I’ll still stick with non-chemical matter.

  2. Well said!

    That being said, what’s your take on air-popped? When I was a kid, I used to get a thrill out of watching how far the kernels would fly out of the popper when they ought to have been falling into the bowl… but now, I think of it as an easy way to make a really good and healthy snack.

    My big problem is getting the melted butter to evenly coat over it.

  3. I liked the McDonald’s Apple Pie that was around when I was a kid… they actually fried it in oil and kept it hot for hours under a heat lamp… mmmmm

    That said, I’m no longer a big fried foods eater and I TOTALLY agree with your anti-chemical philosophy.

  4. My rule is that if my two-year old niece can’t pronounce it, I’m not eating it. Since she was asking for my blueberry-habenero chutney at 14 months by saying, “more blueberries please, mom” (I kid you not…her sister calls her ‘freakishly smart’) and is learning Mandarin Chinese along with English, I am pretty well covered as long as it’s actual food.

    Microwave popcorn is one of the worst thing to come along in a really long time. I’ve had it maybe three times in my life, and one of those involved a broken tooth, a root canal, and a cap! That was a pretty expensive, “gee, this tastes like crap” (or whatever the chemical symbols for crap are) and the last time I even bothered to look up when it was offered. Thus, I am glad to see you endorsing the age-old method of popping real corn instead of using microwave popcorn in any way.

  5. Oh, that philosophy does have a following! You have basically summed up my feelings on food in general — fewer chemicals, more taste, please! I think in general it’s healthier if you really think about it and take into account the proportions of things people really eat.

  6. I have been on a “whole food” crusade for the past five years, out of necessity, after my digestive system shut down and I started getting weird food allergies. The diet change seemed to fix these problems. I firmly believe both were caused by overdoses of fake chemical food. Plus, whole food is prettier and, once you wean your tastebuds off the crack that is convenience foods, whole food tastes better too. How can you beat chicken, sweet potato and soft blue cheese mmmmmmmmmm

  7. Whoa boy — not eating processed food most certainly does have a following. Especially in northern California. In Berkeley, where they worship both the organic farmer’s market and Alice Waters, I was sometimes embarassed enough to feel compelled to hide the (processed and chemical) diet coke I was drinking. (“What this? Oh, just my can of all-natural organic peach nectar.”)

  8. I agree! I can’t eat processed foods now (ie Dunkin Donuts, Doritos, Pringles) because I can taste the chemicals. People think I’m picky, but really, who actively cooks with high fructose corn syrup, MSG and partially hydrogenated fats? I don’t know anyone with that in their pantry! I just like pure food. :-)

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