Mark Hunter (ozma914) wrote,
Mark Hunter

next week's column: Just Another (pop)Corny Column


Popcorn is good for you.

Just not the way I eat it.

An article I found about the popularity of popcorn brought no surprises to me; I’ve loved popcorn all my life. We were big movie watchers when I was a kid, and what would a movie be without popcorn? My family used to pop a big bowl full to take to the drive-in; this was before the days of those newfangled microwave ovens, you understand.

Later, I was so poor that my entire grocery list for the week consisted of macaroni and cheese, ramen noodles, and generic cola (try explaining that to your stomach), but I always found a little extra cash for popcorn, butter, and salt.

Lots of butter and salt.

Popcorn is one of the healthier snacks: just 48 calories per cup, as long as you eat it plain. But that’s like saying a Snicker’s bar is good for you, as long as you don’t add chocolate. Salt is necessary to make it – well – salty. Butter must be added to make the salt stick. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it like a crust of salt stuck to a butter soaked kernel of Heaven’s snack, which if eaten that way is likely to get you to Heaven faster.

One of the first ways corn was ever used was for popping: Anthropologists found popcorn ears 5,600 years old, in bat caves in New Mexico. How the bats popped it, I have no idea. Still, it shows that our love for popcorn goes back to when movies were shadow puppets, projected on a rock wall by firelight.

As I said, for me it was the theater that did it. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of sitting in the Strand drive-in Theater, or on top of Dad’s old Buick at the Hi-Vu drive-in, watching “Godzilla vs. Whatever Monster He’s Taking on This Week” while munching on – go ahead, guess. Sure, I wasted some popcorn by throwing it at my brother, but hey – it was cheap.

There’s something special about the smell and taste of good theater popcorn, equaled only occasionally by a street vendor, or maybe at a new car “event”. Yes, I sometimes look at new cars just to get the popcorn.

I didn’t realize, until reading the article, that part of the secret of movie popcorn is what it’s popped in: coconut oil. Naturally, I went right out and filled a five gallon gas can with the stuff, because I’ve always made my own batch when I go to the drive-in, and I want to keep it true to the real experience. Sadly, a box of drive-in popcorn bought at the concession stand, made for about a dime’s worth of corn, costs more than the value of the car I drive in.

It’s just a matter of time before I accidentally fill the lawn mower with coconut oil, and try to pop a batch of corn with gasoline; stay tuned to CNN for updates.

Meanwhile, here are some facts about the wondrous and healthy (unless you eat it my way) popcorn:

Some of my ancestors, Native Americans, snacked on popcorn a thousand years before America was “discovered”. The Europeans, who came to civilize the savages, were able to enjoy cocoa and a nice bowl of popcorn while searching for gold. On the other hand, the natives took horses and got the invaders hooked on tobacco, so you can’t say they didn’t get their revenge.

The natives didn’t just eat it: They used it for decoration, and also for religious ceremonies. And here we thought worshipping food was a recent thing.

An unpopped kernel contains 71% carbohydrates, 10.5% protein, 3% fat, and 15.5% water. Coming up with a low fat popcorn snack is pretty easy: Popcorn is a low fat snack, as long as you’re willing to eat it dry and unseasoned. In which case, sadly, it tastes like flakes of cardboard.

It’s the water that causes popcorn to pop. Heat me to about 400 degrees, and I’d pop, too. The moisture turns to steam, which expands and makes the kernel explode, turning it inside out. So much for water being good for you.

One cup of popcorn contains about 1,600 kernels, and the average American eats 59 quarts every year. My family eats more than average, so if you multiply the number in a cup, how many cups in a quart, above average usage, carry the 2, squared twice in a cube …

Um … I’ve got each member of my family eating 300 gallons of popped corn every day. Could somebody check my math?

No doubt you want to know the difference between regular and microwave popcorn: There is none. The microwave bag contains a thin metal sheet, which absorbs the microwaves, heats up, and pops the corn. And all this time, they’ve been telling us not to put metal into a microwave …

I’m not entirely sure how a popcorn ball is made. Elmer’s Glue, I think. Remember that kid in school who used to eat glue? He patented the idea of a popcorn ball and now lives in a mansion near Sioux City, Iowa. Meanwhile, everyone who eats popcorn balls becomes that glue-eating child, from Halloween through Christmas.

Maybe I’m wrong on that, but according to Guinness the world’s largest popcorn ball weighed 2,000 pounds, and if glue isn’t holding that together, what is? Prayer? Nougat?

What state grows more popcorn than any other? Well, duh. Indiana, corn capital! My apologies to Iowa, but they’ll just have to excel in something else, such as … I know! Butter!

And I have just the use for it.
Tags: column, new era, slightly off the mark
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