Yesterday seemed made for a certain Seussian feline, as the weather was entirely too cold and rainy for even my little tribe of stalwart mud fanatics to spend an appreciable amount of time outdoors. Fortunately, we are blessed with an abundance of books and art supplies, and the makings of both chicken soup and spaghetti with meat sauce, both of which are foul-weather favorites around here. Baby Guy followed his usual rainy day custom of taking his nap at ten in the morning and sleeping until sometime after two in the afternoon, while Mr. Man was permitted to opt out of his nap and join his sisters and I in our hour of quiet time after lunch.
Among the titles in our collection is this little gem from Tomie de Paola; it gives the history of popcorn, along with a host of fascinating popcorn facts, in the context of two brothers making popcorn on their stove. This is yet another book I recommend highly. At any rate, while we did not read The Popcorn Book today, the kids ate dinner at a sufficiently early hour to justify a snack during our evening Spider-Man social. While Bugaboo, Beanie, and Mr. Man were busily putting toys back in boxes, bins, and cupboards, and Baby Guy was cheerfully crawling back and forth in pursuit of Smudgie’s wagging tail, I decided to make a quick batch of stove-top popcorn.
I’ve never actually made popcorn in a pan on the stove before, mind you, but I’d seen it done by older relatives over thirty years ago. We always had popcorn machines as a child, then a microwave, and I’ve used a very noisy air popper for the last couple of years. However, since we’ve read about the old-fashioned way, it seemed worthwhile to show the midget mob that the method of which they had read was, in fact, possible. I heated the oil, melted a little real, unsalted butter (the kind that has cream as its sole ingredient) in a saucepan, then tossed a test kernel into the hot oil.
Thankfully, I managed to duck out of the way of the flying popcorn before it smacked me in the eye.
After I located the lid for the relevant pan, I poured in the rest of the kernels and gently shook the pan until a fluffy mass quietly billowed forth; half a cup of popcorn kernels yielded just enough popcorn to fill my handled mixing bowl. By the time I sprinkled over a fingertip pinch of salt and tossed in the butter, our three oldest children had assembled on the living room couch and were anxiously awaiting the arrival of their friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. I put Bugaboo in charge of the bowl, helping myself to a handful of warm popcorn while reminding her to keep hold of the handle.
If you know anyone who would like an air popper, he or she can have mine. That’s the best popcorn I’ve ever eaten, and the tribe agrees. After the tribe was abed, I made another batch to share with my husband, and we have added him to the list of old-school popcorn devotees.
From a stewardship perspective, there were exactly six unpopped kernels out of a half cup of corn, which meant significantly less waste than any other method I’ve used. It’s fluffier and sweeter, too. Once the tiny people had finished watching their show and demolishing the popcorn, I asked them what they thought the popcorn did in the pan. Bugaboo and Beanie responded by gleefully jumping up and down and making popping noises; after a moment’s skeptical observation, Mr. Man decided to join in the fun, while Baby Guy watched, smiling and laughing at his siblings’ silliness.
In The Popcorn Book, Mr. de Paola mentions that early European settlers ate popped corn with cream for breakfast. Bugaboo remembered this as she was helping herself to another handful, and asked if we could have that for breakfast tomorrow. I replied that while we don’t have any cream, we have whole milk, which should work just as well. I’d rather have them eat that than most breakfast cereals! It will be a good opportunity to teach them about this gift the native Americans gave to the Europeans, and to talk about how food brings people of all backgrounds together.
For those mystified by the title of this post, this may be helpful (link will open in a new window).
Today’s prayer: Lord, thank You for the simple gift of popcorn to share with Your blessings, with the laughter and happiness it brought. Some of Your greatest miracles involved food and drink, from the wedding at Cana to the loaves and fishes; You remain with us in bread and wine at every Mass. Please help me teach Your blessings that sharing a meal, or even a snack, brings us closer together, and to praise You always for the bounty You provide for us to eat. Please remind us to share that bounty with our neighbors who are hungry, and help us teach the lesson of Your friend Martha, that preparing food can be a ministry if it is done in Your service. As we prepare our meals today, Lord, remind us as you reminded Martha that the food is less important than the love it fuels our bodies to share, and let us serve in all ways with glad hearts.