Sometimes one just has to have popcorn for supper — or breakfast or lunch, but for me it’s always supper.
Last night was the night, so here’s how I make popcorn.
My method does not involve prepackaged popcorn or the microwave. I’ve got nothing against that method, not least because popcorn thus produced is a staple of my Sunday night writers’ group and I eat more than my share of it.
A housemate from my D.C. days, Beverly by name, taught me how to make popcorn the old-fashioned way. Beverly could do anything, like fix things and play the mandolin. I’m still kneading bread at a little table she rescued from the alley behind our group house and stabilized with dowels between each pair of legs. She was also responsible for the A LESBIAN WAS HERE sticker still stuck on the table’s little drawer, and the I’D RATHER BE READING ADRIENNE RICH sticker on one of my old file cabinets.
But I digress.
First, assemble equipment and ingredients. Once the popcorn starts popping, you don’t want to be hunting for them.
- pot with tight-fitting lid
- vegetable oil
- toppings of your choice (my perennial faves are nutritional yeast and fresh-ground pepper, but grated Parmesan is also excellent)
- big bowl
I use an old 2-quart Revereware saucepan. It makes just enough for one person with a dog who loves popcorn.
Pour into pot just enough oil to not quite cover the bottom. Into oil drop 3 popcorn kernels. (This is not a magic number. You can drop 2, 4, or 5 kernels into the oil, but whatever you do remember how many you put in.)
Cover pot and turn up heat. You want hot but not scorching hot. Do not for any reason leave the pot unattended. Pretty soon you will hear pop, pop, pop. One pop for each kernel you dropped into the pot. See why remembering the number is important?
Remove the lid — see the nice fluffy popped kernels? — and pour in just enough popcorn to not quite cover the bottom of the pot one kernel deep. Replace the lid.
Don’t go anywhere. I keep one hand on the handle and give the pot an occasional jiggle to keep the kernels from getting burned. Once the corn starts popping in earnest, keep jiggling the pot. Steady is good. Frantic isn’t necessary.
Pop pop pop pop pop pop . . .
Once the popping slows way down, give the pot a few jiggles to make sure all the unpopped kernels get their chance at the bottom.
Pour about 2/3 of the popped corn into the bowl and sprinkle with toppings of your choice. Pour in the rest of the popped corn, sprinkle with a little more topping, and stir gently with knife to distribute toppings.
Into the hot pot put about a tablespoon of butter and put pot back on stove. You can turn the heat way down or even off if the burner is electric: the pot alone may be hot enough to melt the butter.
Drizzle melted butter over the popcorn and mix gently with knife.
By the time I get the bowl to my chair, Trav has taken up sphinx position close to my feet. I munch some popcorn, toss him a handful, munch some more popcorn, toss him another handful, and repeat till popcorn is gone. Then he gets to lick the bowl clean.