Popcorn for Dinner
In the last two months, I’ve had popcorn for dinner six times.
It all started because I was given a bag of the most breathtakingly beautiful Ruby Red heritage popcorn. It is dark red, perfectly uniform pearl drops that seem to glow from within the jar on my pantry shelf. And being much more of an eater than a saver, I made a big bowl-ful the very first night.
Pure delight ensued. Like staying up late on a school night. Skipping dinner in lieu of eating the least junky of junk food was a fun little break from my regular square meals.
The next morning at work a friend asked what I did the night before.
“Ate popcorn for dinner and binge-watched Fargo. You?”
“Ugh. I hate when I give up and just eat popcorn for dinner like a lowlife.”
My mind was blown. Hate. Give up. Lowlife.
I went home that night and again ate popcorn for dinner just to check.
Nope, don’t get it. Fun, silly and delicious.
It never occurred to me to be ashamed about what I ate. I’ve felt a little sick or sleepy or like I wasted time, but never ashamed.
Furthermore, I don’t buy it. Since this episode, I’ve been keenly aware of the times when I hear someone express guilt around what they eat. “I might as well eat a baked potato, I’ve given up on Pilates too.” I pause when glancing at magazines in the checkout line that promise salvation from my dietary sins. Sugar, salt and fat be banishèd from my basket! A customer literally making piggy snorts at her friend when she finished her slice of cake that I frosted. Why do we treat each other and ourselves this way?
I recognize that America’s obesity epidemic is real, and that the fatty, starchy, sugary, salty foods on which this shaming is focused play a key role in making us overweight. But I don’t believe that internalizing the supposed indignity of eating them can help correct our health woes (nor do I believe that shame will have any affect on the more sinister causes of our collective poundage). I think it just makes it worse. I think that it makes us feel like we are bad people who lack will power or culinary piousness. Not too long into those feelings we find ourselves standing in our underpants poking our middles and lifting up our butts to check for sag. Not too long into that it is hard to feel good about anything.
And that’s no way to live. We don’t have all that long in this life—even if we live to 102.
Instead, I say eat popcorn for dinner. And revel in the miniscule naughtiness. And tomorrow eat a proper breakfast and go for a long walk after work. Be honest with yourself but also easy on yourself. The beauty of being alive is that you get the opportunity to try again tomorrow.
You get to try again to push yourself on your run. You get to skip dessert if you want. You have the opportunity to decide to love yourself and your cookies and your discipline and your dalliances.
So it’s official. This blog, dedicated to making you feel more confident in the kitchen by exploring different cooking techniques and/or flavor profiles, is today encouraging you to eat popcorn for dinner and just not worry too much about it.
Live your life while you still can.
This is my base recipe for popcorn. The coconut oil will give a hint of sweetness that I really like against the salt, but regular oil works well too. Just remember that you need to cook with high heat oil because if you use butter or sesame oil, both of which have a low smoke point, it will scorch.
The list of toppings that I use to flavor this base recipe is long but distinguished. Anything from grated raclette (my favorite topping by far), black pepper, maple syrup, togarashi, BBQ spice powder, soy sauce, nutritional yeast and beyond. (Full disclosure: I’ve never used nutritional yeast but several of my friends swear so vociferously that it is good that I’ve included it on this list.)
- ¼ C neutral oil or coconut oil
- ½ C popcorn kernels
- 3 T butter (optional)
- In a large soup pot, place the oil and a few popcorn kernels
- Cover and place it over medium high heat
- When the kernels pop, remove from the heat, add the rest of the popcorn, and cover
- Keep off the heat for 30 seconds
- Return to medium heat and shake every 30 seconds to redistribute the kernels
- As the popcorn starts popping set the lid slightly aside to allow the steam to vent but not so ajar to let the popcorn fly all over the kitchen
- When the popping slows dramatically remove from the heat entirely
- Wait 10 seconds to let any last kernels pop knowing full well that as soon as you remove the lid one last kernel will pop unfailingly
- Remove the popcorn to a bowl and melt the butter in the already warm pan
- Drizzle the melted butter over the popcorn and sprinkle with salt and any other toppings desired