Saturday, September 12, 2009
That heavenly, buttery smell of pan-popped corn brings a wealth of wonderful memories washing over me. Popcorn brings back fond recollections of rainy days. Back in Iowa a good rainstorm could outlast our ability to sit still in the house long enough for it to subside. Mom remedied this with popcorn. She would send us out to our front porch with the largest bowl she could find, filled to the brim with warm, salty popcorn. We would sit there on the porch for hours playing games of make-believe and loving every aspect of the rain, letting it fill our senses as we rationed the popcorn for as long as possible. Often we would take the bowl into our old, rundown garage, filled with forgotten boxes and a musty old couch. There we'd sit and munch and formulate plans of how to get Miss Mary Ann to see us through her Magic Mirror on Romper Room as well as choreographing our own song and dance numbers so that eventually we could become real Mouseketeers.
Popcorn was the only thing I enjoyed about the annual showing of Deafula at the local Deaf Club each October, a horror movie done completely in American Sign Language. My parents brought all of us kids along each year, regardless of the fact that Deafula spooked me to the core. I would sit completely beneath a blanket to escape the scenes on the large screen set up for this event, eating my fill of popcorn while occasionally peeking out as the drama unfolded.
After we moved to California, popcorn was a staple in every apartment we called home. It reminds me of evenings spent in front of the television, the whole family enjoying episodes of everything from The A-Team & MacGyver to The Wonder Years & Highway to Heaven while enjoying bowls full of popcorn. If we were lucky, they were accompanied by plastic Tupperware cups filled with red Kool-aid. As we kids grew older, popcorn was a treat we shared with our friends as we would all gather around the television, watching music videos on MTV with my parents' Closed Captioning box turned on so we could learn the words to all of our favorite songs.
When I left home to be on my own I was not well educated in culinary matters - but I knew how to make popcorn. While my roommates taught me about lipstick and Levis and lunch from La Dolce Vita, I taught them to appreciate the flavorful pan-popped corn rather than the air-popped variety they were accustomed to. And whenever I had a twinge of homesickness I would remedy it by calling my brother, Chip. We would laugh and cry together through the phone as I munched on a bowl of popcorn, speaking of the directions our lives were taking us and the time we would see each other again.
Now that I have a family of my own the popcorn tradition continues. The air-poppers we received as wedding gifts (and I seem to recall a few) slowly made their way to other, more useful places as I refined my family's taste buds with the buttery, pan-popped goodness I have grown up with and perfected. Popcorn still finds itself in the heart of family time as we gather around the table to play games and talk about things we have learned.
So, although I often declare other foods as favorites, I think that popcorn will always be my own personal Pensieve.