Monday, September 1, 2014

Popcorn Ramble


I have loved popcorn all my life - it's one of the best foods on earth. Tender kernels freshly popped with a little snap of crispness, coated, if you wish, with buttery goodness. What's not to like? Even in France, where corn is pretty much reserved as animal feed and food trends from other countries are viewed with a certain amount of suspicion, popcorn rules.

When I was a girl of 16, I was dropped into a girls' boarding school in Cannes, France for a year while my mother, older sister, and brother swanned around the Mediterranean following my Dad's fleet to exotic places like Capri, Rome, Florence, Venice, and Athens, viewing great works of art, eating in amazing restaurants, and absorbing marvelous cultures. I was homesick and miserable for about a week, but then I made friends and had a fabulous time despite being envious of their experience. 

The school was regimented and strict, but there was room for fun, too. We ate very well four times daily, including Gouté, afternoon tea with dark chocolate melted in our cups and smeared on slices of baguette. There were art lessons, French lessons, and the usual subjects, plus a few I had never encountered before such as Rédaction and Dictée. I was very good at Rédaction and Dictée, although now I can hardly remember what those terms meant. I even learned geometry in French. Hypotenuse is the same word in both English and French, thank heavens!

Rarely, we boarding girls would escape the school as guests of the day students. Being Navy Juniors, we had access to the PX in Villefranche where we could get all kinds of American things that we had missed. One of the things I bought was a bag of popcorn.

Stepping into my Wayback Machine, I should explain that in the olden days when I was a girl, we didn't have popcorn in convenient little bags already loaded with flavorings that you just pop into the microwave for a few minutes. In fact, microwave ovens hadn't even been invented - maybe even microwaves themselves hadn't been discovered - 'way back then. Instead, one poured a thin layer of oil in the bottom of a saucepan, added a measure of kernels, and heated it on the stove until the kernels popped open, finely coated with oil, ready for salt and munching.

I carried my prize back to school before I realized that, while the school had a kitchen, I didn't. So, I approached Madame Palet, the ancient, wizened mother of the school's headmistress, for permission to use the kitchen for making "le popcorn." We had to describe popcorn to her - she had literally never heard of such a thing and, being French, scoffed at the idea of eating corn - "Corn is for farm animals!" - but we begged and she reluctantly agreed, watching the whole process with bright, skeptical eyes. 

Of course, we offered her a taste and she did try it, with some hesitation. Her eyes went round with surprise and she smiled. She ate more of our popcorn than we did and, as a bonus, whenever she wanted popcorn after that, she would invite us to watch the school's only television with her - if we would make "le popcorn" again!

So, you can see that I'm a bit of a connoisseur when it comes to popcorn. I have my favorite microwaveable brand but I still love it when I see a machine like the one above, one that still makes popcorn with hot oil. We found this one in a tiny movie theatre (and what's a movie without popcorn? Hardly worth going!) in Tiburon, CA where they have cushy seats, reasonable prices (!), and delicious, fresh, real popcorn. I hadn't had popcorn that good in many years so, like Madame Palet, my eyes popped open with delighted surprise.

I could ramble on for a bit longer on the subject of popcorn but wouldn't we all rather I stopped so we could go and pop our own?  Bon Appetit!


8 Comments:

Blogger Whiting Hyland said...

What about the furakake seaweed kind?

Monday, September 01, 2014  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Whiting, I haven't ever tried that kind - maybe a new taste treat in store for me next time I'm in Hawaii?

Monday, September 01, 2014  
Blogger nancy namaste said...

When we emptied out my mother house, my brother got the big old fashioned popcorn popper. The popcorn made in that machine was THE BEST; now his girls share it among themselves - the joys of old fashioned pop corn.

Monday, September 01, 2014  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Nancy, a good reason for visiting your nieces!

Monday, September 01, 2014  
Blogger Whiting Hyland said...

Pam,
Just add several shakes of furakake to the finished popcorn. You can find furakake at any place that carries oriental stuff. It's the shreded seaweed in a shaker bottle used in sushi. While you are there geta bag of those smaller arare rice cracker treats and dump some in the popcorn. It'll be a really fun change to regular popcorn.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Whiting, thanks for the tips!

Tuesday, September 02, 2014  
Blogger Diane said...

good, good memories. I loved popping the corn in the skillet on the stove and melting real butter on it! it was a sunday night treat at our house! great boarding school story!

Tuesday, September 02, 2014  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Diane, that's a fun memory, too. A grand tradition to be continued. Simple pleasures are the best.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014  

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