Everyone has secrets, they’re part of growing up. Of course, you never peed in the lake. No, you don’t know anything about that broken lamp in the living room. The dog must have tipped it over chasing the cat. Sure, you were at the library studying. And that dent on the front bumper?
Yes indeed, we all have our secrets. One of the secrets that every single girl in America, maybe the world, shares is popcorn for dinner. Whether you like to cook or not, whether you admit it or not … each and every one of us has succumbed to the charms and ease of popcorn for dinner.
As for me, I think it started in graduate school. My days started in the dark, running through quiet, early morning streets. Then it was class, study group, part-time job, the library, the computer lab, another study group, back to the library and finally, the last class of the day. I always seemed to have at least one night class, so two or three times a week I didn’t stumble home until ten o’clock or later. I staggered into the house with weary bones, a tired but still reeling brain and rumbling stomach.
That’s when I discovered the charms of popcorn for dinner. There was not a single leftover in the refrigerator. The salad bin was empty. Bluish fuzz covered the last morsel of cheese and the last cracker was staler than stale.
As a kid, we’d done the breakfast for dinner thing. While many love it, I don’t understand its appeal. First of all, breakfast is not my favorite meal of the day. That aside, it’s hardly instantaneous. Done right, you need to crack eggs, grate cheese, sauté mushrooms, cook bacon and bake muffins or scones. I suppose you should brew a pot of coffee as well. Done right, breakfast takes longer to cook than it does to eat. Seems like a lot of trouble for an exhausted grad student.
But popcorn, it’s ready in five minutes or less. Once made, you can stretch out on the sofa with a glass of wine and the Tonight Show and nibble to your heart’s content. One of the many beauties of popcorn is the prolonged nibbling. That and the sipping help you unwind from a too long, too packed day. Fond memories of childhood afternoons at the movie theater, the wonderful crunch plus the decadent butter and salt sooth your soul and your taste buds.
Through the years, popcorn has continued to be my go-to dinner after a too long day. For many years, I carried a brief case and traveled the world. At least once a month, a meeting, flight delay or a critical presentation kept me from home until it was much too late to cook. When I ditched the corporate world to write, one thing didn’t change. There were still nights when I staggered from the keyboard, tired and hungry with no energy to cook. Even if I had spent the entire day writing about food! Popcorn for dinner was not just for students.
A few years ago, my octogenarian father moved in with me. Popcorn or not, dinner at ten was not part of his plan. With some dismay, I thought that’s it, no more popcorn for dinner. And so, I learned to adapt. Instead of powering through, I took dinner breaks. I cooked and ate a real meal with Dad and then returned to the keyboard. Oh dear, was I finally becoming a real grownup?
Then one gray day, Dad and I went out for a late lunch. It had been a busy morning. Our lunch was leisurely and more than filling. Around eight o’clock, Dad asked about supper. He suggested a cup of soup. That’s when I introduced him to popcorn for dinner. A popcorn lover himself, he’s been all too happy to adapt and adopt. Two, maybe three times a year, after a busy day and a big lunch, we turn on the television, sip a glass of wine and nibble to our hearts content.
And so, now you have it. Proof that you’re never too old to eat like a grad student. Bon appétit!
Easy Microwave Popcorn
Yes, you could buy those packages of microwave popcorn but they are expensive and filled with not-so-funny chemicals. Give the real thing a try, you won’t regret it. Enjoy!
Serves 2 for dinner, more for a snack
1/3-1/2 cup popcorn
Put the popcorn in a microwaveable bowl and cover with a plastic colander. If you don’t have a plastic colander, use the insert from the salad spinner. Place everything in the microwave** and hit the popcorn key. Depending on your microwave, you may need to zap the popcorn on high for a few minutes more.
While the popcorn pops, melt some butter (not too much mind you) in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Remove the popcorn from the microwave as soon as the popping stops. Toss the popcorn with the melted butter and a little sea salt***. Settle down in front of the television with a glass of wine, your favorite drama or football team and relax.
* I suppose the butter should be optional but I won’t tell if you don’t.
** If you don’t have a microwave, you can pop the corn with a hot air popper or on the stove in a heavy pot with a little vegetable oil.
*** Both Dad and I are purists and stick to butter and sea salt but, if you insist, you can raid the spice rack to dress up your popcorn. Trendy foodies add a dash of cayenne, smoky paprika, cinnamon or curry powder along with a sprinkle of finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese to their popcorn. If you are hungering for something spicy, sweet and salty, forget the cheese and toss with a little sugar, salt and your favorite spice.
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What about you? What’s your secret? Let’s start a conversation.
Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2015