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Salt 'n butter

June 25, 2002|by Jessica Hanlin

School's out, the hot weather has hit, meaning one thing - time to hit the beach! Walking the boardwalk, amidst the salty/smoky/french fried air, you smell . mmmPOPCORN.

You know you can't resist. So you walk over to get some of the mouth-watering goodness, only to be floored by the selection. 90 flavors!? Sure, there's good old salt and butter, but there are also flavors such as BBQ, Hawaiian delight, bubble gum, and watermelon.

But let's face it, it's just not practical to go to the beach whenever you want popcorn, although most of us would probably do it if we could. So what can scavengers of the pantry do when they yearn for fresh, hot popcorn?

Americans eat 17 billion quarts of popcorn a year. The average American alone eats 58 quarts. So something easy and fast has got to be available. There's microwave popcorn, of course. I know, the choices are butter, movie theater butter, and ultra butter.

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Yawn. But you're not quite out of luck yet. Most brands also sell kettle corn. No, it's not the sweet and salty "real kettle corn" favorite of fair and amusement park-goers, but it's pretty close. Still bored? One brand even offers a microwavable Apple Cinnamon variety.

Are you the more hands-on, adventurous type? Don't think you're confined to these options. You could - hold on for this one - do it yourself from scratch. I know it sounds crazy, but it's not as hard as you think, and your choices won't be limited to only 90 concoctions.

Your first choice comes in the form of kernel variety. "You mean you have a choice?" Believe it. Most brands use a yellow, or even white variety. They are probably your best bet, and the easiest to find. But there's also blue heron, starshell red, old hickory, and many others. Each has its own distinct flavor. So pop away.

Fun fact: The heating process makes the kernels explode and turn inside out.

So now what? If you want to avoid salt and butter, you could mix the popcorn with your favorite fruit, yogurt, chocolate, or cinnamon. Cheeses are always a hit. Cheddar, spicy, white, you name it. Or try sour cream, Jello, or marshmallows. (Yes, there are more uses for these foods than wrestling in and Chubby Bunny contests.)

There are also special popcorn seasonings you can buy. There are fine salts, flavored to tickle your taste buds, or overwhelm them if you like. But you don't have to be so conventional. For example, my brother, the notorious popcorn hound of the family, loves to stick his popcorn into peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

There is only one rule: Don't be afraid.

There are so many options, but when it comes to chow-down time, what do most people prefer? For home eating, caramel and kettle corn tied as the second flavor of choice among local teens, while half preferred classic salt and butter.

Bottom line: whatever tickles your fancy. Remember, it's not just for the movies.

Jessica Hanlin will be a junior at North Hagerstown High School this fall. She can be reached by email: Bubble0430@aol.com

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