The perils of popcorn

All right! I’m not going downstairs till I remember why.


Well, no sense going down if I don’t take the popper with me. (Now that I have a dry-air popper it’s easy, fun and relatively nonfattening to frequently enjoy this snack.)

As long as I don’t have to string it again.

A reader said my earlier column on this food reminded her of stringing the stuff with her children when they were young. Perhaps this is one of those bittersweet memories where, as years pass, we forget the bitter and keep just the sweet.

Then again, perhaps I just never developed the knack. I got some strong string but most of the corn crumbled as I applied the needle, resulting in one huge frustrating mess. Minor gobbled the tidbits that escaped to the floor though I’d read enough when my kids were young about Heimlich and tracheotomies to try it keep it away from the dog.

I read last summer about how complicated corn sex is. (Amazing what one can find to read, isn’t it? But this was in “the New Yorker.”) Let’s see if I can get this right. Each corn flower extends one silk-type thread. (You know, the stuff so hard to get rid of when we want it eaten on the cob.) Pollen has to land on this thread and then make its way down into the flower. This can take several hours and must be repeated roughly eight hundred times to make one ear. Figure that process has to be repeated eighty thousand times for each bushel.

Amazing when one stops to think of it, isn’t it? Yet it remains easily available and popular with most.

The first moving popper was seen in 1893 at the Chicago World’s Fair. Again, grateful for the children’s page in the OBSERVER, I also learned that these machines were first powered by gas or steam. It wasn’t long before it became ubiquitous at fairs and in parks, or anyplace where crowds gathered that could be served by street vendors.

Business boomed during the Great Depression when popcorn became the one indulgence many could afford. Sales jumped again as television sets grew more affordable and thus more popular. Movie nights at home called for popcorn, what else?

There was a final surge in popularity with the advent of the microwave. Well, it worked for some. Most perhaps. But I managed to set mine afire and, though the oven continued to work well, I wasn’t happy having a scorched microwave around. Pots and pans burned black are one thing. At least that shows I’m trying. A blackened microwave says more about me than I’m willing to admit.

And, yes, the same paper reminds us, now microwaves do frequently have a special button just for popcorn. It wasn’t enough for me. I’ll stick with my dry-air gizmo. It works. All right – it makes too much (and I’ve learned to have a second bowl handy when the first overflows) but I’ll get the hang of quantity eventually.

If you read this on an exceptionally snowy Friday morning, then grab yourself some popcorn for you can be assured I’ll be curled up on the couch with mine once the sun’s gone and I’ve got a fire burning, ready to enjoy my own movie night.

Just so I don’t have to string it again.

Susan Crossett is a Cassadaga resident. Send comments to