Papa’s popcorn best all around

By Evelyn Richardson - Here and There

My father’s cooking skills were nil. Mine were close to his, so if my mother had to be away from the kitchen for whatever reason, we were in big trouble. But he could pop popcorn. And he knew it. Never did anyone else offer to do the popping.

The finished product simply would not measure up if others “had their fingers in the pie.”

Supper would have settled enough for the need of a luscious snack to cross our minds. The fire in the grate had burned low to a bed of glowing coals. ‘Bout time for the nightly treat.

He took the tin popper with the sliding top and stiff wire handle, added seasoning and the exact measure of popcorn grains by his guess—all at the right intervals over the hottest part of the fire at the proper time according to his instinctive calculations. The lid bulged up a little as nearly every grain popped and rarely was there a scorched grain.

Emptied quickly into the big cream-colored enamelware mixing bowl with green rim around the edge, the popcorn sent an aroma through the house to die for. Sprinkled with salt, it was ready to divide.

Often we would make a trough of a section of the daily newspaper already read and lay it in our lap to hold our portion. A work of culinary art ready to enjoy.

Of course, this achievement of perfection had its beginning in the spring when the patch of popcorn was planted. We shelled the best grains from the cob of the fullest slender ears that had been carefully selected and saved for that purpose.

When we were through planting, invariable we reconsidered and planted another couple of rows in case we had a drought during the growing season that might cut the yield.

When the harvested popcorn had dried and was shelled, we poured it from container to container outside in the wind to remove all chaff. Then we stored it in Mason fruit jars with screw zinc tops, sealed from destructive weevils.

Our popper, that I described, was my father’s equipment of choice. Some people used a wire mesh popper, but it had many disadvantages, which he could expound upon. Some used an iron skillet and held down a fitted top with one hand as they slid the skillet back and forth across the kitchen range’s surface. Others used a saucepan with lid on the stove. To him, relying on any of those utensils was flirting with failure. He and his popper were synchronized for success.

When R.E.A. came through, he bought an electric popper. Popcorn from it was never quite the same, as he did not have complete control of the heat level.

When we were at a neighbor’s house to sit a spell and they fixed popcorn, I would see my father “evaluating.” He never said anything, and although the popcorn was good, he ruled it not quite up to the quality he had at home. And he was right.

By Evelyn Richardson

Here and There

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