Popcorn has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My mother was the family cook and we loved the wonderful dishes she prepared for us, but Daddy was the ice cream and popcorn maker. He rarely stepped in the kitchen (except for his trips to retrieve his beloved Corn Flakes), but popping corn was the exception. I remember watching him pour a bit of oil in a pan, then heating it to just the right temperature before pouring the kernels in the pan and putting on the lid. Repeatedly sliding the pan across the burner was the way to keep the popcorn from burning. In a short time we could hear the ping of popping kernels hit the pan lid (I remember it was a white enamel lid with red trim). Once popped, he dumped the popcorn in a large paper grocery sack, sprinkled butter-flavored salt into the bag and shook it to coat the popcorn. Individual bowls were passed around and we each got a share of the aromatic snack.
Another popcorn story of my childhood appeared in one of my school readers. It told the story of a farmer that had a corn field. The story goes that it was so hot that the corn began to pop in the field and the white mass grew so large that he lost his mule and couldn’t find his way home. I can still recall the accompanying pictures of that field and farmer.
So as an adult, I decided to grow my own popcorn. I’d never grown any type of corn before and seeing the stalks' rapid ascent toward the sky was exciting to me. I was so delighted to see my first ear of corn and then a second and third. I was a bit worried that the raccoons or deer would discover my treasure so I kept a watchful eye for signs of intruders inside my garden fence. As the summer grew warmer, the stalks began to turn brown and the ear husks lost their green.
When the time was right, I eagerly picked the corn, peeled back the husks and hung the ears to dry. It was beautiful corn with not a single pest or blemish.
Removing the kernels from the cob was work I did while sitting in the cool of the evening. Using two bowls and a fan, I blew the chaff out into the grass much like I’d winnowed my wheat. Now I was ready to see if it would really pop.
My youngest granddaughter had come for a visit and declared her need for popcorn while watching her movie. I proceeded to pull a pan from the cabinet, pour in the oil and place it on the burner. She wanted to know why I didn’t put it in the microwave. I tried to explain that this was the way my Daddy used to pop corn for me. She eyed the kernels lying in the oil and shook her head. She said, “Enisi, I don’t think it’s gonna work that way.” I didn’t tell her my own doubts that I’d be successful. And then we heard the familiar ping as the first kernel hit the lid. Her eyes got big and she looked at me with surprise. It had worked after all!
I would have loved to share that moment with my Daddy. I think he would have smiled at me and held out his bowl for seconds.