I have yet to meet a day that can’t be improved by a big, buttery bowl of popcorn. It’s not the same kind of cure that, say, a pot of tomato sauce can dole out, but popcorn takes such little effort, and it’s the kind of merriment you can wedge between school pick-ups and endless errands. Not to mention, it makes a pretty good companion when your husband is out of town and you collapse on the couch to watch Mad Men. Popcorn can fit squarely into any part of the day, and I won’t let a week go by that doesn’t see at least one batch.
Here’s how I do it: Put a generous slick of oil in the bottom of a pot and throw in three kernels. I do this only because that’s what my mom taught me. It isn’t entirely clear whether it’s a necessary step or just a relic from my childhood, but I love this part of the process. For a brief moment, I am forced to listen and smell and take a breath before the three chubby kernels explode. At that point, I lift the lid and fill the bottom of the pot with sunny yellow kernels that sizzle and dance in the oil the minute they hit the heat.
Popcorn is so satisfying that way. They make their own party.
First, a few kernels burst alive in their creamy debutante organza and start dancing. Soon, all those boisterous kernels are laughing and crowding together, cheerily filling your pot.
If the kernels seem to be sputtering, shake and agitate the pan a little. They’ll wake up. When the popped kernels are having so much fun they start pushing the lid off the pot, remove from the heat and gather them in the largest bowl you can find. In my kitchen it’s an oversized, stainless steel bowl that takes both arms to wrap the circumference. I like to make popcorn in the biggest batch I can muster.
I douse it in real melted butter, watching the golden liquid trickle into all the cracks and crevices. A quick sprinkling of garlic powder rounds it out, then sweet paprika, grey salt, and if you’re feeling especially festive, a generous grating of hard cheese, as well.
Don’t feel like you have to measure any of this. Popcorn really is like a good party—the less you try, the better it seems to turn out. Rely instead on your own superior taste and high spirits. Your day will thank you for it.