This photo shows a bowl of popcorn. “I love popcorn. When I play those ice-breaker games where you introduce yourself and name a favorite food, I always say, ‘Peggy, popcorn.’ writes Peggy McKee Barnhill. “It has a pleasing alliteration, making it easy for people to remember my name. Plus, it’s the truth. I love popcorn.” (Georgia Vagim / Unsplash)

This photo shows a bowl of popcorn. “I love popcorn. When I play those ice-breaker games where you introduce yourself and name a favorite food, I always say, ‘Peggy, popcorn.’ writes Peggy McKee Barnhill. “It has a pleasing alliteration, making it easy for people to remember my name. Plus, it’s the truth. I love popcorn.” (Georgia Vagim / Unsplash)

Gimme a Smile: You are what you eat — an ode to popcorn

You are what you eat. I am popcorn.

  • By Peggy McKee Barnhill
  • Saturday, November 26, 2022 7:30am
  • Neighbors

You are what you eat.

That’s what they told us when I was growing up. Us kids pictured ourselves as walking, talking food. Me, I’m a big bowl of popcorn.

I love popcorn. When I play those ice-breaker games where you introduce yourself and name a favorite food, I always say, “Peggy, popcorn.” It has a pleasing alliteration, making it easy for people to remember my name. Plus, it’s the truth. I love popcorn.

Weirdly, every time I was pregnant I developed an aversion to popcorn. I couldn’t stand the stuff. Even the smell made me nauseous. The sacrifices we make for our kids! As soon as they were born, I reverted back to my popcorn habit.

The best kind is movie theater popcorn, that delicious snack that draws you into the theater with its mouth-watering aroma. Nothing’s better than an oversized tub of the crunchy stuff, enough to last you through an entire two-hour movie. That’s two hours of nonstop noshing! Sure, you feel gross and bloated afterwards and you leave slimy butter fingerprints on everything you touch, but you gotta have that popcorn.

I have at least five different ways to pop popcorn at home, and that doesn’t even include a trip to the store for some Jiffy Pop. The most fun is a long-handled metal popper held over a crackling bonfire. The kernels invariably burn a bit on the bottom, and I confess to cheating and melting butter in the microwave when popping in our backyard, but it’s all about the experience. I also have a mini theater popper with glass walls and a rotating popper basin; the tried-and-true pan with oil on the stove (don’t forget the lid!); and the unhealthy but quick bags of microwave popcorn. And now I have a new method, a glass carafe complete with lid that goes in the microwave to pop fresh kernels. The jury’s still out on this method. I’ve only tried it once, and half the kernels burned. Without the mystique of an outdoor fire, the burned kernels spoiled the whole batch. I probably just need a bit more practice.

The problem with popcorn, regardless of the method of production, is the fact that it is intended to be eaten in large quantities. There is no such thing as a small helping of popcorn. One handful leads to another until the whole salty, buttery bowl is gone. It’s no good for those of us looking to lose weight. You are what you eat—I am a big lumpy bowl of popcorn.

We’ve officially entered into the holiday season, where food takes center stage as a means of conveying joy, fellowship, and lack of impulse control. Overeating at Thanksgiving celebrations is as American as apple pie (or pumpkin pie, or pecan pie, or sweet potato pie…) Self-control can wait until the New Year’s resolutions, right?

So, where does popcorn fit in?

When’s the last time you saw popcorn on the Thanksgiving table? It’s no good for stuffing the turkey, and green beans with popcorn is not a thing. Buttered popcorn pie has yet to hit the big time. Turkey is in the spotlight and popcorn is forgotten on Thanksgiving Day.

But here’s the thing. When the feasting is finished and the leftovers are stashed in the fridge for weeks of sandwiches, turkey’s day is over. You might see an encore for Christmas dinner, but roast turkey is rarely a staple year-round. Popcorn, on the other hand…

I’m willing to bet that some time over Thanksgiving weekend, popcorn will make its way into the mouths of plenty of Americans. Dinner’s over, Black Friday deals are in the bag, and a slew of new releases lures us to the movie theaters. There are football games on TV, and popcorn makes a great alternative to turkey sliders. You don’t even need an occasion. A bowl of popcorn makes a fine accompaniment to any kind of computer work, even writing an essay for the local newspaper. Maybe it’s time for me to give that microwave popper carafe another whirl.

You are what you eat. I am popcorn.

• Peggy McKee Barnhill is a wife, mother, and author who writes cozy mysteries under the pen name “Greta McKennan.” She likes to look at the bright side of life.

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