Despite the rapid popularity of microwave popcorn during my lifetime, stove-top popcorn wiggled its way into a single memory from my 1980′s childhood. My great-grandmother stood next to our stove, melting butter in a big pot and I stood next to her on tip-toe, trying to catch glimpses of the golden pool. She opened a big plastic bag of popcorn kernels, pushed me away from the stove and poured in half the bag. I still remember the high-pitched “whoosh” of all those little kernels hitting the metal. Then came the first “pop.” Then the next. Then it seemed as if the popcorn would pop right off the stove.
The memory ends there, although I’m sure I enjoyed this buttery snack while watching Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty, happily nestled between the sofa and the coffee table, cross-legged on the floor.
Shortly thereafter microwave popcorn appeared on the scene, and stove-top popcorn — along with Irish beef stew and creamed tuna on toast — was catapulted into the magical realm of “things Dema used to make” which is something like a museum for food memories from my early life.
Raphe and I rediscovered stove-top popcorn together in the early months of our relationship. I was in school, completely broke-ass and living with two other broke-ass student types in a tiny two bedroom plus large closet that lacked, among other things, a microwave. Raphe suggested a movie-night on chilly winter evening and my mind went back to that memory of Dema standing in front of the stove with a bag of unpopped popcorn. So, Raphe and I ventured into the well-stocked dry good section of the local grocery store, picked up a bag of Goya popcorn and have never gone back.
Stove-top popcorn is now our go-to snack for lazy Saturdays and has made appearances at the dinner table on even lazier weeknights. We leave large bowls of it out at parties, where it disappears long before the hummus or cheese platter. The popcorn is crisper than the microwave version, avoids imitation butter and takes only a few minutes to make. Instead of melted butter, we drizzle our popcorn with rosemary olive oil and season it with sea salt and cracked pepper. Sometimes we add a touch of hot pepper oil or Old Bay seasoning to mix it up. For your first batch, we recommend keeping it simple so you can appreciate just how good stove-top popcorn is.