Popcorn Addiction

A few years ago a newspaper feature article in the Star and Tribune focused on “Minnesota, The Land of 10,000 Treatment Centers.” We are a leader in dealing with various addictions. Alcohol and drug addictions are problems that socially conscious Midwesterners try to address. The Alcoholics Anonymous model has been applied to other behaviors, including overeating, sex, gambling, and there are even rumors of a treatment program for abusive TV watching. With all the programs and support groups available in this state, I am surprised that there isn’t one for popcorn addiction.

First, there’s the smell. Movie theaters are notorious places. It’s like being Pavlov’s dog when you walk in the front door. Usually this is right before supper. “Oh, I’ll just have a little box.” Other times I have been in a large office building and the air circulation system brings hints of kernels freshly popped. Time for a social call.

Popcorn is made in various ways. There’s the air popper. It usually dims the lights at the house. You also have to use some kind of flavoring sprayed or poured over it so it doesn’t taste like chunks of Styrofoam.

Then there’s the microwave kind. “Consumer Reports” not too long ago did an article on various microwave popcorns. It’s usually pretty good, but can make a person hyperactive after a bag of it. Maybe it’s the radiation still rising from the hot kernels.

The addiction even hits while camping. One wonderful traditional method of popping corn is the wire basket over the campfire. It takes a little finesse otherwise everything goes up in flames. There’s also the old “Jiffy Pop”; the aluminum covered fry pans with everything in them. If you do it right, the outcome is a ballooning foil-wrapped pan with crunchy morsels inside. Getting the Coleman stove flame set just right is difficult and most often results in a product that has the consistency and taste of charcoal.

Personally I prefer the saucepan and oil method. We had an old saucepan that we used for years bite the dust recently. It was pretty funky but worked well. One thing you never do of course is clean the pan. The flavor passed on from generations of poppings would be lost if you scrubbed it. There is a price paid however when the accumulated oil on the outside goes up in flame

The way a person eats popcorn is diagnostic of how far the addiction has gone.  One kernel at a time, no problem, small handfuls, most likely a reflection of hunger.  Vast quantities shoveled in a short time – a preoccupation out of control.

Some say having a beer in the morning after a hardy party cures a hangover.  One sure sign of trouble with popcorn is waking up in the morning and finishing off the last two handfuls in the bowl. 

The addiction cycle it is said includes denial and preoccupation.  Having a bowl of white or yellow popcorn at nine PM every night helps cap the day. HMMM —–Is that denial? Now where did I put that salt?


  1. I find that the “high temperature Theatre II Popcorn Popper” is superior. It is aluminum with a top that snaps on or off for cleaning and has a stem that leads down to a wire that swishes around the bottom of the pan as you turn a wooden handle. This prevents burning and the result is big, fluffly kernals of popcorn that are crisp. There are vents on top to allow some steam to escape preventing chewy popcorn. It is cooked on the stovetop and requires just a couple teaspoons of oil unless you make the recipe that calls for 4 T of oil and 4 T of sugar leading to a crispy sweet product that when you add salt results in the sweet/salty combo that is so good. We should have made some when you were here. Next time.

  2. I have gone way over into the dark side. I have a commercial popcorn popper that will keep corn fresh for several weeks, I’ve heard. Mine normally lasts about 2-3 days if I am conservative. It’s what’s for breakfast with my coffee. I also stock white and yellow popcorn so I can cherish both flavors when the craving starts.

  3. I agree with Sue – I use that same time, but the oil I use is Organic Coconut Oil. It gives the popcorn a wonderful aroma and a very very small hint of coconut. Great… Now I want some!!! ;D

  4. Doug, I just love this essay, and have been sharing it with some family members. All popcorn addicts, of course. Oh, and besides that delicious “movie theater, butter layered, freshly popped, popcorn,” I’d have to go with my favorite “off the shelf and into the microwave” brand s being ACT II “Extreme Butter,” because, who cares about these thunder thighs? Give me more butter!

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