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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?

About Doug Lewandowski

I have walked a varied path. I was a Christian Brother, an English teacher/counselor and Licensed Psychologist. I have a twice monthly column in the Duluth News Tribune and have had a story published in the Nemadji Review and placed third in this year’s Jade Ring contest of the Wisconsin Writer’s Association. I was a commentator for KCRB, Minnesota Public Radio in the 90s. I transplanted to Duluth to be closer to grandchildren.

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