Popping your way into snacking heaven

Susan Condon Love

Let’s talk about popcorn and how it can enhance — or ruin — your life.

First, there’s the positives. You cannot go to a movie theater without partaking in a ginormous, super-size bucket of popped goodness. Its presence, propped on stretched out legs thanks to reclining movie seats, is part of the anticipatory enjoyment of watching a new thriller or drama.

On a diet? Munching an entire microwave popcorn bag labeled “100 calories” is a snacking treat without any guilt. Woe to any stray hand drifting over to that popcorn container. Its owners will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of kernel-stealing laws.

At work, the occasional bag of popcorn provides a treat to get through a tough afternoon, or celebrate the end of a tough week. We usually grab a couple of coffee filters and distribute the popcorn in those easily disposable “containers.” They are exactly the right size to share a bag among a half-dozen coworkers.

The experience of carnivals, amusement parks, even flea markets is only enhanced by a red-and-white box of (somewhat cardboard-tasting, chewy) popcorn.

But there is a dark side to those pieces of white, fluffy heaven. Is there anything worse than the sharp, nose-burning smell of burnt popcorn? Is there anything more embarrassing? I mean, how difficult is it to read the directions and punch in two minutes?

The assumption there, of course, is that people read the directions. What good are directions? Can you rattle off the wattage of your microwave off the top of your head? So those package times are useless. It’s all a guessing game.

Last Friday was tough at work. Lots of things going wrong, lots of distractions from the work at hand. The day was cold and drizzly. Not even the fun foggy kind of drizzle. Just gray and ugly. And did I mention cold?

Popcorn seemed to be the perfect solution. Except that I overestimated the time on the office microwave. Instead of a little over two minutes for a perfectly popped bag, I put it in for more three minutes. And 35 seconds.

Oh my.

I pulled it out, thinking it would be a little burnt. I ripped the top open. Smoke BILLOWED through the small breakroom.

“Did you burn the popcorn” piped up a coworker sitting in the main work space.

“Absolutely not,” I replied. “It’s perfect.”

Another coworker wandered in from her office. “Who burned the popcorn?”

“It’s not burned!” I squeaked.

Two hours later, the acrid smell lingered, despite air freshener, open doors and more air freshener.

The smell was gone by Monday morning, but on that Friday afternoon, I wanted to hide under my desk.

It could be worse. Did I ever tell you the story of a former coworker who wrapped his snow-soaked wool socks in newspaper and stuck them in the company microwave to “dry?”

Now you know. There are worse smells.

Contact this reporter at editor@westlifenews.com or call 440-871-5797.

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