It’s the smell that entices

 The aroma got to me. I got up from my office chair and wandered around the building to find out what was causing the smell.

There it was. One of my colleagues at the Gazette was eating popcorn from a microwave bag. She offered me some. But I resisted because popcorn is one of those foods people with not-very-straight teeth like me shouldn’t eat in public—at least not without a toothbrush handy.

I slunk back to my office. Too bad, because I crave popcorn; I always have. It’s one of those snacks I could eat every day.

Sometimes the smell almost overwhelms me while working in the concession stand at a high-school football game.

 The sound of the corn popping in the machine is music to my ears. My wife, who sometimes has to operate the machine and usually ends up with a burn or two by night’s end, is less enamored of the process.

At home, I often ask Jenny if she would like to share a bag, knowing that she only will eat a little and I’ll have most of it to myself.  And when I am in my New Albany apartment by myself watching sports on television, I can’t resist. I head to the kitchen cabinet to find my friend, Orville Redenbacher.

Maybe I like it so much because it reminds me of my childhood. When I was really young, we lived on a farm and my mom and dad would sometimes have neighbors over for an evening of cards.

They played a game called “Pitch.” I don’t remember much about it except that you bid, named trumps and if you didn’t make your bid, you would “go set.”

But I thought the real purpose of the card games was to have an excuse to make popcorn. My father loved popcorn, too, and he could make more of it at one time than anyone I have ever known—even more than those popcorn poppers at the concession stands.

His secret was that he used two large metal dishpans, the kind we used to wash the dishes before we got an automatic dishwasher. 

He would put the oil and lots of popcorn in one and turn the other upside down as a lid. Using hot-pad holders, he would shake it on the stove until it all popped.

Somehow, he could remove the top pan and popcorn would be rounded up 10 to 12 inches above the rim of the pan. It never seemed to fall off. 

He said the secret was to start with so much popcorn that it compressed and stayed together when the lid was removed.

I never dared try the dishpan routine. I was pretty sure his “secret” wouldn’t work for me, and it was more popcorn than most families could eat anyway.

But most of my life I resisted microwave popcorn, insisting instead on using a metal popcorn popper with the hand-crank on the top.

And I found I could make almost two pans full at a time by sliding the top off quickly and dumping some of the popped corn before returning it to the stove.

But my favorite popper, corroded by many years of hot oil, finally went to the Salvation Army a few years ago.

The best part of microwave popcorn is the smell. The result, with its fake-butter taste, just doesn’t measure up to corn popped in a good dishpan.

But I’m a modern guy; I eat it anyway.


T. Wayne Mitchell, publisher of the Gazette, can be reached by phone at 662-534-6321 or by e-mail at