Columnist Hagen Engler

By Hagen Engler

Journalist


Kernels of comfort… and a mother’s love

Popcorn is about more than taste. It is a bosom that I crawl into from time to time.


My comfort food is popcorn! It was the first dish I was trained to cook, by my mother when I was 12. She got tired of being badgered to cook me a pot, so she taught me how to do it myself. Those five minutes saved her years of labour, which I gladly took over. I have been making myself popcorn for several decades since. In the course of those decades, I have refined the popcorn-making process to a tight, effective ritual that reliably produces exactly the taste, texture and salt buzz that I demand from my bingeing snacks. The…

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My comfort food is popcorn!

It was the first dish I was trained to cook, by my mother when I was 12.

She got tired of being badgered to cook me a pot, so she taught me how to do it myself. Those five minutes saved her years of labour, which I gladly took over. I have been making myself popcorn for several decades since.

In the course of those decades, I have refined the popcorn-making process to a tight, effective ritual that reliably produces exactly the taste, texture and salt buzz that I demand from my bingeing snacks.

The process is as follows:

1. Cover the bottom of a deep pot with a thin layer of oil. Put the hotplate on max.

2. Place a sheet of newspaper on your counter. Spread like a quilt of glory, ready to welcome the load of traditional confectionery fare you are about to produce.

3. Add just five or six uncooked popcorn kernels to the pot. These are your indicator kernels.

4. Seize the lid of the pot in your left hand. Hold the jar of raw popcorn in your right. Stand by, poised like a warrior…

5. Watch the indicator kernels.

6. When the first indicator kernel pops – after about three minutes – it’s showtime! Immediately pour from the jar enough kernels to cover the bottom of the pot.

7. There will be a few seconds of chaos, as the rest of the indicator kernels pop, sending popped corn and scalding oil erupting around the kitchen.

8. Be not timorous. Jam on the lid as soon as you have the kernels in there.

9. Wait another three minutes, until all the corn has popped.

10. Pour the popped corn onto the newspaper.

11. Salt prodigiously.

The idea behind adding the corn at the last minute is that it pops immediately and doesn’t spend three-odd minutes marinating in oil. This makes for a fluffier, less greasy experience.

Popcorn is about more than taste. It’s about the process and the performance.

It is a bosom that I crawl into from time to time. Because somewhere inside that pot of warm, fluffy saltiness is my mother’s love.

I’ve been making a lot of popcorn lately…

Hagen Engler. Picture: Supplied

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