Friday, November 16, 2007

Flying Popcorn

I got my first bushel of produce yesterday!

It's late fall, which means lots of root vegetables plus some extra goodies. My box included loads of sweet and gold potatoes, butternut and acorn squash, pie pumpkin, yellow onions, carrots, leeks, parsley, apples, cranberries, honey...and popcorn.

The popcorn came in handy as I babysat my two nephews last night. They are both under age 4.

The kitchen was already total chaos. I was making (ahem) apple walnut salad with cranberry vinaigrette and butternut squash and sweet potato ginger bisque for my first official CSA meal. After all, one of the reasons I joined was to enhance my appreciation of food. I wasn't sure if the boys would feel the same way after the 3-year-old smelled an onion and recoiled.

By then they were getting a little restless. We'd already giggled at the funny-shaped carrots (one of them seriously had boobs) and played hide-and-seek three times, really exhausting every last hiding place in my apartment. They had colored, raced trains, and started to play the "let's run around and scream" game when I threw a brown paper bag with the last-resort, promised surprise to my boyfriend.

"Let's make popcorn!" he said, pulling out miniature corn on the cobs.

They cheered and scraped golden kernels into a bowl. Many clattered on the floor, which should have been my first clue about the impending mess. But they loved it and were distracted enough to let me puree the vinaigrette.

Once the pan sizzled with vegetable oil, we poured the kernels in. At first the boys weren't too interested.

At this point, I should say that I don't have a proper lid for my pan. We had to use a smaller lid for a big pan. As the kernels heated up, the lid started to tremble. We could hear little explosions underneath when suddenly a white blur shot up, bounced off the microwave, and landed on the counter.

This caught the kids' attention.

Suddenly they were shrieking and laughing as pieces of white, fluffy popcorn escaped from underneath the pan to the most far-reaching places in my kitchen. The exploding kernels sounded like a rapid-fire bb gun.

"It's flying popcorn!" yelled the 3-year-old. The 19-month-old jumped up and down with glee, waving his arms as a winter storm of white popcorn snowed all around us.

This popcorn tasted so good. Each bite in to its tender flesh yielded a soft crunch and a savory flavor, nothing like Orville Redenbacher or what you get at the movies (which I still love). I ate so much of it that by the time the soup was ready I wasn't very hungry. And forget about the salad. I had no energy to toast the walnuts let alone wash the spinach. The vinaigrette would keep for another night.

By the end of the night, I had a blister on my right forefinger from hacking open the butternut squash with a dull knife and a burn on my left forefinger from accidentally touching the hot pan. The burnt smell of popcorn may never go away.

But it was all worth it. My sister e-mailed me that the 3-year-old woke up this morning asking for popcorn.

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