It's silly to think that popcorn seems to have been made for the movies. The two are simply inseparable. No other snack has replaced popcorn's top billing as the American movie-watcher's greatest comfort food. Popcorn addicts call it their fix; for others, popcorn is a security blanket, particularly during intense movie scenes. Could it also be replacing cigarette smoking?
Also to blame for the popularity of this low-calorie, fiber-rich snack food is the cocooning trend that generates several forms of indoor entertainment. Home video movies top the list, of course. With the market momentum that VCRs have built up in recent years, popcorn consumption is on the rise. Today Americans consume about 11 billion quarts of popped popcorn annually. Would you believe that's about 46 quarts per person each year?
Busy Microwave Ovens
It is no surprise, therefore, that popcorn-making devices keep popping up. Even microwave ovens take a fair share of the load as packaged microwave popcorn now accounts for 44% of all unpopped popcorn sold in this country.
For Nordic Ware, the strategy is to go back to the old-fashioned goodness of popcorn popped in a stove-top kettle that has a stirring mechanism, eliminating burning and minimizing unpopped kernels. Styled with a contemporary finish, the Popgun Stovetop Corn Popper ($25) is designed with a black pistol-shaped handle that has a trigger. When squeezed, the trigger activates the stirring mechanism inside the four-quart saucepan.
If you're frequently in a rush, you'll like the built-in measuring cup contained in the see-through plastic cover. The cup slides open to release the corn kernels into the popper. Popgun can be used with or without oil. When oil is used, preheating is not necessary; without oil, the kernels must be at room temperature and should be stirred more frequently while popping.
Forthcoming next month is the new Spacemaker Popcorn Center from Black & Decker ($51.98). It'll appeal to people who like the fluffiness of hot-air popcorn and to the nutrition-conscious who insist on the low-calorie advantage of an oil-free method (although the unit has a butter-melting option). For others the big plus is the convenience of under-the-cabinet mounting. The first of its kind, the unit is the latest addition to the Spacemaker line of coordinated under-the-cabinet appliances.
To make popcorn in the Spacemaker popper, simply load a drawer with kernels, and, if melted butter is desired for flavoring, place a few pats of butter into the butter-melting cup. A deep, six-quart bowl should be placed under the output chute to catch the popped corn. Make sure this is ready otherwise you'll end up with popcorn flying all over the place.
Turn on the control; a red "wait" light signals preheating. This warming effect is important for this method of popping to produce larger, fluffier popcorn as well as hotter melted butter. When the green "ready" light comes on, the corn kernels should be released; this is done by pushing in the handle of the spring-loaded drawer. After several minutes, out comes the popcorn, and your melted butter is ready to be poured in.
The Spacemaker Popcorn Center is a great gadget if there's room under the cabinet; the only drawback is that the fan tends to be noisy.
For many people, popcorn isn't popcorn without the flavorful touch that hot melted butter gives. The new Microwave Hot Topper melter/dispenser from National Presto Industries, Inc. ($29.98) is a handy invention that helps popcorn lovers avoid the problem of pools of butter at the bottom of the popcorn bowl. Hot Topper is a little plastic pitcher that comes with a nozzle and pump button in the lid. Three accessory tips can be attached to the nozzle: a sprayer for fine, even coverage; a streamer for heavier applications (such as pancake syrup toppings), and a brush for coating corn on the cob, filo pastries, etc.
The Microwave Hot Topper will hold up to a quarter-pound stick of butter or margarine. It's also useful for all types of savory and dessert sauces, sweet toppings that need to be reheated in the microwave. Unused toppings can be left in the unit and stored in the refrigerator.
The Black & Decker Spacemaker Popcorn Center will be available in late November at stores carrying the Spacemaker line. For product information call, (800)-421-8668.
The Presto Microwave Hot Topper is available at Adray's, the Broadway and Osco Drug.
The Nordic Ware Popgun is available at the Broadway, Fedco and the Price Club.