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Home Design Issue | Metropolis

Cahiers du Popcorn


The ultimate home theater nightmare has to be David Foster Wallace's novel "Infinite Jest," whose title refers to a film so addictively entertaining, so obsessively pleasurable, that viewers of the cassette will drive themselves to frenzy and beyond to consume more and more of it. Around here, we call that popcorn. Below, a few notes on the genre.

Citizen Kernel

Somewhere in the '80s, "family heirloom" began to mean not only the Limoges china, but also, say, the Slinky. Charles Foster Kane pined for his lost sled; for my brothers and me, Rosebud is an aluminum Mirro popcorn popper. Mom kept it ready for Sunday night viewings of Walt Disney's "Wonderful World of Color," and this midcentury fetish object still brings down the house. A teaspoon or two of Mazola corn oil in the insert, heated to a sizzle by electric coil, and then the uranium--Jolly Time, that is--produce mounds of the crunchy white stuff, not to mention mounds of boomer nostalgia.

Pop It Again, Sam

Three years ago, in a fit of health consciousness, I bought a hot-air popcorn maker. It hasn't been out of the box. Hot-air corn is digital when the taste buds beg for celluloid. It's yuppie, it's new media, and Bogie wouldn't like it. For "Casablanca" corn, I coat the bottom of a 4 1/2 -quart Calphalon pot with a layer of Filippo Berio's Extra Virgin Olive Oil and a layer of Orville Redenbacher's gourmet popping corn. Once it's popped, I top it with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of melted unsalted butter and a few pinches of Camargue salt. Regrets surface somewhere after the third bowl, but by then, Bogie and Ingrid are saying goodbye, I'm in full cry, and frankly, my dear, I don't give a darn.

Fluffball Noir

It started small like any obsession. A few handfuls as a snack. Comfort food crunched during sports TV. Then, the warning signs: a cracked molar, an emergency crown. White flecks on the floor. The smell of burned kernels. Forget packaged product, I do the hard stuff in a paper bag--fluffy, no chaser. I should have hit bottom the time I let the zap go too long and smoke billowed from the microwave. Sure, flames shot out when I opened the door, but I've got to have it, no matter what the cost. Throw a handful of kernels into a double-bagged lunch sack, roll the top but leave room inside, microwave for 3 1/2 minutes, max. Go on, try it--the first one's free.

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