From maize to MON-810 (a transgenic strain banned in France), corn has massively evolved in America. Over thousands of years of domestication, maize has been selectively bred from a leafy grass with edible seeds to a genetically modified giant. (Cob length alone at least tripled.) Today, an estimated 85% of American corn is genetically modified for higher yields and disease resistance; of the total, about a third is used for ethanol and half fed to beef cattle, with the remainder processed to become sweeteners. Therefore, I am grateful for popcorn, which has miraculously beat the un-delicious odds and ended up on my table.
Popcorn has been enjoyed in America for at least 5,600 years—a timeless old New World food. My mom says it is a health food; it is high in fiber and low in fat, and provides trace minerals like magnesium, phosphorus, and iron. Although pre-packaged, microwavable, or movie popcorn has more saturated fat than a Big Mac, the air-popped variety can be tasty and nutritious.
Sarah Trautman is excited to return to Carleton College, snow or no snow, as a junior English major this winter. She is relearning everything her mother taught her about cooking. @sarah_trautman
Stove Top Popcorn
1-2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
Popcorn kernels—one ounce of kernels (2/3 of a shot glass) becomes 1 quart (a large Nalgene) popped!
For toppings, pick a pair:
Olive oil and grated parmesan cheese
Salt and honey
Salt and balsamic vinegar
Just barely cover the bottom of a medium sized saucepan with oil. (So that you have to tip the pan to make the oil cover the bottom.) Turn the stove on medium-hot.
When you (stand back, and) flick water into the oil, and it “spits,” the oil is hot enough.
Standing back, pour the kernels into the saucepan. Generally, you do not want more than a single layer of kernels in the saucepan, or the pan will overflow. Cover the pan with a lid.
You will hear the popcorn pop! When the pops become less frequent, with a couple seconds in between pops, you can take the popcorn off the stove.
For parmesan and olive oil, first coat lightly in olive oil, and then mix in parmesan. The parmesan should stick to the olive oil.
For honey and salt, first salt the popcorn. Then dip the popcorn in honey as you eat.
For salt and balsamic, first salt the popcorn. Then carefully, very sparingly sprinkle balsamic onto the popcorn—the popcorn will “fizzle” and get soggy if you over-vinegar the popcorn! Dipping the popcorn in vinegar may be safer!