Growing up, we ate dessert every single night.
Yes, you heard me: every single night of the week. The dessert options varied: ice cream was always in abundance in the freezer (with mint chocolate chip my reigning favorite), and jello was a wiggly weekly option. And then, come Saturday night, right before A Parent Trap (starring Haley Mills and Haley Mills) or A Christmas Story came on, we’d hear the whirring of the electric popcorn machine.
We’d prop our chins on the other side of the kitchen counter, where bar stools occasionally sat, and we’d place bets on what kind of popcorn we were about to eat.
“I bet we’re having Movie Popcorn, with lots and lots of butter!” Sister would shout. Exclamation point, exclamation point! I mean, does it get much more exciting than your very own bowl of Movie Popcorn, with family movie night to boot?
But when Mom reached for the brown paper grocery bag, we knew we were in for a treat. When she brought the butter and brown sugar and Karo syrup to a boil on the stove, our mouths salivated in anticipation.
Because this meant it was a caramel corn sort of night. Thank you, Baby Jesus.
Is it time, is it time? We wrestled with the pain of waiting, with the anticipation that seems to eat you alive, especially when you’re only nine and three-quarters years old.
Mom would add a few more ingredients to the simmering sauce, and then she’d ask for our assistance in the kitchen. Racing around the corner, we kids fought over the grease-stained bag, whose insides boasted popcorn with a gooey caramel coating.
Shake, shake, shake! she’d say, her eyes glistening. We’d shake the bag furiously, and then stare at the microwave clock as the minute and a half ticked down the seconds.
Shake, shake, shake! Is it done yet? Is it ready? Is it time? We’d let the microwave zap it just a minute more.
Shake, shake, shake! And just like that, it was done. The caramel corn was a new creation: drippy and gooey and perfectly coated in a homemade sort of way, we gave the bag room to breathe, dying another slow, final death in wait for the final product.
Whatever the reason, I woke up in want and in need of The Blessed Caramel Corn I ate as I child. My inner-80’s self craved the buttery sweetness, and the magical memory of the greasy paper bag and the shake shake shake that invites your whole body wiggle and squirm and smile with glee.
And let’s just be honest: I’m not sure how or why I took a 20-year hiatus from this glorious, gooey goodness.
So do yourself a favor – run – don’t walk! – to your nearest cupboard or to your neighbor’s front door or to your grocery store of choice, and fling said ingredients off the shelves. You won’t be disappointed, I promise.
What can I say? You’re welcome, forever and ever, amen,
Cara “Blessed be the name of the Caramel Corn” Meredith
The Blessed Caramel Corn, courtesy of Creative and Easy: Microwave, 1977.
2 1/2 poppers of popped corn*
1 c. brown sugar
1 cube margarine (or ahem, butter)
1/2 c. light Karo syrup
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking soda
1 t vanilla
Pop corn and pour the corn into a large brown grocery bag. The popcorn should be about 6″ deep.
Bring the next three ingredients to a boil, and continue to boil for two minutes. Add the salt, baking soda and vanilla, and pour over the corn in the bag. Shake, shake, shake. Microwave the corn in the bag for 1 1/2 minutes, shake, shake, shake, and cook another 1 1/2 minutes. Shake, shake, shake, open the bag and let stand open to dry off, shaking the bag occasionally to break popcorn apart. When dry, EAT to your caramel corn heart’s content (and/or seal in an air-tight container).
What about you? Has there been an old recipe you’ve resurrected and called your own? And, more importantly, when are you going to get off your hiney and make this blessed caramel corn?