Popcorn smells of movie theaters. It smells of excitement and joy and simple pleasure.
These days I seem to prefer watching movies at home. Especially the desi movies. For all the desi movies I have watched seem to follow a few unwritten rules:
(i) The movie should only be aired on the one weekend when it is really difficult to watch it;
(ii) All desi movies should be aired in theaters which are in the seediest part of town. You should double-check whether you have locked your car, and worry through the movie whether it will remain there when you return. Unless, you have a Japanese car. Then, you don’t need to worry. This just shows why all desis should buy Japanese cars.
(iii) The theater may be half-empty, but irrespective of where you sit, the seat behind you will always get filled. If you are in the last row, someone will sit right next to you even if the rest of the theater is empty.
(iv) Movies are not supposed to be watched in silence. You should always do one of the following things while watching a movie –
(a) Ask your neighbor loudly what the actor just said.
(b) Give your companion a running translation of the movie, or your critique of every scene.
(c) Bring your children and have them construct alternate screenplays. You can have wide ranging discussions with your children on matters ranging from Bollywood to philosophy, and how things are not what they seem. But you should not talk loudly, you should whisper. Your stage whispers will carry right across the theater, but you are, you see, whispering.
(d) If your children are too young to talk, that’s fine – as long as they can bawl. Why spend good money on babysitters when you are going to be among desis,bring your bawling baby by all means. Bring them in when they are really hungry, so they can start bawling as soon as the screen darkens and the movie starts. Try shushing them (in really loud tones) so everyone knows you are trying their best. But don’t feed them, or they might quieten down.
(e) Wear copious quantities of some awful perfume, or hair oil. Eat garlic just before you step out of the house. Preferably don’t wash for a few days before the movie.
All these efforts on the part of my fellow movie-goers brings in a certain ambience. I am not sure what it reminds them of, but it reminds me of my couch and why I should never have left it. So are you surprised that I have decided not to watch Indian movies in theaters any more?
When I watch a movie at home, the screen is much smaller, the sound effects may just not be the same, and the audience will certainly not jeer or make catcalls. But the seats are much more comfortable, and I am in control – I can pause the movie to look again at a particular scene, or I can decrease the volume when it gets too loud. And no one behind me is going to tell me how it all ends.
But there’s something missing – the popcorn. I know there is always microwave popcorn, but you know it is not the real thing. It never pops perfectly, there are too many kernels, and the taste is just not the same as fresh popcorn.
Worse, microwave popcorn, it turns out, is not even good for you because of all the diacetyl in it (the chemical that gives you that buttery popcorn smell) and you can get lung disorders if you inhale too much of it. So what are they telling me, I can eat popcorn, but I should not smell it? Perhaps I should hold my nose then, as if I am walking along the Cooum/Musi/Ulsoor Lake?
Then there are the popcorn bags you get in stores. One look at these bags and I know they are clearly meant as offerings for Bhima or Ghatothkacha. The next time your friendly neighborhood demon (or Chambal dacoit) demands offerings of food, don’t bother sending in cartloads of rice. Just buy him a dozen of these popcorn bags, they should keep him fed for two weeks atleast.
These bags also seem to contain too much salt and other unpronounceable chemicals that I really don’t need. I love getting things for free, but I am not too sure my love extends to these chemicals.
Then there are popcorn poppers – made rather infamous by a certain Presidential candidate who shall remain nameless. I can never think of popcorn poppers the same way again. In any case, do I really need another appliance to add to the already crowded countertop?
So this weekend, I decided to make my own microwave popcorn. I did not start with growing my own corn, though I would have really liked to. But after detailed calculations, I realized that the amount of corn I needed could not be grown in flowerpots.
Here is how I went about doing it – I bought popcorn kernels that you can get in any supermarket. You even have a choice of white and yellow popcorn kernels, depending on how you like your popcorn to look.
Then I bought brown paper bags – lunch bags.
Two small steps for me, one giant leap for my waistline.
Microwave Popcorn Recipe
Take the popcorn kernels in a bowl and add a spoon (or less) of butter or any vegetable oil of your choice to the kernels. Add salt to taste. If you like, add chilli powder or any curry powder of your choice. Mix it all up so every kernel is coated.
Pour the mixture into the brown paper bag. When I searched online, everyone assured me that I could staple the bag and it would be quite safe in the microwave. Apparently, since a staple is a really small piece of metal, it does not spark in the microwave.
But I played it safe and used a wooden toothpick to close the bag. I folded the edge of the bag once and then stuck the toothpick into it.
Now microwave this bag on high power for 3 to 5 minutes. You will know it’s done when the pops start getting really infrequent, say 5 seconds between pops.
Take the bag out and open it up away from your face (so you don’t get all the steam). Let it rest for a minute and once the steam has escaped, you can peer into the bag.
I am not, repeat not, responsible for any injuries that may result from whooping with joy, dancing around the kitchen, or trying to gobble down three mouthfuls of popcorn at a time.
I forgot to mention one other purchase you need to make – jeans two sizes too large. Believe me, once you have tried out this recipe, you will need them!