1. Corn in the form of hard yellow seeds that burst open and become soft and white when they are heated. – Merriam-Webster1
2. “What’s burning?” – Mom
Life in the parental Nut house used to be wholesome and simple.
Every Friday, my father and I would go to our favorite tiny hole-in-the-wall video rental place on Dunbar Street, and we would pick out a movie to watch that night.
We’d go home, show Mom which cinematic gem we found, have dinner, and clear the table.
Then Dad would get out the big air popper, pour in a careful measure of kernels, and flip the switch. The machine would roar to life, sending our cowardly dog into hiding, and minutes later, we’d have a giant bowl of salty, buttery bliss to crunch away at as that week’s feature film whirred away in the VCR.
It was good. Too good to last.
Because one day, my father came home excitedly brandishing a box of microwave popcorn.
“Look at this stuff, this is great! No more messing with that air popper. It’s so easy!”
Yes, it was easy.
We all know how microwave popcorn is supposed to work. You stick it in the microwave, set the timer for more minutes than you need, and then when the pops start slowing down, you stop the microwave and take it out.
My father had a tendency to overlook that last, most crucial step. He would toss it in, punch in the maximum suggested time, and then just walk away.
And they were very generous with the suggested times in those days.
“Oh god, WHAT’S BURNING?” was only uttered once in our house. Because every time after that, we knew what was burning. After you’ve experienced it once, there is no mistaking that trademark stench of carcinogens and hatred that comes from an over-nuked bag of microwave popcorn.
The stink got into everything. The couches, the curtains, the carpets2. The microwave smelled like pure death for weeks after each incident, no matter how many times we scrubbed it.
And despite repeated reminders that the popcorn was to be monitored at all times, Dad just kept forgetting. Many a bag went to the point of no return at his hands.
The garbage can accepted them all with open arms.
Give me your charred, your noxious,
Your smoking masses yearning to breathe free.
You’d think after the Great Un-Poked Potato Explosion of ’89, Mom would’ve banned Dad altogether from any unsupervised microwaving.
I took it upon myself to do some scientific testing. I planted myself in front of the microwave and I nuked bag after bag until I had come up with the absolute optimum time to get the perfect pop with no charring and as few wasted kernels as possible.
“A minute and twenty-two seconds,” I announced, holding out a bowl to my father as he watched Star Trek in the den.
“Microwave it for only a minute and twenty-two seconds and you’ll never have to rescue another bag of burning popcorn again.”
He looked suspicious. “But the bag says…”
“I’m overruling the bag. With science. One minute and twenty-two seconds.”
He shrugged. “Okay.”
And so concluded another thrilling victory for Nutty, Defender of the Maize.
Today’s blog post was brought to you by the letter P, the number 1:22, and the IsSomethingBurning? Challenge, AKA the Blogging A to Z Challenge.
1 “popcorn.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, 2015. Web. 18 April 2015.
2 I should mention that we had wall-to-wall carpet in our kitchen. Welcome to the house the 70s built.