Thursday, 25 June 2009

Pop, it's done

In times of upheaval, sometimes the only thing to do is focus on small things around us. 

Like snacking on pea leaves from a friend's garden (yes they taste just like peas!).

Or remembering the delicious deconstructed lemon verbena cheesecake from an event last week.

Or popcorn.

I love popcorn. So much, in fact, that I can't believe it hasn't been mentioned here before. I went through this phase in the beginning of high school: every afternoon after I got home, I'd pop a bag of popcorn, dress it with some kind of topping, go up to my room and crank the stereo, and devour the entire bag. And I was a skinny little thing back then, barely past 100 pounds. I'm not sure where all that melted butter I added would go, but no matter the day, that bag of popcorn kept me going.

In college, I found myself edging back to that comfort tactic. With my one tiny fridge and a microwave that belonged to my roommate, the options were few. But popcorn was always one of them, and slathered with butter, salt, and yeast, again it saved me.

The yeast. Let me take a moment to talk about the yeast. In the hippieland of Cazadero, it's not that strange. I remember being very young and watching my friend's mother, Barbara, sprinkle some strange yellow flakey stuff all over our perfectly good popcorn before we settled in to watch a movie. But then I tasted it - if I had had the vocabulary at seven to swear and demand more of that sweetass yellow crack dust I would have. Instead, I paid more attention to the bowl of popcorn, and didn't remember much about the film.

The other great thing about yeast (besides being as moorish as I imagine crack to be) is that it's good for you. Full of B vitamins, nutritional yeast, as it's called, lends a spectacular savoriness and unusual flavor to popcorn, all the while giving a nutritional kick. 

Now, it's not for everyone of course. I remember several instances where international students in my third year college apartment building looked at the stuff and in German or Swedish or whatever language they happened to speak, dissed it. Which is fine. To each his own. But me? As many people as I can successfully introduce to popcorn with butter and yeast, I will. 

A word about butter. You can not skip the butter. If the yeast is the soul of the popcorn, butter is the heart. Butter brings it all together. Butter is the glue that connects yeast to kernel. Butter is beautiful.

Now that I'm no longer in college, life looks different. Problems come in different guises, days come with different challenges, but still, the popcorn is there.

My post college popcorn is a little different though. Spiked with sambal olek, it's like a grown up popcorn - fiery and salty, buttery and yeasty.

A big bowl of the stuff, maybe with a cold beer to celebrate the recent sunny weather (two whole days of sun!), is enough to to turn anyone's mood, in my opinion.

Spicy Popcorn for Grown Ups à la Lisa

1/3 cup or so popcorn
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp sambal olek
2-4 tbsp nutrional yeast
salt (optional)

1) Make your popcorn. I prefer an air popper, but a pot on the stove works too.

2) Melt the butter and the sambal olek together. In our house sans microwave, this involves a little crockery dish we stick in the oven. Stir the olek and butter together when butter is fully melted.

3) When corn is popped and butter melted, pour butter over popcorn, using hands or a spoon to distribute throughout the bowl. Sprinkle with yeast, and salt if desired. And if eaten with pea leaves, it's practically a complete meal.


  1. i am with you on this one NO DOUBT! i love going to movie, but in my opinion the real reason is the popcorn, and it's not nearly as good as at home! i've been a great experimenter of popcorn over the years and have many favorites. one time i found popcorn as a bar food in a chic bar and it was dowsed with turmeric and cayenne as well as butter and salt. oh my! i LOVE turmeric in popcorn now, but after eating a whole bowl of it i look like i've been smoking my whole life! (yellow stained fingernails! ) xo

  2. That was my mom! I am in total agreement with you on the yeast. Best stuff ever. Throughout the years, high school, college, now, whenever I make it people are like "ewww, that's gross" or "weird", but then they try it and love! And, yes, the butter is key. You must have enough to cover every kernel so that yeast sticks to each and everyone! yum! I think that I will be having popcorn at some point today! xoxo gaia

  3. Do you remember the tamari? We got the yeast to stick to the popcorn with tamari (yuk!). Now i much prefer butter. Popcorn for dinner at the Raven, with a movie of course, one of our favorite things to do.