Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Movie Night! I'll Make Popcorn Lung.

Reading the newspaper daily is a surefire way to become a killjoy. Debbie Downer wasn't necessarily a bad person, she just knew too much. With information thrown around throughout the day, one learns that almost anything enjoyable is also bad for you, wrong for the Earth, or the result of the exploitation of Chinese people. Those Barbies are "toxic." Don't "put them in your mouth." Wrestling wildlife might "kill you." "Don't burn tires for fun." But I ask you, is nothing sacred? I read today that a pulmonary specialist has released findings that suggest our lungs are in danger due to the buttery flavor fumes released by microwave popcorn. The condition is known as Popcorn Lung.
This is for real.

Apparently, the microwave popcorn industry already knew of the lung damage caused by fumes because factory workers have complained of ailments.

A quick aside: How horrible must it be to leave work everyday and have to explain to everyone you run into that you haven't just come from the movies? Or worse, every time you enter a room have to hear, "Hey, it smells like popcorn!" Did you ever notice that people can't help but say, "Smells like popcorn!" when they smell popcorn? And they're always so pleased with themselves like they've cracked some impossible case of mystery smell. (sniff sniff) "Popcorn!" Go make some popcorn, [wear a mask] and then wait for someone to come in. If they don't say "popcorn", I'll give you $100. But I digress.

This recent study focused on the consumer, after someone developed lung disease from making several bags of microwave popcorn everyday for several years. I had to read that part twice. It seems this man reeeally enjoyed the popcorn button feature on his microwave and was making bags of the stuff daily, for years. OK, so clearly, this is weird. But the poor bastard probably just loved popcorn and had no clue it was hurting him. Orville Redenbacher's respiratory system seemed fine.

Aside from being just about the most random thing I've read in recent weeks, this story is pretty annoying. Few things match the simple perfection of a movie night.
Waiting to see who says "popcorn" first--good.

Why modern medicine and research? Why did you have to ruin something so good? I hate to think that a chill Friday night will now have to include some sort of SARS guard. Or that Philip Morris will release a low tar butter-flavored cigarette with a label that reads, "These still kill, but at least you won't die fat."
I guess until all of this is straightened out, let's just stick with Junior Mints.


Anonymous said...

What kind of person eats microwaved popcorn more than once? The only time I tried it the sequence was more or less ‘humnnnnnnn. Ping! Munch munch mun…spittttttttttt phew ackackack’.

Maybe it was just me, but microwave popcorn tastes vile. More likely, it tastes just like popcorn, but usually when we’re eating popcorn we’re at the cinema and distracted from the un-flavour of our puffed corn snack by the zombies getting chainsawed on screen (‘On Golden Pond - the director’s cut’)

And correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t you make popcorn by putting corn in a pan, covering it with silver foil or something and then heating it? Obviously, this is too involved a process for some who want their popcorn NOW goddammit, hence, microwavable.

Realistically, how can home-made popcorn hope to taste as good as the snack you get at the cinema? This is lovingly prepared by the staff, who wrestle bin-bags full of the stuff off of the giant rats in the store room then empty it into the popcorn areas on the counter, where it’s kept toasty warm under hot hot hot lights. See, the general public are just not equipped to prepare popcorn to that standard.

Junior mints are, I am afraid, out - at least for junior. Today’s media manufactured food-horror story is that additives might contribute to bad behaviour in children. Additives are the latest thing to be blamed for bad behaviour in kids. Before that it was video games. Before that, being raised by wolves (although to be fair that was in a minority of cases). Parents have been quick to agree that annoying kids are not their fault. This agreement usually comes from the sort of parent with an arse the size of a bus, doing the interview outside McDs and studiously ignoring their kids going bonkers in the background.

Jess said...

Well, when you put it that way.

Here's the thing about popcorn. It's not wonderful. We get that. It's more of a salty packing material than a snack, but what are you going to do? Wreck the home that film and kernel built? For me, it's hard to enjoy a movie in a theatre with stadium seating and reclining chairs. I like the old-school theatres, with floors so sticky you could walk on the wall if you wanted, and a concession stand with the worst popcorn ever.

You're not going to make the snack any better, so I almost prefer it at it's worst. It's more fun that way. (although, try a little Sriracha on it next time. tastes like Doritos. or, just eat Doritos.) People always mention bad popcorn when they taste it, but watch them closely. They never actually stop eating it.

I was at a bar recently that had FREE popcorn. if you want to see how long people will continue to eat terrible food, put it in a funny cart on wheels, and give it to them for nothing.

I wish the article would have hit upon popcorn's more serious offense though--shell in the throat. lung disease? yea, that sounds rough. but trying to talk to someone at a bar with kernel skeleton on your pharynx is no picnic either.

Anonymous said...


I recall the day I switched from sweet to salted popcorn - no rite of passage was more profound. Go into the jungle with just a sharpened piece of fruit and return days later with scars, malaria and a panther skin in order to win your manhood? - I think not. Instead, I chose to start lining those arteries with the biggest salt deposits west of the Urals.

Eating popcorn in the dark before the flickering light of the screen is, I agree, a keystone of cinema enjoyment - moreso because it adds to the thrill of the cinema. Snack? Salty! Thirsty! Schlurp drink, repeat, feel pressure on bladder, resist urge to go to loo, repeat.

The other thing about popcorn is it appeals to the bargain-hunter in us all. One ninety nine for a bucket of snack? And I get to keep the bucket? And you get to turn to your date and ask ‘hey, have you ever seen the movie ‘Diner’? No? Oh, no reason’.

Finally, you’re right about the hazards involved. My salty nemesis is not the popped chaff but the unpopped kernel, or as I like to think of it an opportunity to develop your range of spat-out tooth enamel.

Hats off to the Americans though, who I believe put butter on their popcorn! How cool is that, it’s like sugar-coating crack! Surely the development of popcorn must be perused, I’ll have mine deep fried and served with a garnish of pork pie please!

Jess said...


Just a few footnotes on the American popcorn experience:

1) Liquid butter topping is an option, yes. Actually, in every food/restaurant establishment in the US liquid butter topping is an option --even Jamba Juice. (Ask for the Ciné Boost). If you haven't got a Jamba Juice in the UK yet, just wait.
Just you wait.

2) Popcorn at the movies is hardly a snack for the budget conscious. Movie houses in SF and NYC advertise the interest rates for a large bucket of popcorn on the marquis. I never have any idea what's playing, but 0% APR on JuJuBes is enough to get me in the door. Low-interest mortgage refinancing for the combo meals actually started this little Real Estate crisis in the States. People just love Sno-Caps and a big coke, homes be dammed.

3) Ironically, only 3 foods in America are served in buckets. Popcorn. Chicken. And Popcorn Chicken. You figure it out.

I'm afraid I've reached my lifetime quota for typing the word 'popcorn.'

Oh, and if you're not already writing lyrics for Lady Sovereign, I suggest you start.
"Deep fried and served with a garnish of pork pie please!" is a bona fide hook if ever I've heard one.

jules said...

update, update, update!


Pamplemousse said...

post again! you're missed :)