As long as folks have been watching pictures move on a screen, they've also been doing it with their fingers stuffed in a box of popcorn.
When Hollywood goes black-tie-up for the Academy Awards on Sunday night, it's only fitting we dress up those popped kernels of corn in their Sunday best.
But popcorn predates film by a good 6,000 years, when Guatemalans learned moisture-sealed corn kernels and their starchy interiors were apt to burst into a tasty treat when heated in fat.
It was Charles Cretors who developed the commercial popcorn machine not too long before Thomas Alva Edison and company figured out how to capture movement on celluloid and project it as a film. Mass-produced popcorn and motion pictures were made for each other. Coconut oil was the popping agent of choice in old-time movie theaters. It's solid at room temperature but melts quickly like shortening. If you want to go old-school for your Oscar-viewing experience try some coconut oil.
But if you want to give your popcorn the red-carpet treatment, try spices and powdered cheeses of your choice. Savory Spice Shop, 4400 N Western Ave., offers a variety of popcorn support, including a variety pack.
If you don't have a popcorn popper, don't want to buy one and recoil at the idea of popcorn sprung to life via microwave, Popcorn Fharmacy, 7518 N May Ave, offers prepopped corn in every conceivable color and flavor. They also have popcorn receptacles and premium popping corn and can provide you with enough to fill your house “Real Genius”-style.
Want to make your popcorn flavor have a theme according to the Best Picture nominees?
For the French “Amour,” perhaps some herbes de Provence and espelette.
“Argo,” is set in Iran, but at its heart it's about Hollywood, so I'm thinking some Old-Time Movie Theater Popcorn.
The magical “Beasts of the Southern Wild” is set on an island off the shores of the Louisiana Bayou so some Cajun seasoning or butter mixed with Tabasco sauce would be appropriate.
“Django Unchained” depicts Deep South excess, so I'm thinking extra butter or perhaps just spatter it with ketchup.
“Les Miserables” calls for extra salt to illustrate the gallons of tears its fans wept whilst enduring its three hours of lyrical tragedy. The magical and majestic “Life of Pi” revolves around a voyage from India, so Hot Madras powder or Garam Masala might do the trick.
Abraham Lincoln was reputed to love gingerbread, so some ginger powder and sorghum would be a worthy addition in honor of Stephen Spielberg's “Lincoln.”
The well-rounded and wholly enjoyable “Silver Linings Playbook” is set in Philly, so perhaps some cheesy popcorn would capture the spirit.
The dim, harsh “Zero Dark Thirty” hardly did much to whet the appetite, but to keep the theme alive go with plenty of salt and pepper for this film that illustrates that black and white make gray.
Old-Time Movie Theater Popcorn
Makes 4 servings
3 tablespoons coconut oil
4 to 5 tablespoons clarified butter, instructions below
Salt to taste
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 4