It seems the biggest stumbling block to sustaining any extreme food regimen ad infinitum is the fact that hardcore unbalanced eating is simply unrealistic. Particularly a program that assures me that a life without popcorn is in my very best interest. Clearly the folks at Whole30 don’t know yours truly.
It is uncertain when my affection for handfuls of salted kernels (without butter mind you, it’s never been about the butter) crossed the line from after school snack to full blown dependency. There have been bouts of intake moderation, cold turkey abstinence, and a recent small but sincere family intervention. The fact remains that I cannot seem to sever my relationship with popcorn.
My personal problem with popcorn may have started casually, unintentionally, but then I carted the problem off to college with me. Attired in all of its avocado green and glass-topped glory, my Westbend popcorn popper was as critical to my college success as the weighty typewriter with the correct-o-type ribbon I used to compose term papers.
Popcorn seemed much healthier than most other salted snack foods and in the early days, I only popped my own. When microwave popcorn was introduced, I faltered, unable to navigate the intricacies of kernels suspended in an airtight bag. There were more near misses than hits, too many smoke alarm encounters to make this method compatible with my need for the crunch. I moved on, forging a relationship with Snyder’s of Hanover who were conveniently situated a stone’s throw from Philadelphia and available at every retail food turn.
Following a dental mishap caused by an over baked pretzel, I returned to a kinder, gentler salted snack. Conveniently, this was just about the time that Trader Joe’s was popping up on the east coast. It also coincided with a stressful pastry chef job that was slowly sucking the life out of me. Enter the cheesy puff.
Light and airy, salty with just the slightest suggestion of cheese, Trader Joe’s was more than happy to fill my snack food void. There was an entire aisle devoted to all things crunchy, cello bags puffed up, seamlessly floating from shelf to shopping cart. Disinterested in anything sweet or sassy or herby, I became solely devoted to the White Cheddar Corn Puffs. Therein lies the rub.
At what point does one classify a food staple as a food problem? When that food is taken away, that’s when. Sequestered in New York’s Hudson Valley a few summers back posed a serious problem. Having torn open and consumed one bag during the car ride to Rensselaerville, I faced four long weeks sans Cheesy Puffs. With nary a Trader Joe’s in proximity to the upstate hamlet, it was a tough withdrawal to endure. Worthy dare I admit, of a segment featured on A&E’s Intervention.
I am not alone. Recently, a casual study amongst women in the food industry uncovered the revelation that popcorn (and wine, but that’s another story) is a popular food staple amongst women who toil in professional kitchens.
Just this week, a familial intervention offered renewed clarity, celebrating my problem in a happy marriage of reverse psychology and cheesy puff ingenuity. A six course tasting menu of small plates echoed recent travels, highlighting ingredients gathered from provincial farm markets, conjuring memories of globe trotting meals. Tucked within each dish was a recurring ingredient; the humble Cheesy Puff had been miraculously transformed into hearty appetizers, velvety sauces and most miraculously, a killer dessert. Who says salted caramel ice cream doesn’t benefit from a salty, ever-so-slightly cheese punctuated addition? The combination of crunch against cool was brilliant. Thanks, Alicia. To Master/Master and Blondilocks who sautéed, sauced, plated and didn’t set the house ablaze during the dessert course, four stars.
Never have popcorn demons been embraced in such exquisite fashion. With familial support, and a Trader Joe’s within running distance, I am cautiously optimistic that my little problem can be moderated in the New Year. One handful at a time.