So we have a tradition in this family of making up a batch of popcorn on Sunday evenings. This tradition has been going on for a few generations, so we daren't break it now.
Sing it with me:
Will the Circle Be Unbroken....
Ahem. Anyway, we use one of those Whirly-Pop things, with the crank on it to keep the popcorn from burning on the bottom of the pan. To use one of those, you put in a tablespoon of oil and about a quarter-cup of kernels, and you just keep cranking while you heat it on medium-high heat until they're all popped.
The trouble is, we ran out of vegetable oil this weekend. We decided we didn't want to run by a store, because that would have been like work, and keeping the Circle Unbroken wasn't that important. So, let's check to see what we have on hand...
Could we substitute olive oil? Um, no. Olive oil on popcorn? That would just be weird. Try again.
Butter? Well, that might work; but it might scorch and give a burnt flavor to the popcorn. Try to think of something else.
Shortening? Hm. Possibility there. Still kind of weird, but we're getting closer. How about...
Eureka. My mother learned to cook from her mom, who grew up in Arkansas. And my in-laws grew up in the rural South. So we know all about bacon fat. Every time you get a package of bacon, you fry it up and pour the drippings into a can or bowl, which is kept sealed in the refrigerator. Later, when you're cooking some vegetables that are threatening to be really bland, you scoop out a tablespoon or so of the drippings (which by this point will have solidified to a shortening-like-substance) into the pan or pot. The flavor improves the vegetables greatly, but doesn't necessarily improve the waistlines of the people who eat them.
Well, I made bacon-flavored popcorn tonight. Strictly from necessity, mind you.
Best. Darn. Popcorn. Ever.
And you know what the best part of the popcorn was? I kid you not--it was the little kernels left in the bottom of the pan that never quite popped correctly: the little things that you crunch on after all the real popcorn is gone and you're trying to derive the last little modicum of pleasure from the bits in the bottom of the bowl. Well, those mostly-un-popped kernels are the ones that were sitting in the baconny goodness, soaking it up, the longest.
And the house was filled with the most wonderful aroma. All that steam from the popping corn carried the scent all through the house. I bet heaven smells like this--or it would, if God wasn't Kosher.
So what did my daughters think of it?
"Daddy, this popcorn smells funny."
Sadly, I think that enough generations have passed, that my girls can't rightly be called Daughters of the South anymore.