Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Shaken not Stirred

The kids have school off for Chanuka which turned out to be useful for me. I am under doctor's orders not to pick anything up above a certain weight and I wanted to buy a sack of potatoes. Chanuka means potato latkes (pancakes).

I brought Asher along to the store to pick up the sack of potatoes, put it in my shopping cart, lift it onto the cashier's conveyer belt, put it back in the cart, and then transfer it to the little cart I use to shlep the groceries home. Kids are useful that way...Besides, I knew he was dying to spend some alone time with me. He is of an age where we need to find excuses to spend time together.

It was nice having him along. He asked me to buy him stuff at the store, but that's par for the course. I had allowed for that in my budget.

The only catch was that the store was out of microwave popcorn. I'd wanted to stock up because the kids are home for the week and they enjoy making popcorn and watching movies. Asher and I looked up and down all the aisles twice and didn't find any. I said, "Well, maybe I'll just have to make popcorn from scratch."

Asher turned a quizzical face to me and said, "How do you MAKE popcorn?"

"OMG," thought I. "What had I wrought? Did I actually have a child who didn't know how popcorn was made??"

That settled the matter right there and then: I was going to buy and make popcorn. This was quite clearly a necessary aspect of my son's education.

You see, in the days before microwaves, I was actually the popcorn queen. I used to make a kilo of the stuff every single Friday. This was the family treat for Shabbes. It was filling, crunchy, satisfying, and most of all: inexpensive.

We had a lot of kids and deemed Shabbes treats an important part of their Jewish education. We wanted our kids to love Shabbes. Popcorn served us very well as a way to make our kids feel the joy of the day without us having to spend a fortune.

Making popcorn had been a part of my week for so many years that I was shocked to discover that Asher didn't have any recollection of homemade popcorn in his memory bank. But you see, it's like I raised more than one generation of children. My eldest turns 31 tonight. Asher is 11. My daughter's memories of childhood are by nature, going to be vastly different than those of Asher.

Still, I was appalled that he really didn't know how real popcorn was made. It was like growing up in the city and thinking that milk came from the supermarket rather than from cows. It was akin to forgetting how to play with Lego because of spending too much time on the computer. It seemed my duty as a parent to show Asher that popcorn can be made with love by a mom.

So even though it was the last thing I needed to add to my to-do list for today, I bought a bag of popcorn. We brought it home and I showed Asher how to check the kernels for signs of infestation as per Jewish law. Then I got out my big heavy pot and showed him how I do the popcorn thing. It involves a lot of heavy-duty shaking. The heavy pot and the shaking: those are the two big secrets to popcorn making.

I made so much popcorn that it filled a large plastic dish basin. The kids were amazed at how much better it tasted than the microwave stuff they're used to eating. And I cooked it up in no time flat.

On Chanuka, the custom is to eat foods fried in oil, to commemorate the miracle of a small amount of oil lasting 8 days; the length of time it took to get more pure olive oil to light the Temple Menorah. It seemed fitting that in addition to potato pancakes and jelly doughnuts, the Epsteins also had low-tech popcorn, cooked in a pot with canola oil. Much more fitting than a cellophane wrapped bag you zap with microwaves.

Chappy Chanuka!

1 comment:

  1. Everybody knows that popcorn grows on the Popcorn tree!