Strange how an innocent little item in a supermarket can bring back so many memories…Any of you folks out there old enough to remember Jiffy Pop popcorn?
I think it was Saturday, this weekend, when me and my kid got finished selling her first round of Girl Scout cookies and decided to take to the local supermarket to pick up some much needed supplies.
In order to set the stage, let me preface this by saying that the supermarket is in the process of closing and the shelves are pretty empty. It’s a rather sad sight if you ask me. The store that fed my family and was the inspiration and provider of goods for many a recipe over the years was being dismantled and sold off. The people, who for the most part were very friendly and helpful, were losing their jobs. Many had been with company between 10 – 15 years and now they had little or nothing to show for their efforts. The retirement plans had gone up in smoke but yet, through it all , they managed to persevere and to still come to their jobs with the same friendly attitude. My heart goes out to them. But I digress…
Anyway, there we were wandering down the depleted aisles, looking for some basic food stuffs and some deals. The store looked like it had cleaned out its inventory and there were some items on the shelves that I had never seen before. We were going down what we affectionately called the “snack aisle” when an item I hadn’t seen in years caught my eye.
There, amongst the usual variety of potato chips, dips, pretzels and other assorted goodies was a couple of packages of Jiffy Pop popcorn. At first I couldn’t believe my eyes, I couldn’t believe they even still made the stuff! I picked the package off the shelf and started to examine it when my kid asked me, “Dad, what’s that?”
Uh, where do I begin. I tried to tell her that in the days of old, before microwave ovens and before other types of popcorn makers came to the market, popcorn was actually made on the stove and Jiffy Pop ruled the roost. I think she was a little confused.
My brain flashed back and I had a clear image of the television commercials used to promote Jiffy Pop. I almost sure it was of two kids, a boy and a girl, probably with freckles, definitely white, with this look of anticipation as they gazed at the stove where Jiffy Pop was working its magic. As the tin foil that held the kernels in the pan would rise and rise and look like it was going to explode, their eyes would get bigger and bigger and their smiles wider and wider. When the popping subsided, mom (or dad, I forget) would tear open the foil and after the steam, that wonderful steam, would clear, you were left with a view of the most delicious looking popcorn you’d ever laid your eyes on. I could almost smell the aroma emanating from the tv set. All of this managed to transpire within a few seconds.
Naturally, I think my kid was intrigued and ask if we could get some. Seeing no harm of course I said yes and figured she would want to make the stuff as soon as we got home. I guess I was granted a reprieve of sorts because when we got there, one of her friends was waiting and she went off to play.
I started putting the groceries away and the last package I grabbed was the good ‘ol Jiffy Pop. I was gonna leave out it on the counter as a reminder of something we could do together later that evening before we settled in. It was then that I had another flashback of sorts.
When I was a kid, I remember pestering my mom for quite a while trying to convince her to buy some Jiffy Pop. She made many trips to the grocery store and each time she returned, there was no Jiffy Pop to be found. My whining increased until finally, one day, she came home with the prize that I craved.. I could barely wait for dinner to end that evening and we would commence to make the delicious popcorn and I would be just like one of those kids that looked so happy on the commercials. It would be an evening to remember.
After the dishes were done and put away, the moment had arrived. My mom carefully read the directions and went to the stove.
At first, little or nothing happened. The Jiffy Pop just sat there as the flames on the gas stove licked at the bottom of the pan. I remember thinking to myself “This is taking way too long” when all of a sudden the first “pops” began to be heard. My mom started shaking the pan back and forth and before you knew it, the tin foil began to rise and the popping got louder. The smell of fresh popped popcorn began to fill the kitchen and I swear I might have been drooling.
No! Not the phone!
( A little reminder folks, I’m showing my age here, these were the days before answering machines and cell phones and when every call you got was somehow important.)
My mom left the stove and rushed off to get the phone with a reminder for me to tend to the stove and that she’d be right back. What followed was surely not one of my finer culinary moments.
In what seemed like a few seconds, the delicious smell of popcorn was replaced by the familiar smell of something burning. No, it was not like I burnt down the house or anything like that but something was definitely wrong with my coveted Jiffy Pop.
My mom, well aware of the aroma that permeated the house, came rushing into the kitchen and went right for stove. She removed the Jiffy Pop from the flames and after it cooled down for a bit, she plucked a hole in the tin foil and tore it open. I don’t think there was a speck of white or yellow left. Most of the popcorn was either charred beyond recognition or had reverted to kinda brown color that reminded me of dirt.
I never got to taste my Jiffy Pop that day and I while I might have pestered my mom to buy some more, I can’t recall it ever happening. Que Será, Será I guess.
The Jiffy Pop that I brought home the other day and left out on the kitchen counter as a reminder of something me and my kid could do together now resides somewhere deep in one of the kitchen cupboards. Hopefully, she’ll forget it’s even in the house and they’ll be no further mention of it. It’s weird though, somehow, I just can’t bring myself to just throw it away.
I guess it’s true what they say about people not being able to go back in time. Sometimes, you really shouldn’t have to.