Popcorn kernels which come in a bag, allowing you to pop them in a microwave, instead of an air popper or in a pan on the stove. Microwave popcorn is definitely easier to make than making it on the stove, which has a risk of giving you a pan full of scorched black goo if you're not careful.

This may sound a little strange, but it seems that popcorn was the first food to be microwaved deliberately. In 1946, dr. Percy Spencer, an engineer working for Raytheon, noticed that chocolate bars would easily melt when held close to a working magnetron (a by then novelty vacuum tube). So he tried putting some corn kernels near a magnetron, turn it on and.... pop! Historians tell us it took them a while to add salt and butter - you know, they were just engineers woking on the leading edge of technology...

I want popcorn and I want it now. I don't want to fuss with a pot and oil and shaking and such. I don't want to throw a prefabbed mass of corn kernels imbedded with too much salt in a brick of fake butter flavored hydrogenated vegetable oils into the microwave. I haven't been able to find my hot air popper since 1998 and there's nowhere to put it in the kitchen anyway. I want plain, untampered with popcorn, is that too much to ask for?

Not really. Popcorn doesn't need all that oil to pop in a microwave. It just needs to be popcorn kernels. It's easy: Take a quarter cup of popcorn kernels, put them in a brown paper bag (about twice the size of a standard lunch bag) or a large microwave-safe bowl. If they're in a brown bag, fold down the opening about twice so the kernels don't fly out when they start popping. If you're using a bowl, put a clean kitchen towel over the bowl, again to keep the kernels from flying out. Then microwave the corn for about 5 minutes on high power. It'll be variable depending on your microwave, just listen in for when the popping slows down, and stop it if you smell burning. But more likely, you'll have some unpopped kernels which can be added back into the next batch. As long as they're intact, they can be "repopped" without problems. This makes about six or so cups of popcorn, perfect for an afternoon snack.

If you use a bowl, it's important to use a towel rather than some sort of lid because any steam condensing on the sides of the bowl will cause the popped corn to stick like it's been glued. A towel or cloth allows the steam to escape without any such problems. I use a large glass bowl and it gets quite hot. While this means a little extra care in removing the bowl from the microwave, it also means the popcorn stays warm much longer.

Add whatever you like to the popcorn, but keep in mind that like air popped corn, dry things won't stick by themselves. You can also add things to the unpopped kernels prior to popping, but the movement of the kernels will often lead to things just falling to the bottom and clumping. Parmesan cheese is best added afterwards, for instance. Personally, I find the freshly popped corn so fragrant and tender that I eat it plain. Mmm... popcorn....

Note: Don't use a Gladware container, they melt.

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