In the evening, when I’m watching sports in our living room and my wife and our 22-year-old daughter Emma are watching season 27 of some show on some streaming service I’ve never heard of, Emma will sometimes take a break to make popcorn.

Then, when it’s done, Emma will scoop some into a small bowl and bring the bowl into the living room and hand it to me.

And so the student has become the master.

See, I taught Emma how to make popcorn. Just as my dad taught me how to make popcorn.

I should be clear here and point out that unlike some people (and you know who you are) when we make popcorn we don’t just grab a bag, toss it in a microwave, hit a button, wait until the microwave stops and then pull out the bag which is half full of popcorn and half full of burned popcorn.

Not to be judgy here, but I think microwave popcorn is of the devil.

Want to know a sure way to tell microwave popcorn is not real popcorn? On most microwaves, the popcorn setting reads like this, “pop corn”.

That’s right. Pop corn.

No, the way my dad taught me to make popcorn and the way I taught Emma to make popcorn requires a little more work.

I mean, it’s not like coal mining or working in the oil fields but it does require a little work.

First, you pull out your special popcorn popping skillet, set it on a burner on the stovetop and turn the burner on to medium to medium high heat. You want the burner to be hot enough to pop the corn but not so hot that it burns the corn.

By the way, if you don’t yet have a special popcorn popping skillet, don’t worry, you soon will.

Trust me.

You then put about 2 tablespoons of oil into the pan and drop three or four kernels of corn in the heating oil. When the kernels pops, add a half-cup more kernels, then (and this is important) put a lid on the skillet and take it off the burner for 30 seconds.

You then put the skillet back on the burner and wait for the corn to start popping. When it does give it an occasional shake until the corn stops popping.

That’s it. That’s the basic popcorn recipe.

It is, however, a recipe that has evolved a bit over the years. For example, when my dad made his popcorn, he would use butter instead of oil. Later, I switched the butter out for oil because I thought the butter sometimes would burn.

Also, the trick of taking the skillet off the burner for 30 seconds was passed onto me, years ago, by a nice guy who used to read my newspaper column.

It is one of the greatest popcorn popping hacks I have ever come across. It almost completely eliminates the dreaded “bad batch” of popped corn. I don’t know how, or why, I just know it does.

When I first taught Emma how to make popcorn, she would sort of half pay attention to what I was saying. Mainly, Emma humored me so I would get on with the popping of the corn.

But as Emma got older, she realized if she paid attention, she eventually would be able to pop her own popcorn and not rely on me.

That’s right. She wanted to eliminate the middleman.

But Emma didn’t always want to eliminate the middleman. If she, for example, had friends over and didn’t want to pull herself away from whatever the important topic of the evening was, she would ask if I would be willing to pop the corn.

And I always was.

After Emma went off to college, her popcorn-making skills made her very popular with her roommates something I’m sure would make my dad happy.

I should point out here that over the years Emma has added her own twist to our popcorn recipe.

Her twist involves the salt/butter/popcorn distribution formula.

Rather than just pour all of the popcorn in the skilled directly into the popcorn bowl, add the salt and melted butter and stir it all together Emma decided to subdivide the formula.

A bowl about 1/3 full of popcorn with butter being poured on top.
This is step # 1 in Emma’s salt/butter/popcorn distribution formula. By the way, Emma told me if any part of her showed up in these pictures she would kill me. We have a very close relationship.

Emma adds about 1/3 of the popcorn to the bowl, tops it with salt and butter and mixes it up. She then repeats the process two more times resulting in a more evenly salt/butter/popcorn distribution.

The bowl of is now about half full of popcorn and more butter is being poured into the bowl
This is step two. As you can see the salt/butter/popcorn ratio is perfect.

When Emma first explained her new formula I almost cried.

Relax. I said, “almost”.

The finished product. A full bowl of corn with the salt butter and popcorn ratio set at perfect.
And this is the finished product. I’m not crying. You are.

Because of the Trump virus, Emma is doing much of her graduate school work online and, for now, only has to be at her workplace in Kansas City on Thursdays through Saturdays, Emma will be home a bit more often at least until sometime in January. As a result, there has been (and will be) much popping of corn in the house by Emma.

And I’m OK with that.

A couple of weeks ago, I was in the living room watching the Kansas City Chiefs play the Oakland/Los Angles/Oakland/ Las Vegas Raiders. During the game, Emma walking into the living room and handed me a bowl of freshly popped popcorn.

“Here,” Emma said. “I thought you could use this.”

I was touched by Emma’s generous act.

“Thank you, very much,” I said. “This is nice.”

“Yeah, well,” Emma said. “I thought it might keep you from screaming at the TV and scaring the dog for a while.”


Oh well. At least I got a bowl of popcorn.