May 14th, 2007

Can You Smell That Smell?

The breakroom on my floor vents directly into my office: right over my head, in fact. I smell every cup of oatmeal, every piece of toast, every bit of re-heated anything. Mostly this is fine, or at least acceptable as no one has yet to reheat liver.

But the one thing I hate, that I cannot abide, that causes a visceral revulsion through and through is what is currently wafting through the vent:

Microwave popcorn, with heavy artificial butterlike flavor.

I’m retching. There is something about the smell of microwave popcorn that just makes me heave. I would outlaw the stuff if I could. Or at least ban it from public access microwave ovens. I think it makes for worse air pollution than cigarette smoking.

Don’t misunderstand me, please. I think that popcorn is one of the major food groups, right up there with fried poultry skin, coffee, chocolate and liquor. But I mean real popcorn. Popped in oil over high heat. Personally, I like to use olive oil, and I once used bacon grease after reading in some White Trash Cookbook or another that bacon grease rendered popcorn ineffably delicious. It does, but I will never be able to eat it again. I could hear my arteries seizing up over the crunching.

I also miss the popcorn of my movie-going youth, when it was popped in palm oil, and real butter could be poured over it. I have seen solid coconut oil in the health food store, but can’t quit bring myself to purchase it, having a somewhat hazy memory of the reason movie theaters don’t use it any more is because it’s even worse for you than bacon grease. Probably explains why it tastes so good, too.

ADDED MAY 17, from GOURMET WEEKLY e-newsletter:


California Assemblywoman Sally Lieber, author of a bill to ban diacetyl, which gives microwave popcorn a faux buttery flavor but is suspected of causing a life-threatening lung disease in workers who handle it, speaking to The New York Times: “It’s not like we’re talking about a potential flaw in the polio vaccine. We are talking about a potentially devastating disease caused by buttering flavor. And there are alternatives out there. Including butter.”