If At First You Don’t Succeed Pop, Pop Again

I had such an outpouring of comments in favor of stovetop popcorn after I wrote about how difficult it was to make that I couldn’t help but come to a rather unpleasant conclusion afterwards.

It must have been “operator error.”

Case in point: You are CRAP at stovetop popcorn, wrote PlaneJaner, whose blog is one of my favorites despite the dis. When I replied that it might have been my fault, she responded again – in all caps this time – indicating that it was, indeed, all my fault. Talk about a woman who calls ’em like she sees ’em. Plenty of others told me how much more superior stovetop popcorn is to microwave popcorn, and gave me plenty of tips on making it just right.

Being a person who never quits…wait, that’s not true…well, anyway, after receiving so much positive feedback, I decided to make a second attempt at stovetop popcorn one day last week. So, Friday night I once again hauled out the frying pan, popcorn kernels (which I had very nearly tossed into the trash following my last disastrous attempt but, fortunately, had hung onto), oil, salt, and butter.

Stovetop popcorn: it's the shizzle. (Courtesy of thecookingphotographer.com)

“I’m going to make you my bitch,” I said out loud. This might strike you as odd, but it shouldn’t. I always talk to inanimate objects when I’m alone. And, let’s face it, the unpopped popcorn had to be put in its place, so a little verbal smackdown was in order.

I decided to read the back of the bag this time, rather than follow that so-called recipe for “the perfect stovetop popcorn” which turned out to be anything but, plus utilize the tips and techniques my fellow bloggers and readers shared with me. Stage one called for a scant two tablespoons of oil on the bottom of the pan instead of the veritable sea of grease I’d used last time. I was instructed to add three unpopped kernels, turn the heat to medium high, put the lid on, and wait. When the first kernel popped, I was to add 1/3 cup of kernels to the mix.

Since it took some 40 minutes for the popcorn last time, I assumed I’d have another long wait ahead of me, but before I could even begin to work up a bad mood over what was sure to be another failed attempt, I was greeted to a most glorious and unexpected sight and sound.

A kernel had popped.

So I dumped the rest of the kernels in, and they came to life almost immediately. I shook the pan occasionally as suggested, popped the lid open once to let out a quick burst of steam, and – voila! – had a perfectly full pan of popcorn, with nary an unpopped kernel to be found.

I still had doubts about the finished product, but one bite erased those. The popcorn was, in a word, delicious. It wasn’t greasy or burned like my last batch, but instead turned out light and golden and fluffy. A little bit of melted butter, a dash of salt, and I experienced popcorn nirvana.

And now, of course, I can never go back to microwave popcorn. PlaneJaner was right. Stovetop really is “the shizzle.”

To top it off, even the movie I watched was better. Netflix sent me this little film called It’s Kind Of A Funny Story. Other than Zach Galafianakis, there were no big stars. It was one of those indie dramedies that I seem to really enjoy, about a teenage boy who almost commits suicide but checks himself into a mental hospital instead. LMAO!!! I know, right?!

No, but seriously. It was good.

The rest of the weekend was kid-free and cool and showery, so I didn’t do all that much. Ran some errands. Waged a fierce battle with the ex over e-mail. Made homemade lumpia and fried rice. Probably the highlight was creating a homemade mashup on Sunday.

About a year ago, I heard this great song on the local alternative radio station. It was a mashup of Coldplay’s “The Scientist” and Extreme’s “More Than Words.” Two great songs, and mixing them together turned them into one great song. Way to go, Mighty Mike! And then Glee (which I’ll admit to watching as a guilty pleasure) had an episode this season that featured mashups and I started thinking, hey, it would be really cool if I could make one of those. Well, my Mac came preloaded with this great music software application called GarageBand that does everything from teaching you how to play guitar to allowing you to record tracks and create mixes.

To record a mashup, you need an a-capella vocal track and an instrumental track. The goal is to take two distinctly different songs and sync them together so that you have a fresh new mix. It’s a ton of fun and a great way to get creative. I took Janis Joplin’s vocals and Queen’s instrumental and created a song I’m calling We Will Rock Your Mercedes Benz. Check it out if you’d like!


I guess I’ll have to add DJ to my resume now. In addition to writer, ghost hunter, Portland food blogger, stovetop popcorn aficionado…


Published by Mark Petruska

I'm a professional writer and editor living my best life in south central Wisconsin.

26 thoughts on “If At First You Don’t Succeed Pop, Pop Again

    (sorry–drawing on my “Finding Nemo” days…)
    I am so happy you tried again–this weekend, we had two nights in a row of this deliciousness (I’d switched to air-popped–which is like eating ghost poop) and the kids and I were SO happy–I’d say it was your FAIL that made me want it again so, so much.

    glad you loved it, I told you so, and keep up the good work on your DJ skillz.



    1. Well, it was your initial comment that spurred me on to greater popcorn heights in the first place. The least I could do was give you a shout-out! And I’m glad your family is off the ghost poop now. Man, what’s the point in that?


  2. I’m so glad I brought yummy organic kernels with me to Guam; it’s popcorn time tonight! Going to rent movies, too, and I’d been checking that one out at the store, so it’s a double win.

    Congrats. I imagine you feel like I did the first time I made rice successfully on the stovetop.



    1. Ahh…I actually pride myself on my stovetop rice skills. I suppose I owe this to the fact that I was married to a half-Filipino/half-Hispanic woman. Rice making skills were in her blood and she passed them on to me.

      Hope you have your Hot Tamales and brewers yeast ready!


      1. And that’s where your lumpia talent comes from I’m sure. I’ve gotten quite accustomed to perfect rice on this island!

        Tonight I think the popcorn is all about the furikake, although I’m getting more local honey today, so that might have to be in play. Sticky!!


  3. ““I’m going to make you my bitch,” I said out loud. ”

    HAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Mark, that made me HOWL!

    A BIG congrats to you on successfully making stovetop popcorn – you GO, boy!

    Loved the Queen/Joplin mix!


  4. Well Mark, now that you are a popcorn aficionado, you need to experiment with different toppings, like Lawry’s seasoning salt, parmesean cheese, etc…

    Congrats on making the popcorn your bitch!! LOL


  5. Congrats! If you ever need to cut down on fat, though (or just don’t want to wash the pot — that was what I always hated after making popcorn on the stove top), try finding one of those vented things to do it in the microwave. It’s fresh, hot, no chemicals, and — best part — no pot to wash after, just wipe out the popper (well, I usually just blow to dislodge any spare shells or broken off bits clinging to the side). Here’s a link I found to one on line for a whole $10.95: http://www.cooking.com/products/shprodde.asp?SKU=129205


      1. I’ve answered to jev, JV, jan, Janet, and hey you. Before folks started dying, in my family we had two Janets, a Jane, a Joan, two Jean(ne)s, and a James. I sort of got used to answering to anything beginning with a “j”. And, of course, in the neighborhood I grew up in, by the time I was in my teens, any female under 70 got used to being addressed by “Mira, linda, honey” — usually in that order 🙂


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