The Yellow Bowl

Friday, February 9, 2007

There is a special yellow bowl in my cabinet. It was handed down to me from my parents' shelves. This bowl has a lot of memories. I saw my mother use it to make a variety of foods. Cookie dough, bread mix, cakes, ice cream mix, and so many other wonderful delightful tasting edibles. The use I loved the best, was really not for cooking. Rather, in my youth, it was the container for our home's nightly family treat, popcorn.

Like most families in the '50s and '60s, we had one television. It was the family television, and it was generally to be found in what we called the "living room." There were hardly any of what we now know as "family rooms." We had the bedrooms, the kitchen, the bathroom, and then the living room. So it was there that we watched our television, together.

Just about every evening near the end of the 8 to 9 p.m., time slot, we would be treated to our evening snack of popcorn. We watched the television together, and we ate our treat together too.

My mother had a special pan she used to cook the popcorn. It was not long before I could hear the kernels begin to slowly pop. Then as she continued to shake the pan to keep the kernels from sticking, the popping became a staccato of rapid fire in a sound that is unique to popcorn.

Finally the popping would slow to the point that following a few final shakes, it was removed from the stove and immediately dumped into the famous yellow bowl. I liked to watch to see if there were any final pops that would finish. Usually there were a couple that had to complete their explosion, and I was fascinated to watch them jump in the air.

We had our own butter, and no one had told us it was bad for you back then. So the oil and butter in the pan had made the popcorn glisten and become a little sticky to the fingers. I always like the taste of the butter and the salt on the corn the best. Healthy or not, it is one of the greater pleasures that your mouth can encounter.

We each had our own smaller bowl into which we dipped out of the yellow bowl. The warm popcorn, and the wonderful aroma it emitted made me feel good even before I tasted it.

We had never heard the term "comfort food" back then, but I certainly think freshly popped corn is at the top ot that list.

We were also lucky because we grew our own popcorn.

It still amazes me to remember that small stand of popcorn at the edge of one or our fields. The flimsy short stalks held only a few small ears, but what a bountiful amount of popcorn they yielded. We could never use up all that we grew, and gave away quite a bit to family and friends.

Eating popcorn was easy. You could eat several popped kernels without even looking away from Gunsmoke or whatever show was in that 9 to 10 p.m., viewing hour.

It was only as you approached the last of the kernels that you began to look more carefully.

These days I am very careful to watch out for the partially cooked kernels we called "mollies." I have too many expensive things in my mouth from Ed Peterson to take a chance on eating any of them now. Back then it was one of the things you tried to find as you finished your bowl.

The only mollies that were worth finding were the half cooked ones. With your fingers you would swirl the last batch of seeds in the bottom of the bowl until you found just the right ones. A perfect molly would crunch easily when you took a bite. It was made even better because the seeds were covered in the remnants of the salt and butter at the bottom of the yellow bowl. The yellow bowl was actually part of a set. Many of you likely had a set like this in your home. The yellow bowl is big, measuring 10 inches in diameter.

It can easily hold a couple of gallons of liquid or more. I have the red bowl from the set too. It was I think one of the middle sized ones at a modest 7 inches across. There were two other bowls, a green and a blue. I could easily replace these bowls, but I like some of the older pieces from our kitchen of the past. We have to hang on to a few of these memories. Now days, my glass top stove would not do well at cooking stove top popcorn. Even if I had a pan like the one my mother used, it would just not work.

Like most of you, I now make microwave popcorn. It is pretty decent, but there is just not the same sense of that homemade popcorn of my youth. The butter and salt we used is surely not any more dangerous than the chemicals they put in microwave corn today.

I think I will call my attorney and have him list those two bowls on the inventory of my will. I better pass them along to one of my kids. They may not want them, but you never know.

The yellow bowl just might last a few more years, but I doubt it will ever again know the family popcorn feasts like we had in our living room. Don't throw away your favorite bowl, it is loaded with more than just popcorn. It is filled with the memories of your youth. Can you hear the popping of the corn and smell that wonderful fragrance?

I think I will just dip in right now and go back down memory lane.