Movie popcorn. It’s a one-of-a-kind thing.
As I sat in the theatre last week, munching happily away at my buttered morsels, I thought about the unique taste and aroma. There is something special about it. I like making popcorn at home, but it never tastes the same as the stuff at the theatre.
I didn’t think there was a secret ingredient in movie popcorn to make me like it more. Apparently, according to the folks at Mash.com and a listing on Amazon, I am mistaken. A fine flaked salt with “just the right amount of artificial flavour and colour” to give the kernels an appealing character is what gets us hooked, or so they say.
Ah well, so much for that. Since this is my one big junk food indulgence, I don’t care what they say. I’m not giving up my popcorn at the movies.
Why is it that some foods can have a unique effect on us? The food you have on vacation always tastes better than the same thing had at home. Your mom’s iconic classic – hash brown casserole or mac n’ cheese or peach chicken – is hard to duplicate exactly even if you have the recipe. Turkey at Christmas tastes especially good. (Or insert whatever your favourite special-occasion meal happens to be, of course.)
I don’t believe there is one reason that covers all these situations, but I do believe that our faith in the experience does work for all of them. Our memories build upon each other, strengthening the power of the flavours.
Each year you have that turkey it becomes a more solid icon - unless the experience went sideways, in which case the attachment flips and becomes negative. This is what happens to those of us who now swear off a certain spirit or sweet or other indulgence. (I can have one margarita to be polite, but tequila shots are something I would really rather not partake in. Thankfully that was before social media was a thing.)
Sometimes, the iconic food and drink experiences are a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. Then the memory may lock them into our psyche as special. I remember my hubbie once got a request to host a cooking class for a couple who wanted to learn how to make paella, “just like the one they had in Spain.”
He politely declined to take the job, saying, “I don’t want to be the chef who ruins paella for you. It is not my specialty, but even if it was, I wouldn’t want to teach you this dish. There is no way I can duplicate the experience you had in Spain, and that’s part of the taste you remember.”
Maybe I’m just getting old and wistful, but I am completely fine with not being able to repeat everything. I know in today’s world we can recreate all kinds of things with technology, and ship things or have them delivered in ways like never before. But Skip the Dishes isn’t the solution for every situation.
I have the special pan my dad used, but I have stopped trying to recreate the kind of fried egg he would make me as breakfast before basketball practice.
My movie popcorn may be a bit of chemical wizardry, but some things deserve to be elusively special. It helps to seal in the flavours of the memory.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.