Dodging the Popcorn Bullet

Who needs a Starbucks?I have an entirely unironic love for movie-theater popcorn. It’s my version of a madeleine; the smell of it takes me straight back to my childhood, when my grandfather owned a second-run movie house at Bathurst and Queen, which my brother and I would visit on weekends.

And, because I have found myself a calling that requires me to visit the movies on a regular basis, I still average a bag a week. The industrial poppers do a decent enough job, though I still prefer kernels popped in the smaller, old-fashioned design that looks like a repurposed phone booth; Warner has one at their screening room, which turns me into a shameless glutton every time I’m up there.

I am, however, a purist; no butter, because that’s disgusting, and none of those new sprinklable seasonings, because you can never get the proper distribution throughout the bag and you inevitably choke on a tiny boulder of flavor two-thirds of the way down.

And I detest microwave popcorn. I don’t care how closely it approximates the real thing; it was made in a tiny little radioactive box, and I just know it’s bad for me.

Now, finally, I have proof: The New York Times reports today that a Colorado man’s fondness for microwave popcorn appears to be directly linked to his hypersensitivity pneumonitis, “a serious lung condition that until now has only been found in people working in popcorn plants.”

His doctors demanded he stop eating the stuff — or, more specifically, making it, the act of which released dangerous levels of heated diacetyl in the steam from the opened bag — thus arresting the progress of the condition.

So, to be technically correct, it wasn’t the microwave popcorn itself that sickened him, but the artificial butter flavor … which, it turns out, is known to pose a health hazard to “people working in popcorn plants.” (I really hope Michael Moore includes this on the “Sicko” DVD.)

Good old kettle-popped corn, though, remains wholesome and delicious, and I will have some tonight, just because I can.

Vindication is sweet. Well, salty, but you can see where I was going with that.