Hot Buttered Chemical Cocktail


When I was a kid we had one of those old-school popcorn poppers where you poured in the kernels and watched them pop out fully-formed from the mouth of the machine a few minutes later. It even had one of those neat warmers on the top to melt the butter. Sure, it wasn’t the most efficient process in the world, but it was effective and even kind of entertaining.

Then microwave popcorn became all the rage and my mom dutifully filled our cupboard with family-size boxes from Costco. It was simple, quick and seemed like an awesome way to get my popcorn fix. I must have downed a million of those bags over the years. When I moved out on my own I continued the popcorn tradition, even buying those adorable single-serve bags sometimes. What could be better?

When Shawn and I moved in together I schlepped my over-sized Costco box of microwave popcorn goodness along with all my stuff and was shocked when he told me that he never ate it. “Those bags are full of toxic chemicals,” he explained patiently, as I hid them in our top cupboard. Really? Would Orville do that to me? But we were such good friends, Orville and I; we’d been through so much over the years – how could microwave popcorn, of all things, be toxic?

Because my husband is the king of our half-kitchen, microwave popcorn bags hit the road in our house and were replaced by a neat contraption that pops kernels in the microwave, but without the chemical stew that the bags contain. It’s not the giant, red, air popper that he put on our wedding registry, but he’s content with it.

And it turns out that he was right about his popcorn proclamation. All over the news today are the results of a study that reveals that microwave popcorn bags are, well, full of toxic chemicals. 

Our popcorn maker isn’t perfect. It takes a little longer than the bag stuff and it can be tricky to get the timing right, but it tastes just as good and it’s comforting to know that my snack isn’t coming with something called polyfluoroalkyl phosphate esters. Not eating that seems to make the extra effort all the more worthwhile. Still, I found myself being kind of nostalgic for my childhood popper while reading the news today – how can you not miss something with its own butter warming dish?