Fridays used to mean a marathon night in front of the TV with my dad in his arm chair and me sprawled out on the living room floor. We’d start out on ABC with the TGIF lineup — Family Matters, Step By Step, Boy Meets World, Dinosaurs (briefly), Sabrina the Teenage Witch — and then click over to CBS for more “grown up” shows — Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, Walker Texas Ranger, and Early Edition. I had the biggest crush on Kyle Chandler (Early Edition), which made sitting through Walker Texas Ranger totally worth it.
Of course, it wouldn’t have been Friday night without popcorn and it wouldn’t have been popcorn without a stove-top popper. Sure, we had an air popper, but that wasn’t “real” popcorn. (Don’t get me started on microwave popcorn.) After the second show, my dad would rush into the kitchen and clatter around during the commercial break. He would emerge during the opening credits of the third show with a heaping bowl of popcorn and two Cokes.
Naturally, I thought I would inherit the popcorn popper when we packed up my childhood home and divvied up the bounty. Somehow, the fact that I didn’t have a kitchen at the time made my siblings think they could walk off with the popper without a peep from me. My brother wound up with it even though he didn’t even know how to use the stupid thing! After hearing me rant about this for years, my dad gave me an Atom Popper for Christmas. He found it in a thrift store, complete with its original packaging, but you can order one online.
Here’s how it works:
Put the popper on a burner and turn the heat on to medium..
Put some Crisco in the popper. Butter flavored is best, but regular will do. I never measure the oil — I just put in enough to cover the bottom of the popper in 1/4″ – 1/2″ of oil (the directions say 3 Tb).
Put in one popcorn kernel. When it pops, the oil is hot enough to add the rest of the kernels. The oil should coat the kernels, but they shouldn’t be submerged (the directions say 1/2 cup).
Put the lid on the popper. While you wait, melt some butter in the microwave (2 Tb or more). Listen to the popcorn. When there are about 3 seconds between pops, take the popper off the stove.
Take the lid off the popper immediately so that the steam doesn’t build up and make your popcorn tough. Pour the butter over the popcorn, add some salt, stir it up, and enjoy!