Oregonian Popcorn

I come from a family of corn-poppers. I pop in vegetable oil, rarely buttering the finished product, although I do salt generously. I love it even without butter, and no butter makes cleanup easier. Here I describe each step of my corn-popping technique, explaining why I think it helps. Having used several combinations of pan and stove, I believe my approach is sound.

The pan. I recommend a dedicated corn-popping pan, say three quarts. I just can’t keep the pan clean enough for other uses. As the corn pops, oil seeps out between lid and pan, oozing down the outside and turning into a black and impenetrable coating. I simply wipe the pan free of debris with an old sponge, as with cleaning cast iron. The whole pan eventually becomes sticky, so it does get an annual trip through the dishwasher.

The oil. I use canola. Extra virgin olive oil contributes too much of its own flavor for me, although adding some to the canola is enjoyable. I’ve read that the distinctive flavor of movie theater popcorn is due to palm oil, but I’m not particularly fond of that flavor and so far haven’t tried it (although I’d like to, just to test that claim). I’ve used half bacon grease, but it somehow gets all over everything, doesn’t add much taste, and requires more cleanup, as with butter.

The corn. I like Orville Redenbacher’s yellow popcorn, because it consistently pops up into bigger, fluffier kernels than other popcorns. It’s more expensive, but so cheap per actual batch that it’s my first choice. I’ve found nothing wrong with megamart store brands. Yellow corn usually pops up bigger and fluffier than the white corn, and to me has a more intense corn flavor, but I’ve spoken to people who insist that white popcorn is superior. Obviously, it’s a matter of taste.

The technique. First, decide how much popcorn you are going to make, then add the right amount of oil. This step takes experience. I slowly pour it in until it doesn’t quite cover the pan bottom. In summer, when the oil flows freely, I stop adding just before it fills the bottom. In winter the oil is thicker, so I stop adding just past the half-way mark.

Second, add three kernels, adjust the burner to the proper setting, and put the lid on. This step also takes experience. Your pan/burner combination defines the appropriate setting, and the three pops you hear will be informative. Starting from cold, it should take a couple minutes before they pop. There may be quite a long time between pops, or they might be nearly simultaneous. Rarely, one will not pop, or will only half pop. If they pop too quickly or look small and burned when popped, your burner is too hot. A bit above medium may be the right setting.

Third, pour in the kernels. The oil will now flow like water rather than sludge. I pour until there are still a few lakes of oil visible among the kernels. Then I give the pan twelve good swirls and some back-and-forths to make sure the kernels are fully coated. I then check and add more kernels (with swirling/shaking), repeating until the kernels are glistening with oil, but there are no major lakes or rivers. Then I let er pop! If it starts pushing the lid off, just pour a bit out into your bowl, put the lid back on, and set the pan back on the burner, perhaps with a few shakes. If you get a lot of burned or unpopped kernels, you may have put in too much oil and thus too much corn. Or you may have the oil to corn ratio too low.

Go Placidly Amid Your Poison Waste

Ground means real estate, but what’s this sacred? If it involves the blessings of some mystical ([being]s) who [(listen)s] to us and/or cares what we want, the word can’t well be used non-ironically. Sacrality is a feature of material reality. Whether we agree on that or not, I think it possible that we can agree that if anything at all is sacred, one hallmark of its sacrality is its affordance to all the ability to self-actualize, to pursue humanitarian projects (those that are positive sum (i.e. win-win)), or even zero-sum, for all who are averse to the kind of positive sum social outcomes I, and for some we, envision.

One hallmark of the profane, then, is an engendering of the negative sum. Denial or withdrawal of the mentioned affordances. Deprivation of health, healthcare, wealth (hallmarks of non-profane wealth, sensu this post, yea, this blog (perhaps I should start an official glossary-like hallmark compendium), include a maximum, set at a vaguely upper-middle class level), or bodily autonomy (yes, I am talking non-misogyny here). These are thereby profane.

Profane. Sinful. Punishable. A popular sacrality is that of real estate: sacred ground. In my experience said sacrality is usually expressed in terms of mystical concepts, whether abstract or credulous. But considering the prequel, if any ground at all is sacred, then all ground is sacred. Not that pollution is wrong, but laxity in dealing with it is. Profane. Sinful. Punishable. Failure to corral pollution, wanton habitat destruction, deliberate fact denial (agricultural non-sustainability, global heating, rising fascist tendencies with substantial financial support), these are all profane. Sinful. Punishable. Ignoring them, denying them, minimizing them: profane, sinful, punishable.

The sacred requires paying what it takes to safeguard our nuclear and domestic etc. landfills, and all other endpoints of our activities of global living, our rivers, estuaries, reefs, gyres. The whole fucking atmosphere, you fucking fuckers! Fuck you! God fuck you! I am ashamed that I must emphasize that that last sentence was not non-ironic. How hard is it to stop shitting in our own living rooms? It is a shame that I must emphasize that that last sentence was a metaphor. Do you really want another sneering quip? Recycling as much as techno-economically possible, containing the remainder, minimizing pollution’s land use and leakage (solid, liquid, gas). Restoration of degraded land to higher ecological functioning. To maximize sacral land, one possible desideratum: preserve all waste, and maximize its odds for future utility or upgrading. Store ideally all your poison waste….

Some hymns have great chords and cadences, some organists present them awesomely. The ones that require you to sing the least to (or about) some god-person are the better ones. But I cannot sing even the best of them with a straight face (“That Cause Can Neither Be Lost Nor Stayed”, which has excellent chords, cadences, and melodies). In high school I could (I sang Händel and was in musicals), but I lost that ability perhaps the very minute I settled on urbanity as my milieu. On the other hand, I am not averse to the word sacred, as related above. In fact, to the extent that what I mean by the word and that what you mean by the word have a large cognitive intersection, I am totally happy with singing some kind of hymn with you. I am proud to say that that last sentence was metaphysical. Perhaps it is a bizarre elaboration to note that I am a baritone.

Shire Moss Forest

 “Mister Small” and I set forth for the Olympic Peninsula late one Seattle afternoon. We contrast somewhat: I am a tissue of impatience, Small a tissue of tardiness. For us to catch the various buses and ferries, I had to rush him, leading to his inadequately shoe-garbing, prompting blisters ’cause of all the running. Still, we got across the Sound, in time for the last bus to Brinnon, dined at Halfway House, and camped illegally at the State Park, heading up the Dosewallips early the next morning. Road hiking, packs heavy as they could be. Small insisted on spending a contingency day agonizing over his blisters, a dozen miles in by road-walking, just before the actual trailhead. He thought the delay was my fault for pushing him, except because he is such a tardy-ass, it was his fault. We were sort of adopted by some very nice people in an RV (this was essentially the end of the road for vehicles), who foisted some kind of shake-and-bake chicken on us. I didn’t really want to have any, but I did anyway. Small is quite gregarious and engaged with our new friends happily.

It’s a fine long hike up to Hayden Pass, by way of Bear Camp, where we camped but saw no bear, possibly due to the availability, and requirement to utilize, the provided bear boxes. Elsewhen I’ve camped at sites named Mosquito Creek and Deer Lake (how many Mosquito Creeks and Deer Lakes are there in the world?), which were more aptly named, wildlife-wise. The bears came the next day, as we arrived at Hayden Pass. The younger and more impatient member of our duo, I was way ahead of Small as we crested in the early afternoon. The pass opens out onto a broad grassy (sedgy? vetchy?) slope that was festooned with shiny black spheres of some kind. I soon realized that they were Black Bears, evidently gorging on grubs or tubers or something. Disturbed by my presence, some sort of lurched up and trundled downhill for a bit before halting for some more gorging.

Hayden Pass to the Elwha (not quite the headwaters) is a long, fairly regular downward grade, knee-smashing and kind of annoying when you’re getting tired and the sun is getting low and you probably got started too late because of the blisters. We camped in the dark, following a noteworthy encounter with a rather irritated solo camper (it was late, we were loud) but the next morning our travails were redeemed as we entered the magical realm.

The Elwha is the main river of Olympic National Park. The Olympics themselves are a broad expanse rather than a narrow ridge. The peak of Olympus, surrounded by similar not-quite-as-high peaks, is not a really dramatic viewpoint, or so I hear, and difficult to distinguish. With plenty of redundancy in the glacier coverage and snowpack and whatnot, a remarkably regular climate obtains. Temperate rain forest, though not quite the kind along the coast! The one river you’d want to undam if what you want is an awesomely restored salmon ecosystem. Which has been done.

One of the most awesome segments along the Elwha is what I call the Hobbit Forest. For some reason, perhaps fire, there is a large spread of forest with only old trees, the youngest at least forty years old. Hardly any shrubby undergrowth. The ground is covered with moss, so it looks like a colonnade of tree trunks springing up vertically from the smooth forest floor. Whatever the trees are, they are self-pruning. The colonnade-covering and flat (though sloped, to be sure: we were descending a river gorge) green floor and the local soundscape really conspired to form a memorable transport to the Hiking Epiphany Realm.


When I was a teen, my parents’ church (I guess it was “my” church as well, but religion never really “took” with me, except extremely briefly) held summer youth camps, and I attended one at Loon Lake in southern Oregon. We slept in tipis and went on hikes and swam, and I learned that there was at least one other person my age as nerdy as myself. Actually he was more nerdy, though we never stayed in touch (I’m terrible at that). There wasn’t a huge amount of overt biblical stuff, which was a blessing (yes, I see what I’ve done there). Southern Oregon has a characteristic resinous aroma that I have always found intoxicating, so whenever I visit there I am infused with reminders of my church camp trip (and other trips: Oregon Caves, Crater Lake, the sequoia country of southern Oregon and northern California).

On the drive there to drop me off, we stopped for a break in some town that boasted a new-agey (this was at least a decade before I myself was conversant with the term “new-age”) store that also carried comics (I was really into Marvel comics at the time; I’m even related to Jack Kirby’s favorite inker!). In there I stumbled upon a volume of the magazine Seriatim – The Journal of Ecotopia. I was pretty much already an environmentalist by then and the magazine sort of looked like like it was of that genre (I thought maybe they were alluding to “environmental utopia” but that’s not quite it). As I flipped through I slowly realized that their conceit was the idea of the Pacific Northwest seceding from the US and Canada.

Now, growing up in rural Oregon, my first reaction was to wonder if I was about to be arrested for treason. Boy was my heart beating as I squinted furtively around looking for Federal agents. Ultimately, though, as with most of my first half-century, I succumbed without much resistance to my desire for forbidden pleasures, and bought it, hiding it from my parents among some Thor, Fantastic Four, Incredible Hulk, or Tomb of Dracula. Soon thereafter I found and read Callenbach’s novel. I may even have ordered it from my local Odyssey Books, perhaps 2.5% of whose used fantasy/science fiction mass market paperback traffic ended up in my bedroom. Eventually I subscribed to the magazine after buying a few issues retail from another new-agey bookstore in a nearby somewhat larger town than my own. Seriatim was sincere (if somewhat vapid), but didn’t get enough subscribers or article submissions, or so I infer, as they failed soon after I subscribed.

Anyway, my confirmation bias towards anything remotely Ecotopian has been hyperactive ever since, for example the notion of the “bioregion” called Cascadia (which encompasses a much larger area than depicted in the novel). I love David McCloskey’s Cascadia map and although I kind of abhor the whole flag thing, I find “the Doug” attractive, even if its symbolism seems to ignore much of the intended region, with an over-limiting tricolor background. If you hope to secede (a pointless goal, I think, but ripe for fantasy-fictional thoughts) you might want to present as more unified. I often write a bit of doggerel when I have vague thoughts about vague notions, and the Doug is no exception:

The Green Goodbye

(blue: sky/water) (green: growth) (snow/cloud white)
if we’re to leave together let’s not fight
desert dryland lava shrub-steppe scrub
I want to be a member of your club

two greens? there’s space, that bottom ribbon band,
to tell the world how varied is our land
the color-combo “blue-white-green”’s a drug:
brown’s the color missing from the Doug