Holiday Cheer

Food blogging has sort of jumped the shark, hasn’t it? Has anyone else noticed this? The concept that “when things I like become popular, they are ruined” has never felt truer to me than it does lately, and I think it was therapeutic (and honest?) for me to bow out until I could come back to this with a purer intent. That’s not to say that being mindful of metrics or comments or ad revenue is dishonest, it was just becoming apparent that these ignoble pursuits had been my impetus for food writing for too long, and I felt it cheapened what I was attempting to do here. Which is supposed to be making crass food look good by shooting it with a moderately-priced macro lens and then waxing pornographic about the ingredients, the process and the result. I can’t let others, especially the plebian food blog machina, define my success.

I’ve also been struggling a lot lately with identifying my own voice as a writer. When I look back at my old blog entries I’m really taken with how uninhibited and loose I was, how little I cared about what anyone thought, and how certain I was that no one was even paying attention. Now that I’m toying with the idea of making something of this (besides just throwing away my writing on the inundated, self-indulgent medium of the food blog), I suppose I feel like I have to step my game up, or take on some level of professionalism that is, let’s face it (those of you who have been paying attention), completely uncharacteristic of me.

So let’s just shitcan all of that, then, shall we? Here’s to lowering the bar.

Since it has been an awfully long while, and everyone is on vacation and not even reading blogs right now (and I assume there is a fair amount of blog fatigue from the epic circle-jerk shillfest that was Project Food Blog), I guess I’ll just bring out a little trifling thing: the popcorn ball. That is, it would have been a popcorn ball had I had more than 20 minutes to make them and try to feed myself something more substantial than candy before my 1 year-old woke mewling and cackling from his nap. So why don’t I call it something really obnoxious and say it’s a deconstructed popcorn ball.

When you’re finished barfing and eye-rolling, let’s begin by popping some popcorn. You can go Luddite and do it on the stove top, but why would you. You can get a popcorn popper for like, 15 bucks. When you’re making any amount more than 2 cups of popcorn, it’s going to be a great time-saver. So let’s just forget all that back-to-the-land hippie bullshit and be honest with ourselves, hm? Saving time is a wonderful thing. You need to pop around 12 cups of popcorn, so add 1/2c of kernels to your popper and let it rip.

Okay, don’t freak out, but this recipe contains corn syrup. GASP!  Guess what? It’s not poisonous. Yeah, I said it. Corn syrup is cheap and ubiquitous, and left to its own devices it will turn your kids into a bunch of diabetic little fatasses, but how about this: just don’t let them substitute soda pop for water, feed them mostly home-cooked food and make them run around outside once in awhile and everything will be just fine. A popcorn ball during the holidays is not the problem. Seriously.

You need to use corn syrup because it’s made primarily of glucose. You could use glucose syrup instead, I guess. It prevents the candy from going all hard crack, and it tastes good. This is science, people. Melt together 1/2 c of corn syrup, 1 c sugar, 1/4 c butter and 1/2 tsp salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir constantly for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in 1 tsp of vanilla and 1/2 tsp of baking soda.

Toss the popcorn together with a handful of dried cranberries, a handful of 5 spice candied pecans (this is a good and fast recipe) and then mix in the gooey syrup until it’s all evenly distributed. Okay, now’s where you either put two greased plastic bags on your hands and start forming tedious balls, or you do like I did and just spread the whole mess out on a Silpat or some parchment and let it firm up a bit. Then, for the pièce de résistance, drizzle with melted dark chocolate (I used feel-good Theo’s single-origin, Costa Rican 91% cacao chocolate mixed with bittersweet chocolate chips). When the chocolate hardens, break the popcorn confection into rough hunks and either bag them up as gifts or just stand over the sink and shovel them into your Rumplemintz-addled face.

See y’all next year.