An Offering of Popcorn

It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to cook with or for my granddaughters. Before Covid, I picked them up from school each Wednesday, and we spent the afternoon together, then prepared dinner for the family. We made their favorite meals—pasta and marinara sauce, meatloaf and roasted Brussel sprouts, burritos, and pizza. While Amelie, the now nine-year-old, loves cooking, Poppy, who is seven, usually chose to refrain from cooking but to remain in the kitchen with us.

Such sweet times, talking and laughing and learning together about seasoning and blending, tasting and adjusting. Amelie became quite astute about discerning just what was missing from a dish or what needed heightening. “I think it needs more salt,” she would say. Or, “I bet lemon juice would be good here.”

Since Covid, I’ve cooked with Amelie on Zoom quite a bit. We even made Christmas dinner together, she at her home, I in mine, my laptop propped on my counter: roasted Brussel sprouts with honey and balsamic vinegar, roasted potatoes, and roasted duck breast with fig sauce. She wasn’t crazy about the fig sauce—“too many seeds.”

But cooking on Zoom is a far cry from preparing a meal together in the same kitchen, smelling the aromas, feeling the oven’s heat, accompanied by all the sounds of cooking—the scraping, chopping, and stirring of preparing, and the sizzle of the cooking.

This weekend, we were all in Navarro together, and the sun was shining, warming the air to a bare-arm temperature. The girls and I spent an afternoon on our deck, they coloring pictures of their imagined fairyland while listening to me read a Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle book, one of my childhood favorites as well.

About an hour into our time together, they told me they were hungry. At first, I panicked. I had come up without Stephen, and as a consequence, brought less food than usual, mostly leftovers from Berkeley I felt compelled to finish. Then I remembered that we had popcorn. Hallelujah!

Never have I enjoyed popping corn so much. I stood at the stove, gently shaking the pan listening to the kernels sizzling, then popping, feeling them hitting the sides and top of the pan, beginning slowly, p o p p o p, then accelerating, pop pop pop, reaching a frenzy, poppoppoppoppoppop, then beginning to slow down, until I heard only an occasional p o p p o p.

Once corn finished popping, I dumped the fluffy white kernels into a big ceramic bowl, poured melted butter over them, shook salt onto the mound, and tossed the butter and salt throughout. Then I walked back out onto the deck, where the girls, heads down, were working on their drawings, Poppy’s of a unicorn in a forest, Amelie’s of a garden with a rainbow overhead.

For ten months we have seen each other only outside, at a distance of at least six feet. I have not been able to hug them, or hold them on my lap. But this weekend, as they dug their young hands into the popcorn I had made for them, on an afternoon during Covid, I felt close to them, and completely happy.

On A Berkeley Wall

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