I fell in love with popcorn when I was a child. In spite of being culinary challenged, my mother did make a mean bowl of popcorn. I loved to badger her to make a bowl. My favorite trick was to wait until she was on the phone and mime out what I wanted. Between the phone in one hand, a cigarette in the other and talking to her friend with the phone wedged between her head and shoulder, whatever gesture she made I would naturally interpret as a go-ahead. “But when you pointed the cigarette at me and exhaled smoke, I thought that meant yes.” More often than not she agreed. Boom! I would race around the kitchen, pulling out the large soup pot, small saucepan, butter, oil and the bag of popcorn. Under her strict supervision, I would pour 3 TBLs of oil into the pot. When the oil started to shimmer, I would toss in a test kernel (my favorite part), wait until it pops…, toss in the rest of the popcorn, cover, shake, and when the popping stops, dump it into a bowl, add some melted butter and salt and you have yourself a party. And the best part, the very best part, were the un-popped kernels. They had one job; to pop. Not complicated, it’s actually your name. John Wheelwright makes wheels, William Taylor makes clothes, popcorn is corn that is supposed to explode. But sadly, for some reason, known only to them, they failed in their mission. Well, lucky for the un-popped kernels, there are people, who love them. I’ve loved anything crispy or crunchy ever since I was a kid so, unpopped kernels, lollipops, and fireballs were the best.
My mother and I would fight over them. First off the partially cooked ones were always first to go. Then we would actually divide up the remaining un-popped ones. My mother, being a mother, would always give me the larger portion. But, if I wasn’t looking or paying attention she would try and sneak a few back. It was her thing. She used to do these commando raids, actually crawling on the floor at night, to steal my father’s M&M’s which were locked in his night table, and then belly crawl back to her side of the bed. So, from a tender age, I had a mother who was an original member of Seal Team 6 and a lover of un-popped popcorn kernels.
My current tale of woe starts at the end of the summer. I happily spent a summer eating oysters, clams and mussels in Maine and Cape Cod. All summer long. Yum! I come home, go to my favorite pizza place, order my favorite pizza pie, white clam if you are wondering, first bite and CRACK! Of course I chip a tooth on a stray bit of clamshell in a pizza joint 50 miles inland. Go figure right? So Ole’ Snaggletooth goes to the dentist, who puts a veneer on my chipped tooth. In passing I mention that my left molar is sometimes sensitive. A few x-rays later, and drum roll please, a new crown is the diagnosis. a fews days earlier I had innocently mentioned to my lovely wife that I should snack on popcorn because it is semi-healthy, and lovely wife goes out and buys some microwave popcorn and I was hungry and well you know the rest.
Novocaine. Lots of it. I mean lots. The entire left side of my head is numb. Tongue? Can’t feel it. Lips? Can only feel the right side. Cheek? Can’t feel them either. But happily for me I can still;
- Hear. As in hear the screaming of the Dremel tool whirring at 10K RPM inside my mouth and reverberating in my skull along with the death rattle sound the suction straw is making as it sucks away all of the debris and,
- See. As in see the mist of finely ground tooth gently rising from my mouth as my dentist happily grinds away at the offending molar. Mercifully, it is over in just a few hours and I am now the happy owner of a temporary crown. Temporary as in there is more of this ordeal that I will have to endure, but lucky for me, I have three weeks to wait until the permanent one is done. In the meantime chew on the right side and for obvious reasons avoid popcorn.
I have often complimented my dentist on his technique. I told him once he had the hands of a watchmaker, he quickly told me his father was one. Great moment. Anyway, on the way to my car I promptly cancel my gym plans. The thought of bouncing on the treadmill, mouth numb, blithely gnawing away at my cheeks doesn’t interest me in the slightest. No thank you. So back home and lie down. A refreshing nap turns into a freakin’ nightmare when the novocaine wears off, OUCH! Everything hurts. And while all of this is going on, my mouthguard, which I thought I put in a safe place, was found by one of my dogs who, chewed it up, and now I have another trip back to dentist, who did warn me in no uncertain terms to, you guessed it, keep the mouth guard away from pets.
So, knowing me, I will swear off popcorn for about, oh, a day or two and then back to my tricks. Although, I will concede to not eating any more of the unpopped. As I was listening to his instructions of what to do if the temporary crown comes off, which it won’t, but if it does, put it in a plastic bag, provided you didn’t swallow it, and let’s hope it won’t happen because he’s going on vacation, but if it does… Anyway, within those instructions, root canal was mentioned twice not once but twice and trust me, once was enough. So where in the world are my fireballs?