The Playroom: Snack attack

Author: Maraya Steadman '89, '90MBA

Maraya Steadman

When I picked my 3-year old daughter up from preschool one day last year, she handed me a small, white paper bag filled with popcorn. Her name, Emma, was written on masking tape that secured the top of the bag. “Look, Mommy, I made popcorn today” she shared with joy.

Memories from my own preschool days prompting me to ask, “Did you play popcorn?”

Her eyebrows furrowed, and she looked at me quizzically and with irritation and told me quite emphatically, “No Mommy, we made popcorn today!”

So, as typical in my conversations about my own childhood with my children, Emma continued to look at me as though I were already demented, as she asked me to open her bag of popcorn so she could have her snack. Reiterating to me once again, in case I still didn’t get it, “Mommy, I made popcorn today.”

When I was in preschool, we played a game where we would all be on the floor, each of us curled up in a ball. The teacher would say okay all my little popcorn kernels lying in the pan, I’m turning up the heat now, it’s starting to get hot. Then the teacher would pause, and we would all start to giggle. The teacher would say, hotter, hotter, and then she would slowly, softly chant sizzle, sizzle — and then the sizzles would get faster and louder until finally we would get to jump up as high as we could with arms reaching for the sky and scream as loudly as possible “Pop!”

Then we would all bounce around like crazed electrons, which I suppose was a preschoolers performance art interpretation of popcorn after the pop. Oh it was great fun, and we just loved it and begged to play it over and over again.

My memories of making popcorn are forever sizzling on an electric stove with an avocado green hood in the corner of my grandmother’s kitchen. My grandmother would heat up a heavy pot, pour in the oil and then the popcorn, and let it all heat up and sizzle and pop, pop, pop until done. My aunts became true connoisseurs of the best popping corn, and jars were always on hand in the cupboard above the stove.

My grandmother would next melt butter and cover the popcorn in melted butter and salt. I loved the melted butter and the salt, and once when my aunts took me to the movies, I greedily purchased a huge popcorn covered in butter-flavored oil and made myself sick.

It occurs to me that my children have never listened to popcorn sizzle in a pan, never waited for the satisfying pop. The only popcorn they know comes out of a microwave bag. It only tastes like butter and is 94-percent fat free. Although convenient and heart healthy, it’s not nearly as much fun.

I think I may go buy a jar of popping corn and teach my children how to play popcorn.

Maraya Steadman, who lives in a Chicago suburb, is a stay-at-home mother of three children. She can be reached at