To Buy the Bucket of Popcorn or Not?

One of the best parts about going to the movies is the irresistible and unmistakable smell of popcorn that immediately hits you the moment you walk from outside the parking lot and into the lobby of the movie theater. That special smell gets me every single time as I always end up purchasing a bag/tub at the concession stand. It doesn’t matter if I am stuffed, I still fork over the money to eat popcorn at the movie theater every single time.

My local theater in Missoula is owned by Carmike Cinemas. This particular movie theater chain has a promotion where they sell giant buckets of popcorn that are re-useable for the full calendar year. You simply pay the price for the tub and then you are welcome to bring it back throughout the year to get refills at a discounted price each time you go to watch a movie. For someone like me, most people would say that I should definitely cash in on the deal. Even though it does make sense over the long run, the initial price turns me off.

I LOVE movie theater popcorn....not so much the microwave version though.

I LOVE movie theater popcorn….not so much the microwave version though.

Okay, ready for the price of one of these calorie-loaded, year-long bottomless popcorn tubs? Try $19.75. Want a refill on that tub? For the rest of the year you will just have to pay $3.75.

While I do thank Carmike Cinemas for saving us a quarter and saving us the shame of spending 20 bucks on popcorn, the $19.75 price tag does make me a little squeamish. Not that I haven’t squandered larger loads of money on even stupider things during my twenties but I think the fact that most times when I am tempted by the deal I am reminded that I just paid $20+ for movie tickets  and the notion of equaling that price in popcorn makes me decide against it. However, I am starting to have second thoughts.

On Friday night I went to “Lone Survivor”. While in line to get my traditional bag of popcorn I couldn’t help but notice that everyone else in line with me seemed to have the 2014 refillable buckets. I guess I had not realized the popularity of them until that night. I mean really, how could all those people be wrong? I bought a large popcorn and a soda and it come to somewhere over $14. Instead of getting my popcorn fix just for the movie that night I could have paid five dollars more (without purchasing the soda) and set myself up for discounted popcorn throughout the rest of 2014. If it was an ordinary movie I would have thought about my decision throughout the whole two hours but since “Lone Survivor” blew my socks off I forgot about it until after I walked out of the theater.

Not to be lost in this all is that it is still mid-January. If I pull the trigger and purchase the bucket now I will enjoy the benefit of $3.75 buckets of popcorn for pretty much the maximum time possible. I do plan to see a lot of movies this year.

“JUST BUY THE STUPID BUCKET!,” many of you might be yelling right now.

Well, I have concerns against it as well. Just because I can purchase something that will probably give me more for less in the long run it doesn’t necessarily mean it is the way to go. Do I really need to enjoy the largest bucket of popcorn possible at each movie I go to? At some point I should respect my body and cholesterol level. Also, living in an apartment, space is somewhat limited and I don’t know if I want to store it in one of my cupboards. Don’t get me wrong, I love the smell of fresh popcorn at the movie theater but I am not as enthusiastic about a cupboard smelling like the waiting room of a tire shop. Finally, if I can’t glue my fingers to the handle, chances are that I might forget my $19.75 bucket a time or two when I dash off to watch the latest blockbuster.

I know I am going against every journalistic principle by not taking a stand on what I am going to do but my personal jury is still out on whether I will buy the bucket or not. I will say that if forced to give a prediction, I think I will end up giving in sometime this month and purchasing it. But, if for some reason I am kept away from the theater for the rest of January I might just pass on it. One thing is for sure, you know I will keep you posted. Don’t Blink.

A Taste From My Youth

If you read my blog often or know me personally, you know I am a smell guy. I love good smelling smells! I can’t get enough of the aroma of ice cream, fresh doughnuts, cotton candy, and cinnamon rolls. For me, a smell always makes me associate it with something. For example, going in order with the smells I just mentioned, I think of Baskin-Robbins, Krispy Kreme, Dahlberg Arena before basketball games, and Cinnabon. There is one smell that joins the above four in my top five. This smell will make your nose curl and tingle with pleasure. Not only is the smell superb, but the taste is too (can’t say that about cotton candy…smell is always way better than the taste). But what makes me really happy about this smell is that I associate it with fun, gatherings, summer, and festivals! I don’t think about in in terms of just one place, I think about it in terms of several places. I am talking about KETTLE CORN!

So why am I on kettle corn tonight? Well, last night we honored our basketball teams for fantastic seasons. We treated the fans that came to the event with complimentary kettle corn and soda. I couldn’t help getting up from my sound spot in the arena and walking over to where the kettle corn was and helping myself. After I ate a few kernels I became immediately aware again of how much I actually love the stuff. At the same time, memories rushed through my head and my nose was filled with that sweet smell. Today at work I brought yesterday’s very nice experience back by eating some of the leftover corn from the event. With the peaceful feeling returning to my body, I knew I just had to pay homage to the king of all popcorns…kettle corn!

Me enjoying some leftover kettle corn in the office today.

Me enjoying some leftover kettle corn in the office today.

Probably around the time I was in fourth or fifth grade I started noticing the tents with the giant black kettles popping up at major outdoor events and festivals. Before I noticed them with my eyes, I would always become aware of them first by my nose. The sweet smell would cut through the thin warm air and hit my senses from 40 feet away, just before I looked ahead and saw the inviting scene. Upon scoping the activity at the tent out, a large group of people would always be gathered in front of the stand. Some would be purchasing giant bags of kettle corn, some would just be marveling at the scene of the person behind the kettle stirring the popcorn mix with a giant spoon, while others would be taking advantage of the free samples.

Ah yes, nothing tasted better than the free kettle corn samples. Piping hot and overly loaded with the signature sweet and salty taste, nothing could stop anyone from buying a bag after enjoying a free sample. Except for someone like me, who during those initial years never had the $4 to buy even the small bag. However, when I did have my mom or dad with me and they did in fact buy a bag, I was in heaven. In the same way that a purchased box of a dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts never tastes as good as that initial warm glazed sample you get when you enter the store, the same kind of holds true for kettle corn. The bag that they give you doesn’t taste as good as the five kernel sample they drop in your hands at the tent, but it is still good. I remember walking around with my family at whatever event we were at and all five of us chaotically taking turns plunging our hands into the bag, getting as much kettle corn to drop on the ground as we actually got in our mouths.

Kettle corn definitely started off as a novelty. At first it seemed like kettle corn stands were few and far between and you could only get the yummy confection at select events but once the taste started to spread, so did the amount of stands selling it. By the time I reached high school, kettle corn was a serious business. No longer could I go to Hoopfest, a food event, or the fair and see a single kettle corn stand holding court with a line a mile long. Instead there would always be multiple stands selling the stuff, all proclaiming to have the superior product. One stand would boast putting more sugar in their mix, another stand would claim that their product was fresher, another would try to win business by selling their bags for a dollar less. I would walk down Occidental Avenue on my way into Safeco Field and there would be 10 different places just on that street where I could buy kettle corn. So just like how any new creative product starts off elusive and in high demand and then explodes and kind of oversaturates itself, kettle corn was no different. But I never tired of the taste.

What was once a product you could only get at special festivals, KC transformed in to an item that you can now pull off the shelves at a grocery store. Contrary to the ideals that made kettle corn so popular, you can go to Wal-Mart and buy a big bag of the stuff that was popped months ago in a factory on the other side of the country. Who cares if it not hot or fresh, you can still enjoy that sweet and salty taste, right? Ugh. A better option for getting that special taste when you can’t get it fresh from a stand is the microwave version. Just like any microwavable popcorn, you simply heat it up and enjoy. Although loaded with sweet goodness, the microwave version definitely tastes different from the original kettle corn. For those adventurous types, there are about a million different recipes online that you can utilize to make homemade kettle corn and you don’t even need a kettle! Unfortunately kettle corn that is shipped across country, popped in the microwave, or created at home takes away from what made it so special in the first place…the experience and excitement of buying a unique product straight from the kettle.

I will always have a special place in my heart for kettle corn and I will still even eat the imposter versions that come from the store or in microwavable bags. The nostalgia that I have engrained in my memory bank of some new and tangy popcorn coated in a salty-sugary mix and only served at special outdoor occasions will always stick with me. When I trigger this memory, I crave kettle corn like no other. Good thing we still have a couple bags still leftover in the office. Don’t Blink.