I make popcorn the old-fashioned way—in a pot on the stove, rather than in a bag in the microwave. A benefit to this technique (in addition to producing a snack of vastly superior taste and texture) is that it allows witness to a transformative process from start to finish. What begins as a canister of pebble-like, inedible seeds can become, in just a few minutes, a bowlful of fluffy, salty, satiating goodness.
Generating the conversion is simple—add a quarter cup of popcorn to a pot slick with simmering oil, cover and wait. Tiny bubbles and pale yellow kernels begin to dance in the swirling puddle and a few of the seeds pop immediately, bursting into white clouds that ricochet against the steel (or anodized aluminum) walls. Others resist for a minute or two, but soon roll over and yield to the greasy catalyst. Still, a few hold on until the end. Buried by their more eager compatriots, they wait until the heat is extinguished to rupture, emitting a muffled hiss from deep within the mound of exhausted casings.
Always, there are a handful of rogue seeds that do not pop. Some singe and shrivel into asphalt-like specks of gravel, a couple more crack—exposing a hint of their white innards. In the end, there are a few that prove impervious to the high temperatures and boiling oil. They remain unaltered—latent, salt-covered embryos that refuse to change at all.