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Sticky candy, melting chocolate or popcorn kernels in your teeth?

I love going to the movies. There is something about sitting in the dark with strangers all being immersed in the same experience. The big screen and surround sound are fun, but they are just part of the ambience. The last part is crucial – movie snacks.

For me, popcorn at a movie is a required component. My hubbie is more of a chocolate and licorice kind of guy, munching only the occasional handful of popcorn. Despite our disparity on choice of snack, we have managed to attend movies happily together on enough Tuesdays to fill a large bucket.

Regardless of the snack you choose, its enjoyment can provide the final step in immersing oneself in the movie. Munching M & M’s or gnawing on a bite of licorice can help manage the stress of a horror movie monster’s massacre; nibbling popcorn can aid in maintaining one’s heartbeat at a reasonable level during fast-paced action scenes. The smell of the treats, the movie soundtrack music that leads us in, the darkness that envelops us and the smoke and mirrors of a story on the screen all blend together to take you away from the regular world.

There are consequences to every action. Just like a good movie will also make you think, the snacks leave a lasting impression as well. Tonight on the way home from the theatre it occurred to me – I was busy fussing with popcorn kernels in my teeth and my hubbie was sucking on bits of licorice stuck in his teeth. (He had already licked his fingers of the melting chocolate as we walked to the car.) Was this a marketing ploy, I wondered? Perhaps the movie production companies are in cahoots with Nestlé or Cadbury’s to ensure we are sucked into a lasting experience. Does the popcorn machine company Cretors & Co. put something in with the kernels? After all they have had five generations of their family sustaining movie goers all over North America. (You can read my article on the history of popcorn if you’re keen to know more on this story.)

I suppose I’m just getting sentimental as I age. Much about movies and the movie-going experience has changed in my lifetime. “Extreme” theatres and reclining seats, movies about video game characters – all things that didn’t exist twenty years ago when hubbie and I started our movie date night.

Part of me likes that the popcorn kernels still stick in my teeth the same way they always have. I smile when I hear the outrageously loud sound of my hubbie opening his bag of licorice. Some things don’t need to change.

 

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Sweet or Salty?

sweet-vs-salty-snacks

I had just finished my weekly column for the local news website, writing about popcorn. (It’s Popcorn Day next week, and I was munching on some as I wrote, so it seemed like easy inspiration.) As my mind wandered to think of what to write here today, I remembered my first taste of movie popcorn the year I lived in France… it was confusing. I had the taste expectation of buttery fluffy  kernels half melting in my mouth. Instead I got cauliflower-shaped kernels that were coated in a sugary crunch. It wasn’t bad, but my memories collided with my tastebuds and I was distracted. The association didn’t make sense in my brain.

Taste is mostly about smell, and that is hard-wired into our memory in our brains, so remembering a food experience as a whole has a lot of baggage attached to it. Once I got my head wrapped around a new experience, I was fine to have French popcorn at a French movie. (I just needed to switch it up – I couldn’t enjoy someone else dubbing Arnold Schwarzenegger’s voice either – I had to see francophone films to keep things on an even keel.)

With all the experiences we log in our brain and our taste buds, we do seem to come out on either side of a preference that divides the world – whether we like sweet or salty. Would you choose chips or cookies? It’s not a random choice – did you know we are genetically predisposed to one or the other? Some people really are born with a sweet tooth.

There are factors that influence us – what our mothers eat during pregnancy, then what we associate as comfort food. Some people actually need more sugar in food to perceive sweetness; they often have as many as one third fewer tastebuds than the average person, and so are referred to as non-tasters. By contrast, people with more tastebuds generally are more sensitive, and they often prefer salty tastes. (Think of cooking – salt improves many flavours, and helps hide bitterness.)

In case you’re wondering, I prefer salt to sweet. My “sweet tooth” is more for fat – I love dark chocolate, whipped cream, custard, pastry… and I’ve grown to like kettle cornkettle-corn-2, which is a lot like the stuff they serve in French movie theatres – salty and sweet.

Whichever way you lean, I hope you get to snuggle up and enjoy your favourite treat this weekend. Happy snacking!

 

 

 

Sunday cooking

Sunday quote

Sunday is our day of rest and often, indulgence. Sunday brunch, full of rich creamy dishes and comfort food – an excuse to jam all the best parts of breakfast and lunch into one occasion, not to mention allowing cocktails and dessert as part of the menu as well, just because, well, it’s Sunday 🙂 Then there’s Sunday dinner: the roast beast and all the trimmings. Granted, most of us are used to having this meal with numerous family members (not always good for the digestion) but a larger group allows for economies of scale in cooking… and it makes for good sandwiches in the coming week! Sunday roastIt often means a few more calories consumed, but we’ll be back at the workouts on Monday, won’t we?

At Rabbit Hollow, we often work Sundays, so the brunch happens whenever we have a day off, which might just as easily be Tuesday. With only the two of us for family close by, we don’t tend to do a large dinner either. But I often take on baking projects if I’m not out in the garden on a Sunday, so I thought I might share some of those favourites during the Spring Break season. With kids home all week, you could even take on these recipes on a weekday!

A fun item to add to any breakfast or brunch is a muffin, and I have a great, healthy (but tasty!) recipe – Banana Bran Muffins. Leftovers are great to take to work with coffee, too.

I made Chocolate Coffee Cake this week. A friend posted a recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens blog, one of their most popular items. I thought why not? Martin, my husband, loves coffee cake. Well, it’s an all-afternoon project with dough that needs rising, but if you don’t mind the start-and-stop, the result is pretty wonderful. He loved it for brunch this morning.

Cookies are always good to have on hand, and fun to share at the office or with friends. One of my faves is a recipe I kind of made up, Tropical Delight Cookies . If you are feeling down about not getting away to a more exotic destination, these might help lift your spirits. This is an easy recipe that the kids can make, too – just in case they are driving you crazy being underfoot at home.

exotic Sunday brunch

If you’re more the savoury type, but you still want to feel that exotic sense of wonder, how about Chicken with Cinnamon & Dates ? It’s a great way to jazz up any night’s dinner.

A tradition that we had when I was growing up was for each of us kids to cook one meal a week. Spring Break is a good time to start that if you haven’t already… Sundays work well, too. Kids can start out chopping veggies or assembling salad, and then as they get older (and taller) they can work their way up to preparing dishes for the oven, or cooking at the stove. Carrots with coriander and caraway is a great first recipe for kids – simple, fast and tasty.

Even something as straight-forward as flavoured popcorn can be a family cooking experience. If Sunday brunch or dinner seems too much, try just getting everyone together for a pick on Netflix and then adding a bit of zip to your popcorn or pretzels or nuts. Spice blends are fun to play with – you can try the ones in your cupboard (cajun popcorn or pretzels? smoked salt on toasted almonds?) by just adding a drizzle of butter or olive oil. Toasting nuts a bit first really brings out their flavour – about 5 minutes at 400F will usually do it. If you don’t have any mixes, think of flavours you like – spicy hot? herbs? (rosemary popcorn is fun). Cheese is a fun addition too – the powdered parmesan you get works great (look for real cheese, not the processed stuff in a can). You can mix it with other flavours or just add it on by itself.

Any effort you make in the kitchen is worth some quality time – it might just be a moment with a cookie and a glass of milk or a cup of tea, but especially if you can share that moment with a friend you have a chance to connect and catch up. In our busy world, that’s worth a few calories any day, if you ask me.

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