Roving Kitchen Reporter, #3
I like to think of myself as something of an everyday gourmet. My whole schtick is that it takes only a quarter ounce of extra effort to make a meal exceptional, whether you’re whipping up a speedy weeknight meal or a painstakingly planned dinner party. I adore fresh and seasonal food. I love glamming up macaroni and cheese (try using a rich nutty cheese like Brebis Ossau) or burgers (add roasted garlic and chopped fresh sage to the meat) or salads (bake tablespoon size mounds of grated parmeggiano reggiano at 350-degrees on a greased cookie sheet for 5-minutes. Peel crisps off and top salad with them).
But I have a secret. A deep, dark, horrible secret.
And, secret, thy name is processed cheese food powder. It’s my personal Kryptonite. Whenever I’m near Cheetos, some strangely powerful, alien force overtakes me. My vision goes blurry. The world around me fades. Voices sound like the teacher in the Charlie Brown cartoons. And, when I snap out of it, my fingernails are stained bright orange and I scramble to hide the empty bag. It’s like Sybil, if the abusive mother were replaced with trans-fats.
I can’t even be in the same room as a bowl of wonderfully artificial Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. I delight in its fluorescence. I try to fight these inclinations, taking the gastronomic high ground, but an internal struggle rages: is it possible to reconcile my admiration for Thomas Keller and Alice Waters with my dark, deep longing for cultured milk solids?
Oogie’s Gourmet Popcorn is a step in the right direction. The folks at Oogie’s are bridging the gap between epicurean delight and cheese-flavored trash with seven varieties of popcorn, including “Sundried Tomato and Parmesan”, “Asiago and Cracked Pepper” and “Smoked Gouda.” My favorite is the “Romano and Pesto”, a tasty snack that smacks of basil and is physically impossible to stop eating, if you're not turned off by green popcorn.
I suspect the “epicurean delight” part of it, the part of it that makes me feel like I’m not eating crap, is limited to the use of words like “gourmet,” “cracked pepper,” and “smoked”. “All natural” helps too. It’s just the right combination of ingredients and copy required to appease my addiction. The chowhound in me isn’t humiliated to be seen in public, mowing through a bag of the stuff. And my dark-side is sated by the addictively tangy, powdered goodness that coats every fluffy kernel.
Maybe I’m wrong, maybe Oogie is just an enabler. Once I'm elbow deep in the bag, I suppose there’s nothing dignified about it. It’s cheese-flavored popcorn. Really good cheese flavored popcorn. But the label says "gourmet," and that's good enough for me.