A good friend of mine, Annie, brings her own popper around the world with her when she travels. It is part of her everyday persona. She pops gobs of it to bring camping, filling brown paper bags and unveiling them where one would least expect. I have been puzzled by her dedication to popcorn. I just discovered she is not alone. There is an entire kitchen full of popcorn lovers who explode kernels over fires all night, every night, at the Rainbow Gathering. They concentrate their fetish at Popcorner, “the hottest nightclub at the gathering.”

It’s easy enough to throw popcorn kernels into a popper or, even less taxing, a pre-packaged, butter-infused, mass-produced popcorn packet into the microwave. Most people do even less than this and exchange dollars for bags of it at the theater. But for those dedicated to popcorn, they need it in the forest, far from such convenience.

There, popcorn production is a labor of love. It takes more than a press of a button to get the bubble of oil heated to the point where it bursts the hard kernel into fluffy whiteness. The temperature range between a hard seed and blackened carbon is thin and requires delicacy. Each kernel must be separated from the scalding heat of the unstable chaos of fire to avoid blackening. But it must get near enough.

This means furious shaking. They fill buckets and buckets this way, enough for the streams of passersby to fill their bliss with not just one flavor but a multitude. There are always at least two. Raspberry cheesecake popcorn, cinnamon toast popcorn, and turmeric seed and apple cider vinegar popcorn (as yet officially named), were some that I saw among the savory and sweet continuum.

Before this article ends, I want to relate a small story. Annie said she was feeling a new anxiety, bordering on depression, because of a conversation she had with someone from the Popcorner. I am not sure of his name, but he told her that he no longer loved it. He had been eating popcorn three meals a day for three weeks. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner he lived the life of a popcorn lover and inhaled it in all varieties. But for some reason his interest waned. He was not as into it as he had been before.

This greatly depressed Annie. The very idea that anything could change her love of popcorn was a horrible thought. That someone who loved popcorn as she did could stop loving it brought about a lurching sense of sickness.

We talked about this. What do you think? Is it sad to overindulge on your favorite food? Is it possible? Like cows eat grass, popcorn-love (for those so consumed) is identity. The connection between food and self is all encompassing. It seems normal and invisible or arbitrary, but what one chooses to prefer becomes locked in. What you eat for breakfast is not just incidental. Food saturates, penetrates the individual.

I’ve often wondered what people might look like if they ate only one food, a favorite food. What would the people who subsist only on donuts look like? What about those whose diet was limited only to bananas or legumes? At Popcorner you can see people who dedicate their selves to consuming the highly specific food they love.

September 14th, 2016 by John Anderson