Monday, May 13, 2013

In praise of popcorn

If you've been to one of my open studio events this year, you may have noticed that I've been serving popcorn. Since I first started opening my studio to the public, I wanted to offer my visitors some nice snacks. I've been to a lot of art shows where the food they served was pretty disappointing. If you frequent openings and open studios, you might know what I'm talking about. You've probably seen the dip that people have been double-dipping in, the bowl of pretzels everyone's germy hands have been in, sad looking bunches of not-quite-ripe grapes, oily cheese chunks that have been sitting out too long, and no alternatives to cheap wine other than generic bottled water. But as an artist, I understand why people do this. Having nice food that looks attractive enough to be in the same room as art is expensive! Which is why I cut back on the designer desserts and fruit and vegetable trays I used to have all the time.

I was looking for an alternative that was less expensive. But it also needed to be something that was shelf-stable, (meaning it can sit out at room temperature without breeding bacteria) easy to prepare, and easy to serve. And in a perfect world, it would accommodate the dietary needs of people who are vegan, gluten-free, can't eat much salt, and can't eat much sugar. Even better if it was something that wasn't alien to the palate of the typical American. And I found my solution in air-popped popcorn.

I'd noticed a few venues serving popcorn. Most had the fancy stands you see at carnivals with the old-fashioned lettering and red and white striped boxes. After reminding myself that my studio is not a restaurant, (my menu mantra) I looked into other possibilities and came across these lovely little air-poppers from Cuisinart. And did I mention that they come in a lot of fun colors, too?

I have the blue one!

And so that was how my open studio popcorn bar came to be. In an ongoing effort to be eco-friendly, I serve the popcorn in reusable cups. Of course, I wanted something colorful and fun. As an added bonus, these cups are also durable, since I got them from the kids' section in Ikea.

I have a nice assortment of seasonings so that everyone can have whatever flavor they like. And I'm serving an assortment of flavors of pop (which I know everyone outside the Midwest calls soda) to go with it. Of course, my concern for aesthetics (blame design school) forbids me from using ordinary cans and bottles, so I stock my cooler with beautiful glass bottled drinks. Most of them are made with cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup, too. There's a nice variety to choose from. I like to provide my guests with something a little out of the ordinary.

Yet even though these drinks cost a little more than Coke or Pepsi products, I am still spending a lot less than I did when I was getting gourmet cupcakes and pretty veggie trays. Now I see why it's been a staple of movie theaters all these years. Sadly, I know that popcorn isn't for everyone, like toddlers who might choke on it, or people with certain digestive issues. But for just about everyone else, it's a pretty good option. And the aroma draws people to my studio, which is always a plus.

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