So far as Monkey is concerned, there are exactly two good reasons to go camping: 1) getting to play his Nintendo DS (which his mean, mean mother only lets him use on trips, lest his eyes glaze over and he and his console become one melded hybrid beeping creature), and 2) s’mores.
While I don’t understand the first item, I can see the s’mores love. What’s not to like about s’mores? I myself have been known to set several marshmallows on fire at a time, all while lovingly explaining to my vegetarian, marshmallow-loving daughter exactly how they get gelatin. (She makes an exception for marshmallows, because somehow the devotion to sugar overcomes her refusal to eat animals. Perhaps we should try candy-coating our bacon.)
Often, we go camping in the summer to places where it’s entirely too hot to even contemplate building a fire, so this last trip was Very! Exciting! because we had a fire both nights. And there was much rejoicing, and much s’more-ing.
Now. That all would’ve been fine and run of the mill, but because I had a deprived childhood, things went somewhat awry on Saturday night. It’s my fault; I know this.
So, I often get weird stuff in the mail. Stuff that confuses me. And sometime last year, I got some DVDs of some show (I don’t ask for this stuff, it just shows up on my doorstep, delivered by PR Santa, one assumes) and instead of just sending me the discs, each disc was attached to… a tin of Jiffy Pop. This was both baffling and exciting to me, because—hold on to your seats, fellow children of the 70s—I have NEVER had Jiffy Pop. Ever. Back in the day I used to see the commercials on TV, complete with the expanding foil ballon of popcorn, and wish I could have some, because it looked AWESOME.
Of course, here at home (where we consume a metric ton of popcorn every year), we use our trusty air popper. But the Jiffy Pop seemed like something to take in the camper, so for a year now, every time we go camping, I throw a couple of pans of Jiffy Pop in, and we never eat it.
On Saturday night, the s’mores thing was happening, and I realized this was our last trip of the season, and I still have never had the experience of Jiffy Pop.
“We should make Jiffy Pop!” I exclaimed to Otto. “Can we make it over the fire? LIKE PIONEERS?” (You know, the pioneers came in their covered wagons… with Jiffy Pop.)
“I don’t think we can do it in the fire,” he said. “Let me look at it.” He went inside the trailer and grabbed a pan and brought it out. Upon reading the directions, he discovered that they expressly forbid making it over an open fire. Rats.
“Well it seems silly to go inside and use the stove,” I said, feeling somewhat defeated.
“We could do it on the grill,” he suggested. “That should work. I’ll turn it on.” And he went and started up our little gas grill that hooks onto the outside of the trailer. Eventually it was hot, and Otto commenced shaking the Jiffy Pop pan around on the grill grate.
He shook. And shook. And shook.
“I think your popcorn is broken,” Monkey finally offered, helpfully.
“IT IS NOT BROKEN,” I said. “Here, let me shake it for a while, your arm must be getting tired.” I took over, and eventually was able to determine that one side of our sad little grill seems to be a lot hotter than the other side, so I repositioned and began shaking the pan with fervor.
Otto checked the lid. “Um, this expired last year,” he said. “It may just… not work.”
“IT WILL WORK,” I said, shaking away. “IT’S FINE. I WANT SOME DAMN JIFFY POP.”
Finally, there was a pop. I announced it triumphantly, and Otto told me I was hearing things. But then there was another. And another! And I kept on shaking, and the foil began to rise. Finally, I was going to experience the wonder of Jiffy Pop!
Apparently the edges weren’t properly crimped down, because after about half-a-dozen pops, the lid opened up along the side, and popcorn began shooting out onto the grill.
“NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!” All that work, and the bounty was escaping. It was tragic.
Monkey ran for a bowl, and we were able to salvage about a handful of popped kernels before it became clear that I was only going to be tossing popcorn all over the place if we continued.
We set the tin aside and I tasted the popcorn. It tasted a lot like buttery styrofoam.
“You know, I’m tempted to just throw the rest of the kernels into the fire,” said Otto. “See what happens.”
“Go ahead,” I said. So he did. He carefully places a pile of unpopped kernels atop a flat log to heat up, and we sat down to watch the show. It never came; either the wood was excellent insulation or those kernels were just duds.
Later, when it was just the two of us in front of the fire, the kernels were still sitting there. Mocking us.
“Jiffy Pop was not as exciting as I thought it’d be,” I admitted.
“When I was a kid, and we’d have a babysitter, my folks always left Jiffy Pop. And it nearly always ended up being set on fire.” Otto’s childhood was a lot more interesting than mine, y’all.
“Really??” I asked. “The popcorn or the tin?”
“The tin,” he said. “That foil on top is flammable if it gets hot enough.
“Huh,” I said. “I had no idea foil was flammable.”
We sat watching the flames, petting the dog, listening to the frogs croak.
“I kind of want to put the other tin in there,” Otto said after a while.
“To try to make it, or just to set it on fire?”
“Just to set it on fire,” he said. “I know, I’m a child.” He chuckled, ready for me to rebuff him.
“Go ahead,” I said.
“Sure, let’s end the last trip with a bang.”
Otto went inside and grabbed the second tin. After some discussion, we determined there was a perfect Jiffy Pop-sized slot between two logs, and he inserted the pan and sat back down with me so we could watch.
One stinkin’ kernel ended up popping. The rest just caught fire and burned. By the time we put the fire out and went to bed, all that was left was the wire handle. And my broken dreams.
It was kind of romantic, really, in a twisted sort of way. I mean, there’s no one else I’d rather set things on fire with, y’know?