Wrapping it all up with a little arson

By Mir
September 26, 2011

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?


  1. Niki

    Just had to throw a note in here about how to make s’mores EVEN better (I know, you didn’t think that was possible), and even add some protein. Spread a thin layer of peanut butter on the graham cracker (I put it on the chocolate side) before putting it together. It is phenomenal.

  2. Christina

    I am happy you posted this because #1 I never knew you could not make Jiffy Pop over a fire, I assumed you could! and #2, my husband is also a big child and would probably get a kick out of this, so perhaps I will pack some Jiffy Pop for our next camping trip. :)

  3. burghbaby

    There are gelatin-free marshmallows that are actually quite delightful. I’M JUST SAYIN’. (Us vegetarians have to stick together, n’at.)

    Also, Google “campfire bananas.” You’ll be glad you did.

  4. Beth R

    Popcorn gets old – and it seems to do it fairly quickly. I can tell the difference in the amount of poppage I get between the first bag in a box to the last, so I’m not surprised that the year + old JiffyPop was a dud.

    However, setting stuff on fire with your sweetie? A TOTAL WIN!

  5. Brigitte

    Ooh, *I* want to burn things now! But I must wait until the cool, dry air finally makes its way over here. Currently, I’m all sweaty just putting away the groceries. Sadly, I didn’t pick up any Jiffy Pop!

  6. Linda

    I never had Jiffy Pop either. I agree, it looked oh so cool…although now I want s’mores. And I have access to neither graham crackers nor marshmallows. *sigh*

  7. Megan

    Oh! I’m so glad someone else had childhood dreams based on unrealistic expectations fed off of commercials!!

    Mine include:

    a vague idea that crackers really are made by elves in trees (could be that my early experience with Mr Rogers and his tree-dwelling puppets fed into this idea)

    a surety that somewhere there was Dairy Queen Land that had cliffs of brownies and rivers of fudge (enhanced by Willie Wonka and, for some reason, combined with Land Before Time which told me that the brownie cliffs were infested with sleestacks (sp?)

    Confidence that nothing – NOTHING – is more worthwhile than the prize found at the bottom of a sugar-laden cereal pack.

    NB – these convictions were totally enhanced by the fact that I was not allowed any brand name ANYTHING the entire time I was growing up, plus the fact that I wasn’t supposed to ever watch broadcast TV ever. Result? My mythology was built entirely on clandestine sessions of Saturday morning cartoons at my best friend’s house on sleep-overs. I worshiped at the altar of American Consumerism simply because it was so rare and forbidden. I would have killed for a flammable tin of non-poppable jiffy pop!

  8. My Kids Mom

    Once we had a guy babysitter who took a look at the big cooking pot and container of popcorn and set my sister and myself on the sofa with stern directions TO NOT MOVE. Then he ran home, two blocks away and brought back a Jiffy Pop. This might have been the only time the guy ever babysat for us (not related to Jiffy Pop) but it is the only night of all my childhood nights with babysitters that I remember.

  9. Nelson's Mama

    I’m a child too. I have my own DS (my third) and totally understand why Monkey enjoys playing! I don’t understand the second item – chocolate should be consumed pure and unadulterated.

  10. Becky

    I have to laugh… we went camping this past weekend as well… but I am sure it was a lot colder in Illinois than in Georga! (try 40 degrees at night, in tents!). Anyway, we DID do Jiffy Pop over the fire – eight adults and two dogs, one “skillet” of it was too much for us. We did do banana boats, did the tin foil wrap dinners (chicken or beef with mushrooms, potatoes, carrots, etc) in the fire and did caramel apples – core the apple and stuff caramel up the cored area, wrap in foil and throw in the fire. Yum.

  11. dad

    Whatever you do, don’t take the same approach with outdated cannisters of propane.

    You are your father’s daughter.

  12. Chuck

    I think I had that all of twice, growing up. You’re not missing that much, but when it’s fresh it is decent popcorn. Nowadays all my popcorn is microwaved…

  13. Karen

    OOOh man… peanut butter on Smores!!!!…

    I forgot about Jiffy pop!..

  14. Lucinda

    JIffy pop is just one of those things I guess. I never really had it as a kid (maybe once) but when my husband and I started taking the kids to our annual vacation on the river at this cute little cottage, S’mores and Jiffy Pop became part of the tradition too. It is totally worth the nasty popcorn to watch the delight of my children as the foil puffs up. But if I’d been in your situation, I would have thrown it in the fire too. Just to see what happens.

  15. Scottsdale Girl

    We were brought up on the air popped corn…which is BLAND AS SHIT if you don’t drown it in butter and salt and garlic powder! so, really why AIR POP? MOOOOOOOOOM?

    Oh sorry, I digressed, er devolved. Anyway… mmmmmm s’mores

  16. StephLove

    I was going to say you can get vegetarian marshmallows at health food stores or online, but I see someone beat me to it. Full disclosure: they are not quite as melty as the ones made from My Pretty Pony’s feet.

  17. elz

    OK, seriously, y’all need to come to our ranch property sometime because we ALWAYS have s’mores (and Doritos). It’s a rule. Except this summer there have been burn bans, so we’ve been using the wood burning fireplace. Yes. In Texas. In 100 degree heat. BECAUSE MUST HAVE S’MORES.

    Also, we bring little mini champagne in cans because we are Klassy.

  18. Em

    But what is the difference between a gas stove and a campfire (except maybe a few hundred degrees)? Bummer. We’ve taken Jiffy Pop every time we’ve been camping and it never ever works. I do have a memory of my grandfather making it for us when I was little and hiding behind the couch because the foil Holly Hobbie hat (or so we called it) had grown to such an abominable size, I was sure it was about to explode and rain popcorn down on us all. This, I agree would be awesome, but I wanted it cool before I was neck deep in it.

  19. Brigid

    I have never had Jiffy Pop either. It always looked soooo cool. The children’s faces were so happy in the ad. So does this mean if I don’t get my 7YO the “space bags” she has been jonesing for that all her hopes and dreams will be dashed in 30 or so years?

  20. Daisy

    Candy coated bacon…. snicker.

  21. gilly

    you may want to tell Chickie to avert her eyes for this, but the kosher marshmallows are animal-frinedly
    I agree that there is something beautiful about burnt marshmallow

  22. Heather

    Well, that’s the sign of true love, right there ;)

  23. Charlene

    I’ve never had Jiffy Pop. But candied bacon is amazing! If you’ve never had it, I would definitely recommend giving it a try.

  24. Kelly

    A few things I just have to comment on –
    1) s’mores are probably my favorite dessert ever, especially if you use hershey’s dark chocolate
    2) I went to a wedding reception once where the centerpiece was bacon that had been coated with brown sugar and then baked = HEAVEN
    3) aluminum cans make fun flame colors if they just happen to be in a hot fire that burns them down.

  25. Katie in MA

    Sigh. Mir. Candy-coating bacon would mean that you would have to SHARE it. Really.

  26. Lady of Perpetual Chaos

    I’ve heard lots of good things about chocolate dipped bacon. I find it revolting and fascinating all at the same time.

  27. Liza

    I want candy coated bacon.

    And we totally made jiffy-pop over open flame in the fire when I was camping as a kid. The lesson here is to check the expiration date, but OTHERWISE, do not read the directions. :)

  28. Cele

    Logical alert! If you candy coat your bacon there will be less for you. Think about it, is this what you really want?

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