~ Posted by Kassia St Clair, January 19th 2012
In America, popcorn has gone through various booms: from the Depression, when it was one of the few luxuries that low-income people could afford, to the 1980s, when microwaves arrived in the kitchen. In Britain today, we're experiencing a mini-boom in gourmet-flavoured popcorn.
There are a number of small-scale brands—Diva Popcorn, Peter Popples, Propercorn. The best-known is Joe & Seph’s Gourmet Popcorn, created by Joseph Sopher in 2010, which has a dizzying range that includes “Caramel Macchiato & Whisky” and “French Goats Cheese & Malabar Black Pepper”. Relatively late in the game—summer 2011—the chef Heston Blumenthal, created a salted caramel popcorn ice cream for Waitrose.
Popcorn scores as a healthy alternative to crisps at lunchtime as it's usually popped with no more than hot air (even the best vegetable crisps are fried in oil). Skinny Topcorn appeared in Pret a Manger in 2008—the range includes wasabi and chocolate trickle flavours. Marks & Spencer followed suit with chocolate & paprika and curried coconut & black onion seed.
It isn't the first old favourite to get a makeover. Twenty years ago, sherry was a bit of a joke. In Alan Bennett's "A Private Function", for instance, the snobbish Mrs Chilvers, played by Maggie Smith, gets a big laugh when she says she is going to throw caution to the wind and have a sweet sherry. But this prejudice has been overturned in the last decade by London’s bars and restaurants such as Fino, Capote y Toros and Bar Pepito, a tiny bar next to King’s Cross Station specialising in sherry, which won the Observer Food Monthly’s Best Bar in Britain Award in 2008.
Once the recipe for scotch eggs was simple enough: a peeled hard-boiled egg, surrounded by sausage meat, bread crumbs, and deep-fried in oil. Today gastropubs serve scotch eggs laced with black pudding; or with venison as the meat; or with a dainty quail's egg in the middle; or with yolk-only...
What will be next? Persian fairy floss, known as Pashmak, is a combination of sugar and sesame. Now that food emporiums such as Ottolenghi stock Pariya's Pashmak, candy floss may be next in line.
Kassia St Clair is editorial assistant of Intelligent Life