When Charlie and I first started dating, one of the (many, many) things that drew me to my future-husband, was his family. They are a great group of people and I really admired the way that they celebrated the family unit and embraced certain traditions.
For instance, at the end of every day when his father would walk in the door from work, he would give a little whistle to indicate that he was home. And every evening, just before dinner, his mother and father would freshen themselves up, and sit down with a glass of wine and a bowl of popcorn at 6:00 PM.
Charlie's mom would put on a clean dress and powder her nose. Charlie's dad would change his shirt and shoes. Then, they'd pop open a bottle of wine and sit down to reflect on the day, while dinner finished cooking.
It was a simple thing ... yet, very bonding.
All of their children, and any friends that were visiting, were invited to join in on this "cocktail hour" and depending upon their ages, they could either have a glass of juice - or a glass of wine - along with the patriarch and matriarch of the family.
According to my husband, this was such a standard thing that his family did, that it was really no big deal to him. But whenever friends would be visiting - and his parents would furnish a big bowl of popcorn and drinks - they would think it was the coolest thing ever.
Some of the fondest memories my husband has as a child growing up, were times spent, sitting with his parents and just chatting during cocktail hour. It is for that reason that when we were married in 1994, the very first thing that we registered for was the same style Electric Popcorn Popper that Charlie had growing up.
This was the gift that Charlie's brother Steve and his wife, Kathy, gave to us and we have used the same popcorn popper approximately 200 nights a year, for the past 15 years. Although we don't make popcorn and drink a glass of wine every night, we do it often.
There are a lot of different opinions on when you should feed children popcorn.
The popular consensus is that children shouldn't be fed popcorn until they are at least four years old. We've been feeding popcorn to our children since they were about 18-months old, but we've been very careful to break the "kernels" off the popcorn, before we let them eat it. (OK. Sometimes, not always. But we do try. Does it make us more responsible that we don't ever let them ride bikes without wearing helmets??)
To cook, we pour a tablespoon full of vegetable oil in to the base of the electric popper and add approximately 1/2 cup of Orville Redenbacher's popcorn. Because Orville's the best.
Then, we turn on the popper and let it spin until all the popcorn has finished popping.
This is always a fun event for everyone involved.
We flip it the popper over and transfer our popped corn in to a large bowl. Then, we top it with just a slight sprinkle of kosher salt. At first I thought it was a little dry without butter dripping off each piece. But, with time, I have come to embrace this healthier - and tastier - version of the popped corn. It's certainly better than any microwave popcorn I've ever had and it doesn't leave an oily residue in your mouth.
I suspect that as our children grow older, cocktail hour - whether with a bowl of popcorn, or perhaps some cheese and crackers - will be something that we will fully embrace as an evening ritual. Along with that evening ritual of eating a small ice cream cone just before bath time.
But that one comes from my side of the family.