At the Movies
Jan 19, 2024
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This is the original story post that I wrote when I first started making za’atar popcorn, in 2015!
I don’t remember seeing movies in the theater all that frequently growing
up. It was a very occasional treat, and I’m sure this was not out of discipline
or deprivation, but because it just wasn’t the industry it is today.
My great movie-watching memories are rooted most comfortably at home, with
my brother and sister and me (the youngest of the five kids) lined up across my
parents’ bed in the dark, watching. Here we feasted on Willie Wonka, Mary
Poppins, The Wizard of Oz—movies we went completely crazy over because they
were shown only once a year, and we’d waited sooooooooo long to see them again.
Either my mom was a wizard herself or serendipity was on her side, because
those exciting movie-watching nights seemed to fall on the same nights my
parents were hosting one of their regular dinner parties. These were all-out
beautiful evenings that Mom orchestrated from her kitchen with classic meals
like roasted tenderloin and twice-baked potatoes. On those occasions my dad
would come home from the office with striped boxes of peanuts from The Peanut
Shop in downtown Lansing, and the lovely little silver nut dishes they received
for their wedding were put into action.
Upstairs, nut dishes of another sort were on offer. We had our brown paper
lunch bags folded down at the top, one for each kid. My mother knew how to
snack her kids some fun for movie-watching, filling the bags with salty
popcorn, pretzels, mini-marshmallows, chocolate chips (how exciting when a
chocolate chip got mixed in with a little handful of popcorn or pretzels). Who
needs beef tenderloin when you’ve got your own bag of gold to hoard?
Perhaps this popcorn bag of my childhood had something to do with my
addiction-level love for Garrett’s popcorn in Chicago (a ravenous mow-down of a
bag of that popcorn is always regrettable, but so good in the moment), which I
ate of course not at the movies, but walking up and down Michigan Avenue on my
lunch hours, wondering how I’d get the yellow stain off my fingers for the
I’ve gotten into making the caramel corn at home (try this
recipe; you won’t regret it), and elevating movie-nights on the bed
with Olive Oil Chex Mix with 7 Spice. But this winter’s at-home movie-watching season, I’ve started popping my corn in olive oil.
Be still my heart: olive oil popcorn is unbelievably good!
And because I can’t leave well enough alone, the olive oil led me to think
of Lebanese za’atar, since those two are both made perfect together, and
wouldn’t that make a fine brown-bag popcorn treat?
I was so right about this that I even hesitated sharing it here, thinking of
patents and trademarks and secret recipes so spot on they could make a girl
Or at least just a delicious night at home with the movies.