Linda Smittle, 128 TCCS
Maruuk’s brown eyes looked up at me. Concerned. Confused.
He looked down at the small cup of yellow popcorn kernels.
“More?” he asked in English. Concerned. Confused. He didn’t have the English words for “This isn’t enough! How can I share this little bit of popcorn with my family and friends?”
“It’s OK.” I said. He raised his eyebrows with doubt.
But we continued.
He poured enough oil to cover the bottom of a small aluminum cooking pan.
“Put in three.” I instructed. I pointed to the yellow kernels, held up three fingers, and then pointed inside the pan.
We counted as he dropped each kernel into the oil. “One. Two. Three.”
“Put on the lid.” He followed my hand gestures to place the lid on top of the pan.
I placed the pan on the burner, turned on the propane gas and started the stove.
“Now we listen for POP! POP! POP!”
We waited. We hummed a bit. We listened. We sang the ABC Song. We listened – and heard sizzling oil. We counted to 20. We listened – and saw a bit of steam rise from the ill-fitting lid. We listened. We chanted “Wash your hands many times a day. Always use soap to take the germs away!” Before we reached the “Wash your hands before you eat” line, we heard the first POP! We stopped chanting, held our breath, and listened. In a few seconds, POP! And almost immediately the third POP!
The oil was hot – ready to pop popcorn.
I removed the pan from the burner, opened the lid, poured in the rest of the kernels, and replaced the lid. To wait for the kernels to heat up, we slowly said our ABCs. When we reached Z, I put the pan back on the burner. Soon we could only hear Pop! POP! Pop! POP! Pop!
Maruuk jumped and squealed in delight.
I shook the pan. In almost no time, the popping petered out.
I turned off the flame and opened the lid.
“WOW!” Maruuk’s eyebrows shot up and his eyes widened in amazement. White kernels filled the pan. Magic. We smiled.
We dumped the hot kernels into a larger pan and added salt.
We tasted the fresh popcorn.
I don’t remember if his feet touched the ground as he waltzed from my kitchen with a large bag of popcorn to share with his family and friends.
Maruuk was an eight-year old neighbor in Ghana. We made popcorn together after he helped me fetch water from a nearby well. Four years later, children in my small community in Thailand have also been surprised and delighted when they make popcorn for the first time.
There are many similarities and differences between Ghana and Thailand. The magic of popping corn is the same in both countries.
Note to Thailand PCVs: Popcorn kernels are available at larger chain stores (or bakery supply shops) in big cities. Making popcorn is SO EASY – and a great snack. Complete directions can be found here. I use the smallest tam-boon cup sold at the 20 baht store to measure the popcorn kernels. Popcorn is a healthy snack and making popcorn with children supports Peace Corps Goal 2: To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.