We talk about food nonstop at Delish. Pretty much every dish and cuisine has been discussed at some point in our office. So imagine my shock to discover that most of our team was totally unaware of a major event in Midwestern food culture: Sunday night popcorn dinner.
“You’re saying your mom just popped some popcorn, dropped it on the table, and that was dinner?” was the general response.
Well yeah, pretty much. But let’s break it down a little more.
When I was a kid in the Indiana cornfields, we always ate popcorn for dinner on Sunday night. This wasn't just a snack, mind you. It was the centerpiece of the meal. My mom got this tradition from her dad, who used to pop a big batch in his countertop popper and crunch his way through a metal bowl of it while sitting in his easy chair sipping on a Diet Coke. Pint of ice cream to follow.
As a nurse and mother of five, my mom insisted that her Sunday night popcorn be accompanied by crackers and cheese (for protein), apples with peanut butter (fruit and more protein!), and a plate of carrot sticks or whatever veggies were kicking around in the refrigerator. She also insisted we eat it at the table like any other dinner.
A few other Delish team members have their own memories of this Midwestern staple meal. For director of content operations Lindsey Ramsey and senior food editor Makinze Gore, popcorn dinner was their mothers’ way of relaxing on the last night of the weekend. “It was a thing for her, like, I’m going to work tomorrow, I need something easy,” Ramsey said. Same for Gore: “She doesn’t believe in cooking on Sundays and wants something so minimal, like popcorn.”
While their mothers didn’t try to impose popcorn dinner on their families, they made it clear they weren’t cooking anything else. According to Gore, “She always made...way too much popcorn. She'd leave it up to all of us if we wanted to add some M&Ms. If you wanted anything but popcorn, you were on your own.”
Ramsey said the freedom was the best part of the whole experience. “When the parents were eating popcorn, us kids got to eat something else as long as it was super easy. Sunday usually meant I could indulge in warming up my own prepared foods...I thought I was the luckiest kid," she said.
For Delish video editor Ian Munsell, Sunday night popcorn was less of a weekly ritual and more of a fun treat that “popped” up unexpectedly. “I’d be playing outside with my siblings and we’d run inside to the sounds of the popcorn popper and watch the machine,” he said. “We were easily entertained.” Popcorn in hand, the entire Munsell family sat down to watch a movie.
Sunday night popcorn dinner is a chance to put your feet up and relax. It’s an invitation to spend time with family before everyone scatters to work or school the next morning. It’s a moment to take a breath and reset for the week ahead. When’s the last time you popped a pan of popcorn and called it dinner for your family? Maybe you should give it a try.
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