Too Much PC: Curried Popcorn

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

-Happy *Insert Proper Holiday Here*-

"Do we need to put stuff up for Ramadan?" asked Pamela. We were putting up the various holiday decorations at work and while she began to string garland through the big Spruce tree I tried my darndest to remember which symbol was which on a dreidel. It was my first job out of college and after four years of spinning the darned thing I still could barely remember which was which.

"No, it was in July and August this year. Lunar calendar, I think," I replied.

"Still, don't we have to represent it?" she asked.

"What? Why?" I tossed the toy onto the table and listened to it playfully whir against the tabletop before teetering over with the symbol for Nun face up.

"To be all PC and all that," she replied.

"It was months ago. That would be like hanging your stockings and breaking out the nog in May. There's no point. Plus, anyone who came in who was knowledgeable about the holiday would realize that it was misguided PC. Or, well, just think us idiots. If we wanted to honestly represent it we should have done so at the right time. I didn't know when it was and we don't celebrate all the holidays anyways. It's not like we lit candles for Diwali or anything this year."

-Totally dropped the Diwali ball. My bad.-

"Well, at least we have a Christmas tree so people know what we celebrate," she said in most self-assured way, as if setting herself stalwart against imagined throngs of people bashing down our door to declare a War on Christmas. "I'm so tired of hearing Happy Holidays, when people mean Merry Christmas."

Pamela is the heavily religious type. Rather liberal on many social issues (you generally are if you work in social work as we do), but still strictly religious. She was the type who wore tacky holiday sweaters with fashionable abandon, pulsed with the thrum of her beliefs, and would lecture you about cursing if you said, "Oh Jesus," in her presence. Still her plump face, blond hair that fell to her waist in wheat-colored wave, violin chord voice, and amber disposition made her endearing to almost everyone.

"But not everyone here does celebrate Christmas. I think that, well, Christmas has evolved into a family holiday for a lot of people. It doesn't have quite the religious connotation I think it had," I replied as I tried to get pencil thin candle to stand straight in the menorah.

"What do you mean?" asked Pamela.

"Well, I mean, a lot of atheist and non-Christian people celebrate Christmas. I mean, you get the days off from work and some people like the cheer but not the religion," I said.

"We live in America," she replied in earnest, "Most people celebrate Christmas. You can't celebrate Christmas and be an atheist!"

-There's a fine for that in most of the Bible Belt states.-

"My boyfriend is atheist so I guess he put a tree up at his place for the heck of it then?" I shot back. Now mildly annoyed I began to rev up my sarcasm engine that, once running, was like a F-1 screaming across a frozen lake: near impossible to stop and likely to end up in a burning wreck with many casualties. "Though a Christmas tree is a stolen Pagan tradition so maybe he worships the Earth Mother? It used to be called a Yule tree. If you have a tree I guess that's what it means. Right? Maybe both? You have a tree, right?"

"Christmas trees are Christmas trees, they're no longer Pagan." She began to fuss with some tinsel, her fingers only knotting it worse than when it came out of the box.

"Unless you're Pagan and it isn't a Christmas tree."

"There aren't any more Pagans, Garrett!"

"That's because the Christians killed them all way back when!" I snapped back.

Deep breath. "Implosion may be imminent, but maybe I can diffuse," this I told myself.

"Yes, Pamela. Actually, there are. I roomed with two in college. We celebrated Yule together, as well as Hanukkah and Christmas. And the reason there aren't as many of them as there used to be is that the Christians killed most of them a few centuries ago and then stole their holiday traditions," I paused and took a breath. "The point is, I think there are two types of Christmas now: Christian and Non-Christian. Both are great, both encourage togetherness and love, both have presents and all that jazz. Just one has a special religious service that gets most lax practitioners in a Church for the one time a year and the other is governed by and Target."

"Garrett," she sighed, "you're just being difficult now."

"No, Pamela, I'm not. Honestly. My goal is not to attack you," deep breath. Try not to smack her one. Another breath. "Sorry for also getting snippy."

An apology, from me, for sarcasm. Christmas miracles do happen.

I started again, "I just want you to clearly explain your point of view. As for holiday greetings I honestly do not think that by saying 'Happy Holidays' people, politicians, and businesses are trying to attack the holidays. It's not an intended slight to baby Jesus who, by the way, I'm a fan and follower of, but in a far more liberal way. Yes, it might be partly PC-based, but then again how is anyone supposed to know your religion unless you wear a symbol of it on yourself? The phrase is simply just easy. Plus, 'Happy Holidays' is quicker than 'Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.'"

Still, she had somewhat of a point. PC Watchdog Cheer does seem to be laying heavier on the spiked nog this year, as if my boozy cousin was serving it drinks.

A school in California recently banned all teachers from putting up Santas, trees, and even pointsettias in order to prevent religious discrimination. Seriously? The district is sort of like the Grinch who stole Christmas, only this time the Grinch has been smoking crystal meth for two weeks and is now wearing the freshly carved skin of Cindy Lou Who before terrorizing the townspeople of Whoville.

-Best Christmas special ever.-

Teachers, please, celebrate Christmas in the classroom. I encourage it. But make it educational. Talk about the history of the holiday. And don't just do Christmas but Yule, Kwanza, Lunar New Year, Divali, Ramadan, Passover, and so on. Put the decorations up and expose children to all the various celebrations and joys that people have and the ways they give thanks for the blessings in their lives. Enlighten them to other people.

Of course, if teachers did this then the people complaining about the fact that schools are being forced not to celebrate the birth of Christ and the rejection of prayer in schools would complain that their children are being indoctrinated to become Islamic terrorists in the second grade classroom. Those safety scissors may not be able to cut butter, but they'll stab out an infidel's eye if wielded correctly.


On the other side of things, a choir teacher omitted the word "gay" from the song "Deck the Halls," apparently clueless that in this case "gay" referred to jolliness and not steamy man-on-man balls touching action. I mean really? Socially conservative people are waging their own war on Christmas, just on a different and somewhat dictionary-absent front while simultaneously complaining about socially liberal people and atheists neutering Jesus.

Not that that scene woulnd't make for a very different and unique nativity set to display in the living room.

The gays are also pissed that "gay" was taken out for completely the wrong reasons, and some of the religious right are pissed because "gay" was taken out, thus infringing on their sacred holiday song. On this issue though you have everyone pissed.

So you know, at least there is some semblance of togetherness.

Still, the teacher may be onto something. Any song about being a snappy dresser and redecorating probably falls into the "slightly homo" category.

Either way, I'm sure the news outlets and crazies on either side of the debate will continue to go on and on about this.

Pamela and I put the issue aside and finished our job making the office more festive with ornaments hung and dreidels spinning. We went online to print a little faq sheet about Yule, the both of us learning a few things or two and decided to pin a few quills of cinnamon around the office to spread prosperity and joy.

We then moved to stringing a few garlands in the break room. We began to talk about how we both used to string popcorn and cranberries on finishing line and used them to give our homes some homespun festivities on a budget.

"My mom used to pop so much extra corn. Two huge bowls full. One bowl for stringing and the other for eating. She's melt butter with cumin and chili powder and then pour it over. Oh! It was so warm and fun," Pamela reminisced.

I realized that I hadn't popped fresh corn myself since I was a child. Back then my mom and dad used an air popper; far before microwave popcorn drenched in strange yellow oils became the de facto corn used in most households today.

The next day I picked up a bag of popping corn at the Farmers' Market then went home and made popcorn. It was fun watching the first kernels explode into poofs of white crunchiness, bouncing and twirling in the pot like dancers in a Nutcracker performance. Soon those kernels were buried as more and more burst inside-out and the level of white corn rose and rose, steam escaping the seems of the lid before the corn pushed it up, up, and off the pot.

After the corn was done and in the bowl I tossed in the hot pot a knob of butter and a spoonful of curry powder. The butter browned and the spices blended, turning dark yellow and aromatic as savory steam stirred through the room. A quirk swirl and over the popcorn it went to be tossed with a flurry of salt.

The popcorn, needless to say, was epic. Perhaps curry isn't a traditional yule-tide classic, but maybe it should be. It seems like a rather novel way to ring in whatever happy holiday you choose to celebrate, and while we may not all agree on how to greet each other in this festive time of year I think we can all agree to debate it fairly over a big bowl of popcorn.

Happy Holidays, everyone. Whatever and however you celebrate.

~Garrett, Fiance, and Eat Beast

Curried Popcorn
Adapted from Simply Recipes

2 tablespoons canola, peanut or grapeseed oil (something with a high smoke point)
1/3 cup high-quality popcorn kernels
2 tablespoons or more (to taste) unsalted butter
1/2 tablespoon curry powder
Salt to taste

1. Heat the oil in a 3 quart sauce pot with a lid over medium-high heat. Toss in a few kernels and cover the pot.

2. When those kernels pop take the pot off the heat to allow the heat to temper a bit. Count to 30 before putting it back on the heat. The oil may smoke a bit, no worries as it's what happens.

3. Add the rest of the kernels and they should begin popping. Once the popping starts be sure to shake the pot a bit to prevent the kernels on the bottom from burning. At the same time keep the lid slightly ajar to allow steam to escape as this will ensure crispy popcorn. Once the popping stops take off heat and put the popcorn in a bowl.

4. Toss the butter and curry powder in the pot (it will still be hot). Stir the butter together with the curry powder and pour over the popcorn. Add salt to taste, toss, and serve.


  1. I hate PC-holiday business.

    When I was 8, my crazy brownie troop leader canceled our Christmas Pageant for our "bad behavior". (She was crazy, but not as crazy as my friend's troop leader who embezzled all of the cookie money and went AWOL to Vegas). I was the first to protest this travesty, and I'm Jewish.

    I usually say Merry Christmas to people, if you know, the celebrate Christmas (either religiously or non.)... For everyone else, it's "Happy Festivus!" or "Merry Kwanzaka!" "Huzzah, Chrismukkah!" or occasionally, "Happy Hannukah, do you have any chocolate gelt on you? I'm craving like whoa".

  2. Love your writing. It has amazed me how the white American Christians (yes my ethnic group) have gone from Divine-Decreed Masters of the Universe in the 1950s to Threatened Disadvantaged Victims in current times. Not that their socioeconomic status has changed, or that they are really threatened, except in the Fox theater of their own minds.
    Happy holidays. Or "Happy, happy, Joy, joy." Or whatever.

  3. loved this post. specially "The district is sort of like the Grinch who stole Christmas, only this time the Grinch has been smoking crystal meth for two weeks and is now wearing the freshly carved skin of Cindy Lou Who before terrorizing the townspeople of Whoville." :)

  4. PC has gotten a tad out of control. While I'm all for recognizing that other religions do exist (even if I myself have no faith), it's either crazy people shrieking about "Merry Christmas, not Happy Holidays!" or the Freedom From Religion group suing a city because they have a Christmas Tree in the court center (though I do agree government buildings shouldn't be putting up religious tokens of any type, a tree is so vaguely religious by now it's almost not worth arguing over). However, where I live, I'm surrounded by WHELS and other frighteningly religious types, so I tend to be drowned out by crazy people who are dead certain the gay liberal mentally deficient contingent are taking their baby Jesus away. Sigh.

    Popcorn, though! I live next to the town that produces Fireworks Popcorn, which has quite a few types of corn kernels. If anyone gets into popping their own, it's definitely worth it to experiment with types other than the big cheap jar of Reddenbocker at the supermarket; I prefer the thicker, chewier type myself.

  5. omg i choked on my coffee at "man on man balls-touching action" -- effing BRILLIANT!

  6. "Teachers, please, celebrate Christmas in the classroom. I encourage it. But make it educational. Talk about the history of the holiday. And don't just do Christmas but Yule, Kwanza, Lunar New Year, Divali, Ramadan, Passover, and so on. Put the decorations up and expose children to all the various celebrations and joys that people have and the ways they give thanks for the blessings in their lives. Enlighten them to other people."

    Thank you, thank you, thank you-- I couldn't agree more. Happy Holidays to you!

  7. Sam: Gelt right now would be awesome.

    burnttoast: Fox theater of their minds. Love it.

    Parker: It would be an interesting animated special.

    Soku: WHELS? I'm not familar with the terms. *off to google*

  8. MOST EXCELLENT POST Garret! I kept cracking up about the safety scissors bit. I am totally going to try this over the weekend, i've been on a curry kick as it is. Thanks for your endless enthusiasm and witty snark. It always makes my Tuesday! Merry Christmas! -Tara

  9. Thank you so much for making me laugh on a day I really needed it! I'll try the popcorn.
    Happy Holidays:)

  10. "Curried popcorn may not be a yule time classic", true, but I was amazed to see about 6 different types of curry flavoured popcorn when I was at a cinema in India :)

  11. Being raised muslim in a country where Christians are acknowledged, but discriminated; I never understand the point of Christmas. Then again, I don't care much about any holiday, I don't even care much about birthdays. I mean, I'd respect other people's eagerness to celebrate and I am not going to diss them for it; but eighteen Aid'l Fitri celebration with my dad's extended family one Christmas with my now husband's family made it clear that I never would want to deal with them.

    And that's not because I'm an atheist, either, I just really don't understand the hype of gift-giving obligation only on certain days of the year. I gift people random shit whenever I damn-well please.

    And there isn't single bone in me that would tolerate people who believe that everyone are required to have the same beliefs as them.

  12. Frankly, I'm a strong believer that any religion should be kept out of schools. I wouldn't mind Christmas decorations, but only if they put up decorations for other holidays when they arrive as well.

    No seriously, religious doctrines should never mix with education. My country's people are mainly fucked up because people got indoctrinated instead of educated. They can't afford to send their kids to school so they send their five year olds to learn how to read the Qur'an in Arabic. The results? Too many bigots who'd point their fingers at me and yell "Ew, Christian" for wearing an ankh, and maybe several who thinks they can get away with murder as long as they pray to their Gods before carrying out the crime.

    Am I the only one who finds that fucked up?

  13. Annonymous: I get many of your arguments, but as for the gift giving, well, it's just a time to show people you care. Nothing more than that, if you want to give gifts at other times, so be it. However, a holiday kind of makes people remember to take time to slow down and think of others.

  14. Ironic that I'm reading this while we watch "Red State."

    Well put, G.

  15. Kate: Awesome.

    Elise: And to you! =D

  16. This was an awesome post. Thank you for it. Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas.

  17. Awesome post and comments! Happy holidays everyone, no matter what you are/do/celebrate!

  18. I now say "Happy Holidays" solely to piss people off. I'm grinchy that way.

  19. I guess my family "celebrates" Christmas, but really, we just use the holidays to gather around and share a nice meal. Dragging religion into it complicates it so much.

  20. I agree!

    I have been ranted at for wishing someone "happy holidays" and received the rationale that saying HH is evil and that it needs to be merry Christmas because it is all about Jesus...and on and on. When I blinked and calmly replied that I was not intending to be offensive, noting that not everyone is Christian, I received a further rant about how I was helping to take Christ out of Christmas. I asked if the person would prefer me to wish them a greeting based upon my beliefs instead of the dreaded (neutral) happy holidays. When receiving the affirmative, I gave a big smile and said "O.K., then, I wish you a very Happy Chanukah!" Then turned around and left.

    I just don't get that attitude. I love the holidays and love learning about others' traditions. I have sung many Christmas songs - I was even a red-headed, female, Jewish Santa one year for a very fun presentation of Rudolph the red nosed reindeer!

    I think the curry popcorn sounds really yummy. I have never heard of it, but you mentioned cumin and I could immediately smell it mentally.

    Thank you again!

  21. Dude, right on re: random Ramadan representation during the winter holiday season. Like, why? I'm Muslim, born and raised in the US and I'd think it would be weird. Plus, us Muslims are used to being non-conformist =).

    I have to say though, it does warm my heart to see businesses recognizing Ramadan - definitely make it a point to visit those places more.

    Happy New Year!


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