By now, you’re probably already rolling your eyes at the headline. I mean, we food writers are constantly calling things “the best,” to the point it has become almost meaningless. I mean, does anybody really know what the best steak they’ve ever eaten is? Do you realize how much steak I’ve tasted just in the last three years? And even if I can remember how good everything I’ve tasted was, there is still a lot more food out there I haven’t discovered. So I get it. Seeing another food writer declare another food product “the best I’ve ever eaten” probably seems silly. But bear with me, because I’m absolutely sure this popcorn is the best I’ve ever eaten.
How do I know this? It’s simple. I hate popcorn.
I’m not sure “hate” is a strong enough word for it, actually. Popcorn makes me angry. Popcorn is the squeaky troll of the food world. Popcorn is a bucket full of tiny, vicious April Fool’s jokes. Eating popcorn like biting into a salty Styrofoam peanut that somebody has dunked in stale grease. Each bite resembles the texture of a dehydrated sponge that someone forgot to squeeze out two weeks ago.
Oh, and your reward for gnawing through that squealing nugget of apathy? The malicious kernel that exploded moments ago dies its final death stuck between your teeth, slashing your gums and stubbornly resisting your best eviction efforts. Seriously, what other popular food makes people literally bleed? I’m convinced popcorn is the result of an evil experiment to create an edible pincushion.
There is nothing marketed as food that causes more instant regret than a bite of popcorn.
So you’ll understand why last week I just politely smiled and reluctantly accepted a friendly man’s gift of a free bag of kettle corn while I waited for my lunch at The Food Truck Stop at Station 801. My plan was to take the bag back to the office and offload it on some unsuspecting coworkers, or give it to someone who professed “liking” popcorn (I don’t know how that’s possible, but ok). But because this is my job, I decided to give it a try before getting rid of it.
Less than 15 minutes later, I had plowed through the entire bag.
My goodness, what an experience! Gone was the tepid resistance and stinging bite of every popcorn I’ve had before. In its place, something impossibly light and crisp, dissolving into wisps of airy satisfaction and unmistakable flavors of corn. Corn! It’s a damning statement on popcorn that you can’t even taste the primary ingredient. Yet there it was, sweet and subtle with every bite.
This incredible work is produced by Keith Fulks of Mr. Keith’s Kettle Corn. Fulks is a veteran employee of Southwest Airlines who started making popcorn as a hobby. Mr. Keith’s Kettle Corn is only a few months old, and Fulks hasn’t even created a Facebook page. But Fulks clearly knows what he is doing (check out the video at the top). He uses a mushroom kernel variety of popcorn and even has his own secret recipe for his oil blend. And he knows just how much heat to use to get the kernels to pop quickly without burning, resulting in a practically weightless bite with a shell that all but disappears when it pops.
Mr. Keith’s makes several varieties of popcorn, including caramel and cheese, but the real winner is his standard sweet-and-salty kettle corn. Right now, he only sells at The Food Truck Stop, but he is available for private events as well (contact information is below). However you do it, you need to try Mr. Keith’s Kettle Corn. Not only is it the best popcorn I’ve ever eaten. It’s one of my favorite bites of 2016.
Mr. Keith’s Kettle Corn