My mother told us how they used to make popcorn “in the good old days.” They put the corn kernals into a mesh basket with a long handle, something like a “Jiffy-Pop” set-up. The cook then shook the basket over the fireplace fire until the corn exploded and filled up the popper.
Winter Sunday afternoons were popcorn time at the farm on Whirlwind Hill. My grandmother popped a huge pot of corn, buttered and salted it, and left it on the kitchen table. When we came in from sledding we filled our little green melmac bowls with the salty snack and brought it with us to the living room to eat while we listened to the grown-ups engage in their Sunday chat.
We saved some of the popcorn for my Grandpa Hall’s popcorn balls. He was a slow eater, and one popcorn ball might last him several evenings. This was ok, because popcorn balls seem to get better over time, especially if you wrap them in green or red cellophane tied with ribbon. My mother made these for him, knowing that on cold winter nights his favorite pastime was to sit by the wood stove in the kitchen and nibble on a popcorn ball and some hickory nuts.