Baking for Bookworms: Buttered Popcorn from Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love


I wanted to choose a food from this book that reflected the circus atmosphere, and there are few foods that do that better than fresh buttery popcorn.

The first mention of popcorn occurs at the very beginning of the novel, when the narrator, the hunchbacked Oly, describes the ‘good days’ of her youth at the end of a show:

“We children would smile and hug him and he would grin around us and send the twins for a pot of cocoa from the drink wagon and me for a bag of popcorn because the red-haired girls would just throw it out when they finished closing the concession anyway. And we would all be cozy in the warm booth of the van, eating popcorn and drinking cocoa and feeling like Papa’s roses.”                                                                    10

Everything in the Binewski family’s life centers around the circus–sustaining that life. Even the children are created to serve that purpose, to be the circus’s geeks or freaks. But the circus is still home, and childhood has a way of making little things into very important experiences.

Undoubtedly the popcorn the Binewski family so enjoyed was packed full of all kinds of chemicals, while this recipe could not be more simple. If you’ve ever just tried melting butter and pouring it over microwave bag popcron, you’ve probably been disappointed in the state of your soggy kernels. The trick to making buttered popcorn is to clarify the butter–taking the water out. Also, using plain kernels instead of a microwave bag results in firmer, less likely to get soggy kernels.

This makes one-two servings of popcorn, but can easily be increased.

  • 1/3 cup popcorn kernels
  • 3 tablespoons butter (2 tablespoons will lightly butter)
  • optional add ins such as parmesan cheese, cinnamon sugar, or your favorite seasoning.

In a brown paper bag (or with your air popper, if you have one) dump the popcorn kernels.

Microwave for about 3 minutes, or until the popping slows down.

Put in a bowl and set aside.

Melt the butter in a microwaveable container (about 30 seconds). Using a spoon, skim the white foam that comes to the top. Add in any flavorings you’d like and stir well to combine.

Pour the butter over the popcorn, shaking the bowl gently to coat all the kernels.

Enjoy with your favorite people or your favorite movie.


What’s your favorite way to eat popcorn? Let me know in the comments!

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