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By Pat Lisi

When a soldier is sent to war he or she goes with the understanding that there will be certain things they’ll miss while they are gone.  Important things like family and friends, pets, good food and clean water, a nice bed to sleep long hours in, favorite scenes or vacations.  I missed all of these things when I went to Vietnam in the late 1960’s to fight in that war.  And, while I was there, I was reminded of all those wonderful people, places, etc., that I needed to stay alive for. 

Strangely enough, one of the little luxuries in life that I missed the most while serving in Nam was popcorn.  That’s right, POPCORN.  It is by far my most cherished treat in life.  I eat popcorn at the movies, I eat it at home, and when I used to drink I’d eat it at the tavern.  I can eat popcorn at parties, or in the car, or on an airplane.  No time is a bad time for popcorn.  I’ve eaten it for breakfast. 

Someday, popcorn may be the death of me, because when you buy it in a theater they always cook it in palm or some other heart-stopping oil.  Even if you don’t put extra salt on it there is enough sodium just by the cooking process, to fulfill an entire day’s worth.  I quit putting the extra ‘butter’ on my theater popcorn long ago, as even I recognized how bad that is for you.  It’s not real butter, anyway, so I don’t miss it.

The year I was in Vietnam I never ate popcorn.  The opportunity didn’t avail itself.  I was with a combat company and we spent almost no time back in the rear area, not that there was any popcorn there, either.  I did go to NCO school in DaNang for a week but there was no popcorn to be had, even at the NCO’s club.  How can you drink beer without popcorn?  They substituted it with other salty snacks like beer nuts, pretzels, and some other concoction that resembled Chex party mix.  It was terrible.  What kind of NCO’s ran the NCO club, anyway!?

Popcorn just was not a part of my life for that entire year!  I’ve been making up for it ever since.  The truth is I don’t eat it all the time; if I did, it wouldn’t be much of a ‘treat’, now would it.  But, when I do get into a batch of popcorn I eat it with a vengeance, like there was some sort of contest going on.  My wife thinks I’m crazy, of course.  For example, when we go to a movie I always order the “bucket” of popcorn which always seems to come with a complimentary refill.  I don’t always take advantage of that offer, but sometimes I’ll get my reload on the way out of the theater after the show is over.

I like to eat popcorn when I’m watching sports, or a movie, at home.  I don’t drink beer anymore, so I have to wash the salt away with some other beverage, usually ice water or a soda.  I make my own popcorn with an air popper, and from a 2/3 cup of popcorn seeds I can get a batch that is even bigger than the bucket I buy at the movie theater.  I rationalize this show of gluttony by telling myself and my wife that it wasn’t cooked using any kind of oil.  Of course, I melt a couple tablespoons of real butter on the finished product and I have been known to sort of sneak the salt shaker from the cupboard so I can sprinkle just a bit on my ‘treat’.

Popcorn eluded me in Vietnam.  But, when I got home I regained the freedom to cook up as much as I wanted.  And, I’m not about to give up that right, anymore.  I did that, once.

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