Beyond the Popcorn Experience – Musings over cinema snacks
I suppose it’s yet another sign of me getting old quicker than I want to admit. You probably belong to a generation of cinema goers who take the smell of oil covered roasted corn and the sticky coat of soda leftovers on the floor for granted. It’s just something you expect to be there, a part of what constitutes a theatre visit. (Actually there ARE people who seriously think this. I stumbled upon an article relating to a debate about if there should be a popcorn ban in the theatres in Britain a few years ago, and there were people who seriously defended the presence of popcorn smell, claiming it was an “essential part of the experience”. A clear case of the Stockholm syndrome.)
But this old lady remembers. Once upon a time it wasn’t like this. Once upon a time you didn’t curse the staff for not cleaning up between the showings and you didn’t have to wonder where to put your feet and bag since the floor looks like a junk yard. Because there was no need for it. It was if not clean, at least close to it. At the most there were a few paper tickets, sometimes neatly folded since the boys used to blow them like trumpets, making fanfares as they waited for the movie to begin. Someone might have dropped an empty candy box under their chair after finishing it. A very small one that would be. But no popcorn. And no drink cans. Not a single one.
Sales of snacks and drinks
I don’t know if they would have stopped anyone trying to enter the theatre brining the equivalence of a dinner to it. But the idea to do it just didn’t cross our minds. For one thing they didn’t sell the stuff on spot. There weren’t any special sales of snacks and drinks. They had a small, not to say tiny assortment of candy which you could buy from the woman in the small ticket booth. I always picked the same one: a small, compact package of square shaped hard fruit sweets called “Nickel”, which you slowly enjoyed one at a time curing the movie, letting them melt in your mouth rather than chewing on them. Not only didn’t they make noises; they lasted longer that way. That’s how it was for many, many years. Generations of Swedish movie visitors were brought up on Nickel.
This changed at some point. I haven’t been able to determinate the exact time, but I think it was during the 80s when it dawned upon the theatre owners where the real profit was to be made and adjusted their business model accordingly. And for all I can tell, the popcorn won’t go away anytime soon.
Sure, we’ve heard about concepts of cinema’s targeting a more adult audience, serving champagne and olives to an audience seated in leather armchairs. I assume it can be successful in a small scale in major cities. But taking the risk of sounding like a bore, renounce of visions, I find it hard to imagine it will break the Popcorn domination in the standard theatres within a foreseeable future. They’re just too profitable, too simple to produce and to sell and suitable for the fairly young audience.
But let’s leave out the popcorn for a while. It’s enough bad that we need to stand the smell and sound of them and step on them everywhere in the theatre. We don’t need to have them invade our conversations as well. So we’ll move along and ponder upon the alternatives. What would make a better movie snack?
Let’s start with what qualities I’m looking for. Here’s a list of what comes into my mind:
- It’s quiet. Anything that is crispy, crunchy, forcing you to make noises as you consume it is out of the question.
- It’s fairly small. At least in Sweden, there’s no abundance of personal space around your seat in the cinema. There’s nowhere to put huge boxes, plats and such things. You need to be able to keep your bog or bag in your knee or just hold it in your hand.
- It doesn’t make me crazily thirsty. I have no wish to rush off to the ladies room halfway through the film. A perfect snack can be enjoyed without a drink to go with it.
- It doesn’t make me greasy. As I said: I have no wish to rush off to the ladies room halfway through the film.
- It tastes nice. Not much of a snack otherwise.
- It’s reasonably healthy. I’m already ruining my health spending too much time sitting on my ass, watching or blogging about movies. There’s no need to make things worse filling my body with junk food.
- It doesn’t cost a fortune. Thank you very much, but the tickets are expensive enough as it is. If you’re a heavy movie consumer like me, it adds up.
So where does this bring me? Well, back in the days when I used to spend a lot of time gaming, my favourite snack was miniature carrots. They were juicy, cheap, sweet and yet fresh, healthy and handy to eat. But sadly enough they’re out of the question as movie snacks. They fail at the first basic requirement with the unavoidable crunchy sound they make.
Slices of apples would fulfil every other requirement as well, but have the same issue. There’s too much noise around them.
A strong candidate would be seedless grapes. They’re fresh, juicy and healthy and if you bring them in a soft bag, there’s no reason why you should make sounds eating them. A word of advice though is to not exaggerate your consumption of them; I believe they can stimulate your digestion more than you want.
My favourite so far has been the box of fresh blueberries which I brought with me one night when I was in an experimental mood. Far from breaking the “no greasiness rule”, as you would believe, they were clean, neat and easy to eat, perfect to munch on one at a time. They would have been insanely expensive if you’d made a pie or jam out of them, but for snacks it was a reasonable deal.
The snack-free solution
Of course there’s a more radical alternative: to not eat anything at all. We’re not babies you know. We don’t need to eat constantly. A gap of two hours to let our bodies just rest and process all the junk we’ve already eaten that day won’t hurt us terribly much; as a matter of fact it might do us good.
Once the movie is over, it’s an entirely different situation of course. After two hours on a diet without goodies you obviously deserve to make up for it.
Don’t worry. There’s an armchair waiting for you here at The Velvet Café.
Come inside, curl up where you feel comfortable and let me pour up a post-movie drink for you! It’s probably not what most people consider “healthy”, but it will be a treat for your soul, and that matters too.
Be kind to yourself. And enjoy your weekend!