The Sampler at
Carmel Corn Cottage
The life of a professional diner is one of infinite variety and individuality—an irreproducible strand of gustatory delights strung like pearls along the line of creative hankering for various kinds of eating experiences.
I wandered to the north end of town and took myself out for a little treat—no appetizer, no aperitif, no hovering waiters wielding wine lists. All I wanted was a little bit of popcorn.
Interesting food, popcorn. Scientific researchers believe the magic kernels first originated around 5000 years ago in what is now Mexico.
The tasty treat is actually an inheritance from the Aztecs, and all of the native peoples of North and South American who regularly enjoyed it, both as a snack and a lively after-dinner entertainment as they threw it on sizzling hot stones and tended it as it popped off in different directions.
It’s estimated that today Americans eat over one billion pounds of popcorn annually.
Popcorn was named by the pioneers for its obvious activity when cooked It was also called parching corn, pot corn, cup corn, dry corn, and, understandably perhaps, “buckshot” over the years of the great Western expansion.
The pioneers helped to civilize the actual preparation of the delightful snack by containing it in a little covered shovel which could be heated over the coals of the fireplace.
And that’s the way it stood, for hundreds of years, until some enterprising snackster came up with the brilliant innovation of coating the sacred kernels with the balancing and enhancing flavor of sweet, sticky caramel; in that moment of culinary genius, an industry was born.
As it happens, some of my earliest memories of dining in Nashville are of carmel corn.
It seems like a hundred years ago that the old Jessup’s Carmel Corn wagon used to be parked right out on Van Buren Street near the main intersection of town during the autumn hustle and bustle. Dad would treat us to a bag of the sweet, crunchy snack.
Now carmel corn has gone year-round, with the Carmel Corn Cottage, located in the red and white building on the North end of town, across from the Joybell Theater, providing fresh, daily popped popcorn to Nashville’s visitors since 1979.
But this isn’t necessarily the same popcorn that Dad and I enjoyed.
In addition to their popular hot buttered and carmel popcorns, the Carmel Corn Cottage (CCC) offers 100 flavors of gourmet popcorn ranging from Amaretto and Apple to Very Berry and Watermelon.
Their motto down at the CCC is “Life is too short not to have the best.”
They make everything from scratch, using real butter and the best cheese you can get.
Their original carmel corn is made from scratch ever day in copper kettles with real butter for that rich old-fashioned taste.
If that’s not enough to get your carmel corn motor turning, how about double dipped carmel with nuts with extra carmel, dipped twice, and carmel coated with nuts. This is the best carmel corn—extra sweet and crunchier.
Then there are the Carmel Delites without any kernels or hulls—just the best baked corn meal you ever had. They cover the baked corn meal with carmel in the copper kettle.
They also have cheese corn, kettle corn, and lite carmel corn for diabetics.
The Carmel Corn Cottage offers a dizzying variety of flavored popcorns—everything imaginable including but not limited to: chocolate, amaretto, butterscotch, candy apple, creme de menthe, mai tai, orange sherbert, dreamsicle, fruit bubblegum, peanut butter, pumpkin spice, red raspberry, root beer float, and watermelon.
Oh, did I mention the dill pickle popcorn?
That right! Dill pickle popcorn, imbued with the delicious taste of a dill pickle. If you like pickles, you’ll love this corn!
Of course, there’s more than corn in Indiana, and more than popcorn down at the CCC.
The store also proffers carmel apples, made with Granny Smith or Red Delicious apples, with or without nuts; delicious home made Fudge; and tasty home made peanut brittle, made with honey.
Their products can be ordered over the internet at <www.carmelcorncottage.com> but the best thing about actually visiting there in person is the free samples.
“Free samples” is like music to the food reviewers ears.
What could be more Midwestern, more Indianian than the simple, noble, pure, and virtuous popcorn? And what could be more American than to coat the virtuous kernel with salacious, racy, fattening, and tantalizing carmel?
I carefully chewed and swallowed this delicious dichotomy.
And I was profoundly satisfied.