Cleaning Up The Classics Part IV: Popcorn & Gummy Sweets

My Dad loves popcorn. Literally.

My Mum does not.

They are both film fans however and as such are relatively frequent flyers in both our local independent and chain cinemas. There came a fateful day when they ventured slightly further afield, still within our general locale, but opted for the alternative local independent to their usual stomping ground.

Upon arrival my Dad’s nostrils flared at the first waft of that oh so tantalising aroma and he obviously made a beeline for the counter (as many people do), unfortunately on this occasion it was to be rebuffed with the phrase “Sorry sir but we are not a popcorn cinema”. Cue the end of the world and destruction of all you believe in and hold dear. The grin that spread across my mum’s face however could probably have been seen from space (maybe a slight overstatement but you get the gist, people crunching through a film is one of the very few things my usually sainted Mater truly despises).

Now my position on this aspect does not lie at either extreme, I do not enjoy the sound of other’s crunching but it also doesn’t make my blood pressure sky rocket. I do take great offence however to the ingredients, one in particular, found within that seemingly innocuous crispy snack. The big bad wolf of this story goes by the name of Diacetyl and in all honesty I would suggest you are more terrified by that one single word as by any 18 classified horror movie.

So you will all be far more familiar with this chemical compound than you think. That aforementioned wafting taste-bud tickler? That’s Diacetyl; a synthetic butter like compound that is used in both the cinema and microwave varieties. The horrible thing about this stuff is it’s a trans fat which then also gets heated to high temperatures causing it to oxidise further.

A quick note on fats generally – they come in 2 forms; cis and trans. Now cis fats are the forms our bodies like, they’re old friends, easily recognised and utilised. Trans fats on the other hand are their mirror image. Usually altered or ‘transformed’ through some sort of heating or processing thus making them unrecognisable, they don’t fit into any of our puzzle style absorption sites so we can’t use them, instead they rampage around the body unchecked generally causing all kinds of oxidative (AKA potentially carcinogenic) havoc.

With respect to Diacetyl specifically is the risk of lung cancers and other respiratory conditions as it causes narrowing and damage to the airways. There is in fact a condition known as ‘Popcorn Lung’ (originally discovered in workers) which is caused by inhalation of this horrible stuff (finding the foyer aroma less enticing yet…?). New research also links consumption to the increased proliferation of beta-amyloid plaques (AKA Alzheimer’s disease) as Diacetyl can cross the protective Blood-Brain Barrier (designed to keep toxins out).

Unfortunately for our much loved movie mate this isn’t where it ends. Depending on your flavour choice you can also find yourself dabbling in a variety of other hidden additives including MSG, high fructose corn syrup, bucket loads of salt, preservatives, other hydrogenated oils and a lovely one called perfluorooctanoic acid which is the stuff used to make the non-stick coating for cookware. Not the best……

Of course I wouldn’t leave you at this point with no way to fill the gaping hole left by the removal of this sweet and/or savoury staple. I have dabbled with, burnt (don’t tell anyone) and accidentally covered my kitchen in plenty of kernels in recent weeks to come up with a foolproof, delicious alternative to seamlessly sub in.

Before we get there however I have the other half of the cinema snackers to satisfy. Those who opt for the sweeter, chewier side of life and who’s route is to that multi-coloured wall of plastic containers, I am of course talking about the pick ‘n’ mix display.

Right, where to start…….. As a whole sweets are just that, very, very sweet! And sweet = sugar which we know is not good for us. Now if we were just to conclude there I could almost be persuaded that these weren’t so bad as a now and again indulgence in moderation (not my personal choice but also not necessarily a black lister). However this is not where the story ends.

There are numerous other hidden funsies in there depending on which particular confection tickles your fancy so I have just picked a few of my favourites to share with you today.

  • Aspartame: an artificial sweetener used to decrease calorie content whilst keeping things oh so sweet. The downside? Links to kidney dysfunction, an increased risk of diabetes, growth retardation, cognitive impairment and obesity.
  • Castoreum: the ingredient that brings the flavour or scent of vanilla, strawberry & raspberry. Unfortunately this is actually harnessed from sacs found near the anus of beavers….not everyone’s idea of a tasty treat!
  • Confectioner’s Glaze: AKA shellac this compound gives sweets like jelly beans their shine. It is however made from the shells of insects which again might not be to some people’s tastes.
  • Carmine: a product made from crushed beetles, this is the most common dye used to colour sweets red, it is also known to cause severe allergic reactions.
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup: AKA The Devil. A super cheap, super sweet, synthetic sugar product now found in pretty much everything processed or pre-prepared. HFCS is implicated in the massive increase in worldwide obesity, diabetes rates and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
  • Sodium Benzoate: a preservative that is used to colour foods orange. It can also dissociate in the body to become benzene which is a known carcinogen.

So basically you can never have a snack in the cinema again. Bye!

As if I would dream of leaving you so bereft! I have obviously dallied with sweets as well, giving them a good old wash and brush up so now not only are they beautifully devoid of all of those horrible things but by using natural ingredients they actually become nourishing instead.

It is up to you which juice you opt to use for your particular creations, I would suggest however that you choose something with a stronger, more acidic taste as otherwise the flavour may not come through particularly strongly. If you want to go for something like a fresh apple juice, substitute a 1/4 of the amount with something like lemon, lime, grapefruit or rhubarb to provide a bit more intensity. Pure vegetable juices or combinations with fruits also work really well.

And with that it is adieu for the time being except to wish you all Happy, Healthful Cinema Snacking & Movie Munching 😀

Perfect Popcorn

Fruity Gummy Sweets