Stephen King's guide to movie snacks
The Bard of Horror takes a gastronomical tour of the movie-theater concession stand -- all hail the cholesterol-lowering properties of diet soda
For a magazine that prides itself on the many aspects of the movie business it covers, EW hasn’t had much to say over the years concerning the important subject of snacks. Oh, an occasional piece about how much they cost, but few words on their culinary wonderfulness. This needs correcting, because, while some people eat snacks while they are at the movies, there are some who go to the movies so they can eat snacks. That would be me. So let me impart a few lessons years of snacking have taught me.
First, support your theater. Buy at the snack bar and damn the expense. You could probably sneak your own food in, but if you’re caught, you’ll be thrown out. As for bringing healthier snacks from home: Did you really hire a babysitter and drive six miles so you could snark cucumber slices half-drowned in buttermilk ranch out of a slimy plastic bag? Is that what you call living it up?
If you want to get healthy, there are places for that: They’re called ”health clubs.” And I find there’s something giddy about tossing down $4.50 for a box of Gummi Bears or a bag of chocolate raisins. It makes me feel like a high roller, especially when the matinee ticket itself only costs 50 cents more.
I always start my order with the ritual drink — Diet Pepsi if possible, Coke Zero as a fallback, Diet Coke the court of last resort. A big diet cola sops up the calories and cholesterol contained in movie snack food just like a big old sponge soaks up water. This is a proven fact. One expert (me) believes a medium diet cola drink can lower your cholesterol by 20 points and absorb as much as one thousand empty calories. And if you say that’s total crap, I would just point out I don’t call it a ritual drink for nothing. Sometimes I add a strawberry smoothie with lots of whipped cream, but I’m always sure to take enough sips of my ritual drink to absolve me of those calories, too.
NEXT PAGE: ”My motto is ‘Never buy a hot dog that’s been waiting in a foil Baggie under a heat lamp.’ For all you know, that stray dog could have been there since Revenge of the Sith.”
With my calorie-absorbent drink in hand, I can then safely order a large popcorn with extra butter. Of course it isn’t really butter, it’s some sort of mystery substance squeezed from the sweat glands of small animals, but I have developed such a taste for it over my years of filmgoing that the real stuff tastes wrong, somehow.
If the counter guy puts on the glandular butter substitute himself, I watch carefully to make sure he greases the middle of the bag as well as the top layer. If it’s self-serve (at the beginning I didn’t like this option, but now I do), I proceed to hammer on that red button until I have what I call a ”heavy bag.” You know you have a heavy bag when the bottom starts to sag and ooze large drops of a yellow puslike substance before you even get into the theater. And don’t forget the salt. Popcorn salt is a little strong for my taste (and it looks like powdered urine); I prefer plain table salt. Half a shaker is about right.
With a ”heavy bag,” caution is a must. Don’t put it on your lap; when the movie’s over and the lights come up, people will think you wet your pants. Courtesy is also a must. Don’t put it on the seat beside you, or the next person is going to sit on a seat that oozes. Not cool, bro.
My candy of choice is Junior Mints. And while I don’t bring bootleg food into the movies, I do bring bootleg toothpicks. Then, as I relax in my seat, I take a toothpick and poke five or six Junior Mints onto it. It ends the dreaded Chocolate Hand, and it’s also kind of fun to eat candy off a stick. I call them Mint-Kebabs.
And although it’s a matter of personal choice, I myself don’t eat movie meat (go on, snicker, I can take it). My motto is ”Never buy a hot dog that’s been waiting in a foil Baggie under a heat lamp.” For all you know, that stray dog could have been there since Revenge of the Sith. Nachos are good, but only if you get the reserve swimming pool of cheese sauce, because one is never enough.
Now that I think of it, the same could be said of snacks. But remember: Start with the ritual drink. After that, you’re on your own.