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[P]
America's new, true enemy

By tmoertel in Culture
Thu Oct 11, 2001 at 10:16:29 AM EST
Tags: Humour (all tags)
Humour

This is dangerous business, I thought, watching the man catch his breath. I had worked my way through the gathering crowd and could see everything. The day was hot, yet he wore a full-length blacksmith's apron over thick denim pants and an equally thick canvas shirt. Heavy leather gauntlets reached nearly to his elbows, and even his neck was protected by a kerchief. Until he reached up, I hadn't noticed that his helmet, resting on a mat of caked, sweaty hair, incorporated a full-length, see-through heat shield. With obvious resolve, he pulled the shield down, covering his face, and stepped toward a thick, cast-iron crucible the size of a washing machine.

The crucible was mounted on a platform that obscured my view, but when the man stepped on a nearby foot-switch while throwing a pitcher of thick fluid into the iron vessel, I could hear what was hidden within. The deep, rolling roar of furnaces rose unmistakably. As members of the crowed exchanged nervous glances and blue smoke fumed from the crucible, the thought came again: This is dangerous business.

But I was beyond caring. I had paid my dues, I had waited my turn, and now I wanted what was mine. And as the man pitched a cupful of tiny pellets into the crucible's smoldering depths, I knew that I would get it. For only seconds later I heard the telltale popping that could mean only one thing: My Kettle Korn was on its way!


I was first informed of kettle corn a few years ago by my parents, who had reported to me about an amazing CrackerJack-like confection that had been prepared before their eyes by a "cowboy" at the local agricultural fair. With nothing more than a leg-sized wooden spoon and a massive copper pot, they told me, he prepared batch after batch of the magical stuff, selling all he could make on the spot. They went on and on about it, surmising about how the sugar must flash caramelize as the corn pops, waxing on the perfect balance of salty and sweet, and even going so far as to confess that they had meant to give me a large bag of it as a gift. The bag had indeed been purchased, but owing to a tragic driving accident -- something along the lines of "we got hungry on the way home" -- it never reached my hands.

So it was only recently that I witnessed the kettle corn experience firsthand. Basically, a guy sets up a booth at a fair or town festival, fills it with two giant kettles (one for popping and one for holding the finished product), places a portable blast furnace under the popping kettle, and finally hangs up a sign saying "Kettle Korn" or "Copper Kettle Corn" or "Cowboy Kettle Corn Kernels O' Gold" or something of equivalent marketing brilliance.

Then he rakes in money as fast as people can throw it at him.

Seriously.

For those of you who have experienced kettle corn firsthand, you know what I'm talking about. For those who haven't, here's the quick course:

  • This stuff is tasty.
  • The act of making it is simultaneously dangerous, bizarre, and impressive.
  • The act draws crowds. Hungry crowds.
  • By the time a batch is finished, people are already lined up to buy it.
  • They buy it. All. Before you can get any.
  • You curse them -- and get in line for the next batch.
Last Friday, for instance, I was at an apple harvest festival in Pennsylvania. It's a big event for the community and draws in a few hundred craftspeople, performers, and food vendors, all of who set up shop for the weekend. This year, guess who showed up? That's right, a kettle-corn guy. As I waited in line to get my kettle corn at 3:30 in the afternoon, I studied the flow of his business. He sold bags of corn non-stop, on average one $4 bag every twenty seconds. That's $12 per minute or -- and here's where it gets scary -- over $700 per hour!

Now, granted, his wife was helping (she sold the corn while he made it) which halves the profit, but that's still an insanely large amount of money. Even when I factor in the off season and non-peak hours, Mr. K. Corn's success certainly puts my years of engineering studies and hard-won software experience into new perspective. Why am I writing software, suffering the fickle demands of Fortune-500 clients, when I could be a high-society Kettle Corn Man, rubbing shoulders with the elite of the booth-based food service world?

Of course, there are the risks. I could die in a freak caramel explosion, or, even worse, topple into the kettle. And success does have its price. Perhaps a disgruntled funnel-cake vendor would seek to rub me out. At the apple festival I overheard an envious pizza vendor making unkind remarks about the success of the k-corn vendor. As a K-Corn Man, I would doubtless face the same ill will. But I'm strong. I could take it. And what great victory doesn't require a struggle?

K-corning on the side, I would be a man of independent means. No more would I be reliant upon clients for income. Why, I could k-corn during the summer months and code all through the off-season on my k-profits, working on whatever projects I wanted. Linus might turn down my patches today, but tomorrow, when I'm a K-Corn King, would he dare? Not a chance.

By now, maybe you're thinking of getting in on the k-corn action, yourself. Any why not, right? What open source project couldn't use a reliable stream of funding? -- not to mention, an endless supply of piping hot k-corn to feed the coding troops? Yes, perhaps you've got k-corn in your eyes...

Well, Bub, get in line. As a quick search on Google recently showed me, Kettle Corn is big business. It seems that everybody wants to cash in on America's new addiction. Google returns over 2000 hits for "kettle corn" and over 1500 for "kettle korn," most of which are kettle corn vendors.

And, before you jump behind a giant kettle and fire the burners, my friend, you should know about the dark side of the k-corn world. K-corn is addictive, no doubt about it, and there are those who would exploit its addictive properties to line their pockets. Certainly, kettle corn is no crack, but until crack comes fresh from a kettle with a hot-n-crunchy, sweet-n-salty coating, kettle corn will make a fine substitute.

So far, because k-corn has stayed mainly in rural areas, it has avoided the FDA's scrutiny. Unfettered by regulation, it has raced across America, addicting farm folk and craft-show attendees nationwide. Meanwhile, the kettle-corn underground has run wild. Made brazen by their unchecked success, many vendors have eschewed the more subtle addiction-marketing practices of Big Tobacco, instead boldly proclaiming their goal of world domination through addiction. Think I'm kidding? Perhaps you should check out www.kettlecornmachine.com. When was the last time you saw a Flash animation dedicated to "Spreading the addiction," complete with waterfalls of dollar signs, and the unmistakable cash-register ka-ching?

What's worse, The Bulletin of Bend, Oregon is reporting that some vendors, much like tobacco companies that artificially raise their cigarettes' nicotine content, are spiking k-corn with a special "secret ingredient" that is designed to increase the already crack-like corn's addictive properties:

A fair snack food that grows ever more popular is kettle korn. The popping is done in a large copper kettle, then tossed with a stream of sugar, a touch of salt and a secret ingredient that seems to be the root of addiction.
When will the madness stop? How many farm hands and flea-market bargain hunters will have to suffer at the salty (and delightfully sweet) claws of this new menace before we wake up? Kettle Corn is not our friend! Kettle Corn is not our friend! Kettle Corn is not our friend!

Perhaps I was wrong to be lured so willingly into the sweet, caramelly embrace of the big K.C. Perhaps the easy riches of the kettle-corn lifestyle come at a price too high for my conscience to pay. And perhaps America can't afford to loose another hunter or seamstress, truck driver or schoolteacher, veterinarian or tractor salesperson, to this new, true enemy. In the fight against Kettle Corn, we need every hand we can get.

Forgive me, friends, for having been swayed by the salty-sweet kernels of doom. I promise, my next bag will be the last.

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Poll
What do you think about kettle corn?
o Haven't tried it, don't want to. 15%
o Haven't tried it, want some. 52%
o It's crap. 2%
o It's pretty good. 4%
o It's great! 4%
o It's great, and it's addictive -- like crack, only crackier! 20%

Votes: 69
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Google
o www.kettle cornmachine.com
o The Bulletin of Bend, Oregon
o Also by tmoertel


Display: Sort:
America's new, true enemy | 40 comments (38 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
Watch out, buddy... (4.72 / 18) (#1)
by nurglich on Thu Oct 11, 2001 at 12:55:36 AM EST

Dude, kettle corn is my friend. Don't even try to get in between me and my kettle corn. You know that War on Drugs? And how it doesn't work? You know that War on Terrorism? And how its target will never go away either? Well just you try to stop the Kettle Corn Machine. You'll try, and then you'll realize you can't. Because the Kettle Corn Machine is unstoppable. The Kettle Corn Machine is made of metal. And the Kettle Corn Machine is strong. And all the members of it are burly country guys that can endure portable blast furnaces. Plus they have shotguns. And those shotguns, my friend, shoot KETTLE CORN! So even if it misses, you'll have to turn around to eat it, and then you'll be in trouble. Oh yes, you will. Don't mess with kettle corn.

------------------------------------------
"There are no bad guys or innocent guys. There's just a bunch of guys!" --Ben Stiller, Zero Effect

wow, dude (4.00 / 4) (#14)
by Devil Ducky on Thu Oct 11, 2001 at 01:26:11 PM EST

I was just tokin' some wacky K.C last night... I was so paranoid we were goin' get busted by the 5.0

But the sterotypes about K.C use is true... I was taking it and I got a super case of the drinkies... all the time being really laid back and relaxed...

It's not addictive, man, I can stop anytime I want... And it doesn't lead to other snacks. Those commercials are lying!

Devil Ducky

Immune to the Forces of Duct Tape
Day trading at it's Funnest
[ Parent ]
MLP: Like Crack, Only Crackier (4.33 / 6) (#3)
by truth versus death on Thu Oct 11, 2001 at 01:24:14 AM EST

A number of comparisons to crack have been made in this article. Since the Drug War has provided a context of disinformation on this subject, here is an interview entitled The Effects of Crack by Professor Michael Gazzaniga, Professor of Psychiatry [Neuroscience] at Dartmouth Medical School, to set some things straight (February 5, 1990).

I don't think I've ever tried Kettle Corn.

"any erection implies consent"-fae
[ Trim your Bush ]
Addictive ingredient (3.85 / 7) (#4)
by fluffy grue on Thu Oct 11, 2001 at 01:29:37 AM EST

Probably good ol' MSG... add a little salty aftertaste while making it temporarily addictive. Not entirely a new trick... pseudo-Chinese restaurants have been doing it for years. :)
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]

debunking the msg myth... (3.75 / 4) (#8)
by hjw on Thu Oct 11, 2001 at 12:19:59 PM EST

I have not seen any evidence to suggest that MSG is harmfull or physically addictive in any way.

Furthermore MSG is a healthy alternative to salt.

In Laos and Cambodia they all use MSG in their food. I presume the same is true in China.

So authentic Chinese food would include MSG, but perhaps not as much as some restuarants would use.

It is psychologically addictive though. But so are cheese on toast, bananas and fajitas... mmmmmm... fajitas

Have a goo at this site for a summary.

I know you didn't criticise MSG for anything other than it's addictiveness, but I felt it appropriate to point the above out anyway



[ Parent ]

And let's not forget Kramer (3.80 / 5) (#9)
by tmoertel on Thu Oct 11, 2001 at 01:03:52 PM EST

When Kramer orders Chinese food, he specifies "extra MSG."

If Kramer likes it, how could it be bad?

--
My blog | LectroTest

[ Disagree? Reply. ]


[ Parent ]
not healthy, sorry (5.00 / 3) (#15)
by motty on Thu Oct 11, 2001 at 01:30:01 PM EST

Having 'not seen evidence' is an extremely weak argument. The evidence may or may not be there, but your failure to find it will not influence that fact in any way. Meanwhile, from the page linked to - a page which is bending over backwards to say that MSG is perfectly safe - we read the following:

"It is possible that some people might be sensitive to MSG, just as to many other foods and food ingredients. There are some reports that mild, temporary reactions to MSG may occur in a small portion of the population, based on tests with a large dose of MSG in the absence of food."

So even the page that 'debunks' the 'myth' that MSG can provoke an unpleasant reaction is actually forced to say 'a reaction may still occur' despite the fact that it has passed official health checks.

This page claims that up to 25 percent of people may be affected, while this site seems to contain a large quantity of material pointing to the very real possibility that MSG may not be safe, but is cheap, effective in the marketplace, and has a large, well-funded lobby of support behind it from food manufacturers.

It's hard to tell who might have more reason to be making up a pack of lies - a bunch of people suffering allergic reactions from their food, or a bunch of people making a large amount of money from selling a cheap taste-enhancing chemical. While I'm trying to work it out, though, I'm avoiding MSG.
s/^.*$//sig;#)
[ Parent ]

MSG can do a great deal of harm (5.00 / 4) (#19)
by 0xA on Thu Oct 11, 2001 at 04:49:52 PM EST

Just to keep this on topic, the kettle korn I've tried (at the Calgary Stampede) did not have MSG in it, I would know.

"It is possible that some people might be sensitive to MSG, just as to many other foods and food ingredients. There are some reports that mild, temporary reactions to MSG may occur in a small portion of the population, based on tests with a large dose of MSG in the absence of food."

Mild and temporary? Let me explain what happens when I eat MSG. Keep in mind that while this is a graphic depiction, I am not exagerating nor am I the only person that I know who has this problem.

Wierd things happen to me when I eat food with MSG added. I know its' comming becuase I often experience a tingling in my lips and tounge after I have eaten. About an hour later I get sweaty, dizzy and have trouble focusing my eyes, about 2 hours after eating the headaches begin. You can't possibly understand how bad these are, all I can do is lay on the floor and moan, its' horrible and lasts another couple hours.

As bad as all that is, it takes about 6 hours for the real fun to begin. I generally loose ALL control of my bowels for at least a day. No warning, no solids, it just keeps comming.

The wierd thing is, I didn't have this problem until I turned about 20. It took me forever until I could figure out what caused it, my doctor was sure it was a food allergy and asked me to keep detialed logs of everything I ate for months, eventually we figured it out. Now the tough part about this is, this stuff is everywhere, you wouldn't belive it. I can't eat in Chineese resturants, even the ones that say they don't use MSG can unwitingly introduce a sauce or something that contains it. I've been burned by that before. Almost any kind of processed food is gauranteed to make me sick.

If you have any kind of MSG reaction avoid the following:

  • Campbell's or Lipton's Soup
  • Doritos
  • Mr. Noodles, Ichi Ban Noodles, etc.
  • Anything from Arby's
  • hamburger helper
Companies have also figured out that some people won't buy stuff with MSG in it so they use a subsitute. Avoid anything that contains "Hydrolized Plant Protiens" or "Hydrolized *" it will do the same things as MSG to your body. ALso avoid cheap soy sauces (most MSG is hydrolized soy) stick this a naturally brewed one like Kikoman.

[ Parent ]
very interesting... (3.00 / 1) (#21)
by theantix on Thu Oct 11, 2001 at 06:54:18 PM EST

Wierd things happen to me when I eat food with MSG added. I know its' comming becuase I often experience a tingling in my lips and tounge after I have eaten. About an hour later I get sweaty, dizzy and have trouble focusing my eyes, about 2 hours after eating the headaches begin. You can't possibly understand how bad these are, all I can do is lay on the floor and moan, its' horrible and lasts another couple hours.

As bad as all that is, it takes about 6 hours for the real fun to begin. I generally loose ALL control of my bowels for at least a day. No warning, no solids, it just keeps comming.

The wierd thing is, I didn't have this problem until I turned about 20.

That's very interesting indeed... I appreciate you sharing that information. I have recently begun having similar symptoms, and am 23 years old. I think I'll start a food diary as well, thanks again.

--
You sir, are worse than Hitler!
[ Parent ]
Glad I could help (none / 0) (#30)
by 0xA on Fri Oct 12, 2001 at 04:31:11 AM EST

Do the diary thing for sure, its' the only way you'll ever be able to track it down. This website (http://www.msgmyth.com/) has a list of common names for MSG and realted products that are used in food labels.

Good luck

[ Parent ]

Wow (none / 0) (#25)
by fluffy grue on Fri Oct 12, 2001 at 02:43:34 AM EST

And I thought my MSG reaction was bad... I just get a migraine-like headache and the feeling that I have pins sticking into me everywhere (including my eyes), and lose the ability to focus on tasks and so on. Though I find that, like with migraines, caffeine has a nice counteractive effect... it doesn't kill the weird prickling sensations, but it does more or less restore my ability to work on stuff.

Also, I've noticed that MSG has sort of a cumulative effect. Low levels of MSG (such as in tomatoes and bell peppers) doesn't cause a problem, and if I haven't had a large amount in a long time (i.e. a month) then I can handle, say, one eggroll's worth at the Americanized pseudo-Chinese restaurant near the CS building, but the more MSG I've had total in the past month, the easier it is to trigger an MSG episode.

When I was a sophmore in college was when I figured out my MSG sensitivity. I ate a bag of MSG-filled chips pretty much every day and got a migraine (I thought it was just my job, being an assistant in the computer lab), and one day I had some chips which didn't have MSG and I didn't get a migraine. This was also around the same time that aforementioned pseudo-Chinese restaurant opened, and so I think my MSG levels were a lot higher since I had been eating there often... I think something also clicked into place when I had lemonade (which doesn't have caffeine) instead of Mountain Dew at the restaurant and the migraine was a hell of a lot worse than usual.

As it stands, I'll only go to that restaurant once or twice a month, and I'll only order one of their dishes which doesn't have MSG (which limits me to their teriyaki chicken, sweet-and-sour pork, and pork gyoza, which is fine by me since those are their best dishes anyway even though none of them are technically Chinese) and I won't eat the stuffing in the eggroll.

I'd heard the thing about "hydrolized" before, but hydrolized vegetable protiens etc. don't seem to have the same effect on me as MSG.

Of course, the only real soy sauce you can get in America is Kikkoman... most of them are just brown-colored saltwater anyway, and only taste superficially like soy sauce.

Keep in mind that soy sauce does have a small amount of naturally-ocurring MSG in it, but it's certainly not at levels higher than tomatoes and the like, and you certainly don't drink soy sauce in the same quantities as, say, tomato juice (at least, not if you have any sense of flavor).
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Naturally Occuring Plant Protiens (none / 0) (#27)
by 0xA on Fri Oct 12, 2001 at 03:21:48 AM EST

This is the part of the whole thing that I can't figure out. The protiens (raw MSG I guess) you find in tomatoes, bell peppers and soy don't bother me. I can eat as much fresh produce or tofu as I like with no ill affects.

There is something done during the extraction / refinement process of MSG or hydrolized whatever that turns it into the nasty stuff that makes us sick.

The cumulative effect you mention is an interesting idea. I'm sure there is trace amounts of these chemicals in a lot of the food I eat. I know from trial and error things that will cause it for sure but sometimes it still sneaks up on me and I have to try and figure out what I ate. It could just be a build up of smaller amounts or less reactive substances.

I also found it interesting that you found about your reaction in college, I would guess you were about 20 at the time, which is the same age this started to happen to me. If you read the other reply to my post by theantix he's having the similar problems and he's 23. Prehaps there is some sort of metabolic change or something that causes the problem.

[ Parent ]

Changes (none / 0) (#33)
by fluffy grue on Fri Oct 12, 2001 at 10:56:53 AM EST

I was 18. It's also worth mentioning that my mom is MSG-sensitive.
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

MSG harm (5.00 / 3) (#18)
by fluffy grue on Thu Oct 11, 2001 at 03:01:11 PM EST

For starters, for the equivalent saltiness, you get 25 times the dietary sodium - I'd hardly call that a "healthy alternative to salt."

Secondly, with the amounts of MSG which are put into snack foods and Americanized Chinese food, it causes migraines in a lot of people, myself included. It's not a psychosomatic reaction, either - I had come to the conclusion that MSG was causing migraines based on having one every time I ate a bag of chips.

Yes, traditional Chinese and Japanese food use a small amount of MSG, but not the HUGE FUCKING SHITLOAD that Americanized restaurants dump in. Yes, tomatoes and bell peppers have a small amount of MSG in them, but not the HUGE FUCKING SHITLOAD.

All of the studies I've seen "disproving" that MSG sensitivity is a real thing are horribly biased and use completely unrealistic scenarios. All of the MSG support out there just reeks of FUD.

And MSG has a short-term psychoactive/addictive property - that's why junk food manufacturers put it in.
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Fascinating... (5.00 / 2) (#23)
by RadiantMatrix on Fri Oct 12, 2001 at 12:55:22 AM EST

Wow. Is "HOLY FUCKING SHITLOAD" a scientific unit? If so, I've been grossly underestimating the metric system.

--
No amount of genius can overcome a preoccupation with detail.

[ Parent ]
No (5.00 / 3) (#24)
by fluffy grue on Fri Oct 12, 2001 at 02:26:10 AM EST

"HOLY FUCKING SHITLOAD" is the Imperial measure. I used "HUGE FUCKING SHITLOAD," which is the Metric equivalent.
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

But (none / 0) (#28)
by Spendocrat on Fri Oct 12, 2001 at 03:37:25 AM EST

Could you be mistaking some level of allergy on your part for a general harmfulness on the part of MSG?

Though I don't doubt your negative reaction to MSG, allergies seem to be just as plausible as a general badness in MSG.

[ Parent ]

You could call it an allergy, I guess (none / 0) (#29)
by 0xA on Fri Oct 12, 2001 at 04:02:31 AM EST

I have a really nasty reaction to this stuff, way worse than anyone else I know. I have no problem looking at as an allergy but I don't like knowing that I'm completely defenseless against it.

I only react to the processed or manufactured forms of these chemicals, I can eat fresh produce containing the protiens that make up MSG without problems. Food packagers and makers do not have any strict labeling guidlines when it comes to this stuff, legally they can identify it as "Natural Flavor".

For most people this won't cause problems, others will get headaches. For people like me it is complete disaster. Most of my friends don't understand why I live in absolute terror of this stuff and I supose you won't either. Just picture sitting on the couch next to your girlfriend and trying to explain why you just shit your pants. (true story, I can laugh about it now, sort of)

[ Parent ]

No, I get it (none / 0) (#39)
by Spendocrat on Sat Oct 13, 2001 at 05:37:09 PM EST

I totally understand. I don't have food allergies but I have other inhaled allergies that scare the shit out of me because they trigger my asthma and once in a while a lovely condition called angio-edima (sp..).

Also my ex has fatal allergies to nuts and seafood and I spent two years being really really careful with what I ate (I love the peanut butter).

But the thing I was thinking of with MSG is exactly that... for some of us it doesn't do anything appreciably bad (except maybe the high sodium content) but to other people... well, you know quite well. I'd be more than happy with regulations that required more strict labeling of all foods.

[ Parent ]

Very unlikely (none / 0) (#34)
by fluffy grue on Fri Oct 12, 2001 at 11:02:43 AM EST

  • Fritos (no MSG): No reaction.
  • Chili-flavored fritos (heaps of MSG): Reaction.
  • Ramen noodes without the "flavor" packet: No reaction.
  • Ramen noodles with the "flavor" packet: Reaction.
  • Chung Express' vegetable lo-mein without MSG (on special order): No reaction.
  • Chung Express' vegetable lo-mein with MSG: Huge reaction.
Especially in the last one, the only variable is whether there's MSG or not, so it's not likely to be something in the "flavoring" which accompanies the MSG in the Fritos or ramen.

It was specifically eating chili Fritos one day and plain Fritos the next which finally clued me in.
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

What I meant (none / 0) (#38)
by Spendocrat on Sat Oct 13, 2001 at 05:30:20 PM EST

was the distinction between an allergy to MSG *itself* on your part and a general harmfulness on the part of MSG.

The same way some people I know are allergic to corn, nuts or seafood, but I can have them to no ill effect.

[ Parent ]

For this article to be complete (3.12 / 8) (#6)
by eclectro on Thu Oct 11, 2001 at 03:42:09 AM EST

You need the recipe of kettle corn. I know what you mean. I had some at the state fair in Utah and wondered what the secret behind it was.

He gave the recipe... (3.00 / 1) (#11)
by Elkor on Thu Oct 11, 2001 at 01:18:30 PM EST

Popcorn
Sugar
Salt


The "secret ingredient" is optional.

Heck, there might not even BE a secret ingredient. It could be a clever ploy to keep people from making it themselves.

Regards,
Elkor


"I won't tell you how to love God if you don't tell me how to love myself."
-Margo Eve
[ Parent ]
Damn! (3.72 / 11) (#7)
by Ranger Rick on Thu Oct 11, 2001 at 10:15:55 AM EST

For some reason I have this incredible urge to go find some kettle corn. I have never tasted it, but your pitch has convinced me I need some.

Let me guess, the first one's free?

:wq!


Nice write up, spelling error (1.66 / 6) (#10)
by Elkor on Thu Oct 11, 2001 at 01:16:26 PM EST

"By now, maybe you're thinking of getting in on the k-corn action, yourself. Any why not, right?"

At the beginning of a paragraph, second sentance, you use "any" instead of "and"

Aside from that, hysterical. +1FP

Regards,
Elkor


"I won't tell you how to love God if you don't tell me how to love myself."
-Margo Eve
Nice nitpick, spelling error (5.00 / 1) (#26)
by bwulf on Fri Oct 12, 2001 at 02:48:48 AM EST

In the second line of your comment, you used 'sentance' instead of 'sentence'.

Aside from that, good nitpick.

Mvh,
bwulf


[ Parent ]
Overhead? (4.16 / 6) (#12)
by Kasreyn on Thu Oct 11, 2001 at 01:23:05 PM EST

Sure, $700/hr SOUNDS impressive. But, like the connecticut yankee in King Arthur's times, there are other sides to look at economics from.

What are his costs? What are the costs of running the blast furnace (buying one, buying fuel for it), buying the corn kernels, the ingredients, and getting booth space at one of these fairs? What sort of insurance is required (operating a powerful furnace near hordes of people...)? In effect, what costs are there to eat into those $700/hr gross profits?

Until we know what the actual NET profit is, we can't know whether you're right in claiming that this is a very lucrative business.


-Kasreyn


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
Look beyond the mere numbers (4.50 / 2) (#20)
by tmoertel on Thu Oct 11, 2001 at 06:48:24 PM EST

What are his costs? What are the costs of running the blast furnace (buying one, buying fuel for it), buying the corn kernels, the ingredients, and getting booth space at one of these fairs? What sort of insurance is required (operating a powerful furnace near hordes of people...)? In effect, what costs are there to eat into those $700/hr gross profits?
As HerderOfCats's brilliant research has uncovered, the cost of goods and cost of operation are low, less than 10% of revenue.

Booth space must be approximately free. Most of the people who set up shop at this type of event are farmers or craftspeople whose wares wouldn't sell enough to cover an expensive booth. We're talking about homemade cookies, apples, and assorted craft items like walking sticks or hand-painted balls of dirt. This ain't COMDEX, after all.

Finally, regarding insurance, what insurance? Most of the folks at your typical fair or harvest festival come from the rough-and-rugged farm tradition, where if a man falls into a hay-bailing machine and comes out missing an arm, he just sews up what's left with bailing twine and gets back to work. Insurance! That's a city-folk notion.

Until we know what the actual NET profit is, we can't know whether you're right in claiming that this is a very lucrative business.
Who cares what the actual net profit is? As long as you can stand by a flaming pit of iron that issues forth piping hot kettle corn at your every whim, what need have you for such foolish notions as "profit"? The gold is in the k-corn! Eat, and belch the vapors of true wealth!

--
My blog | LectroTest

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[ Parent ]
Costco as an dealer? (3.00 / 3) (#13)
by Elkor on Thu Oct 11, 2001 at 01:24:24 PM EST

I have had Kettle Corn. My company bought it as rewards for correctly answering the QS9000 questions. They bought a bunch of it at Costco (Sam's Club, Price Club, whatever)

I ended up taking 4 bags of the stuff home.

2 of them didn't last the weekend.

The other two didn't last 2 weeks.

Regards,
Elkor


"I won't tell you how to love God if you don't tell me how to love myself."
-Margo Eve
It must be addictive (2.66 / 3) (#16)
by SeaCrazy on Thu Oct 11, 2001 at 01:30:45 PM EST

Because I don't see why people would eat it otherwise. Flavorwise it is utterly gross, God just did not intend popcorn to be sweet!

Some biased numbers... (4.50 / 6) (#17)
by HerderOfCats on Thu Oct 11, 2001 at 02:25:11 PM EST

At http://www.kettlecornmachine.com/Buy_A_Kettle_/The_Numbers_/the_numbers_.html are some numbers, though probably biased as they are trying to sell you equipment and training:
  • Popcorn 50lbs: $14.00 to $22.00 depending on were you live.
  • Oil 35lbs: $8.00 to $18.00
  • Sugar 25lbs: $8.00 to $10.00
  • Bags 9x24: $25.00 to $45.00 for 1000 (we sell them for $5.00 ea)
  • Propane: Our machine is so efficient we can pull about $1000 to $1200 before we need a refill. We use a 5 gallon easy to exchange tank/unit available at most grocers and home improvement stores.
Also on that page are some number of what people pulled in daily revenue -- average seems to be about $1500 a day (quite a bit less then hourly rate quoted in the article above), and they say that costs are about 8-12%.

I still am curious about the exact techniques -- no one has explained it. How much oil is used? How does it not become saturated? How is the sugar coating done?

-- Herder of Cats

More on the techniques (5.00 / 1) (#22)
by tmoertel on Thu Oct 11, 2001 at 11:41:12 PM EST

I still am curious about the exact techniques -- no one has explained it. How much oil is used? How does it not become saturated? How is the sugar coating done?
My observation is that the oil is used sparingly. Only enough is added at the beginning of each batch to pop the corn that follows. The typical kettle-corn booth has the cooking kettle's platform hinged so that at the end of the batch the kettlemaster can -- with a mighty grunt -- swing up one end of the kettle and dump its flamin' and tasty contents into the serving kettle. When this happens, the cooking kettle is bare, no oil is left.

Regarding the sugar technology, it would appear that it's just tossed into the kettle. The heat of the kettle is so great that the sugar almost instantly melts, caramelizes, and clings to the corn. Fearing for my life, I haven't peered into the kettle to be certain, so I could be wrong. I have heard that some k-corn kettlemeisters use maple syrup as their twist on the classic recipe, so it would seem that the sugaring process is subject to tinkering.

--
My blog | LectroTest

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[ Parent ]
Common viewpoint (5.00 / 2) (#31)
by squaretorus on Fri Oct 12, 2001 at 07:34:42 AM EST

This is a common viewpoint of many of the part time franchise businesses that makes operating a franchise seemmuch more profitable than it really is.

You see a guy selling $700 worth of product in an hour. So you do a quick headcount and guess he must be making a fortune. You quickly dismiss the downtime and running costs because you cannot see how they could outweight that huge $700 an HOUR.

But if we assume this couple attend a fair / show 3 days in every week during the fairer 26 weeks of the year, and just one per week for the rest of the year (based on experience of a friends dad who used to operate a hotdog stall, more than this is only possible if you have a permenant stand, whereby your stand costs will be anything up to $200K/year - so lets stick to the travelling outlet) - you get 104 working days.

Now lets assume you saw him on a good day and we take a gross intake of $1500 per day on average. Thats a total possible gross income of
$150,000.

Out of that he has to pay for corn etc... which another poster refered to as costing 10-15% of gross - lets assume 10% for easy maths - we're at
$135K.

Now lets assume they have to stay in a hotel one in 3 days because they have travelled to get to a fair. Thats 33 nights, total cost say $150/night - down to
$130K

And lets say they run a vehicle for this, fuel, insurance, depreciation etc... $5K / year - $125K
Public liability insurance for operating this kind of equipment will be no less that $10-15K/year unless operated in a semi-static location, which most arent, -down to $110K
Accountant fees, legal assistance etc... is a must for even the smallest business delivering food to the public. This could cost as little as $5K/year though.
$105K

I don't know how much most fairs charge for a stance, but the more profitable ones will certainly charge a respectable amount. We need 104 stances, even at just $100 each this works out at another $10K so we drop below the $100K mark - I suspect a lot of the better places will charge closer to $500, I would if I was operating them.We're down to
$95K

There are other costs, but lets ignore those. Now remember we have 2 people working on this, so split the remainder 50:50 $47,500 each before taxes.
Now I'm sure I've played the optomist here. Reduce the number of working days by 10% and the average revenue per day by 10% and you get a figure closer to $30,000 each, a further 10% and a couple of sick days and your approaching zero at quite a rate.

People get sucked into taking on these franchises, they sink a lot of money into it, and they fail to make decent returns. There is a serious point to be made here - some lucky people with good patches and a flair for self promotion will make $1/4M a year doing this - but most will be working for less than $5/hr equivanent.

My friends dad no longer runs the hotdog stand, he went back to his old job after bearly breaking even in his second year following year one losses. Maybe he just got some bad luck... I doubt it.

The humor of math and a personal observation (5.00 / 1) (#32)
by tmoertel on Fri Oct 12, 2001 at 09:27:15 AM EST

You see a guy selling $700 worth of product in an hour. So you do a quick headcount and guess he must be making a fortune. You quickly dismiss the downtime and running costs because you cannot see how they could outweight that huge $700 an HOUR.
No, I quickly dismissed any kind of rigorous analysis because I was writing a Humor Piece. I've learned it the hard way -- don't get me started on my "Pi" tour in Vegas -- math ain't funny. Now, what is funny (I hope) is a programmer who jumps to the conclusion that writing software is a fool's errand because the true path to riches is paved with kettle corn. Yee haw! Now, that's a knee slapper, if ever there was a knee to be slapped.
My friends dad no longer runs the hotdog stand, he went back to his old job after bearly breaking even in his second year following year one losses. Maybe he just got some bad luck... I doubt it.
I'm sorry to hear about your friend's father, and certainly, in all seriousness, running a business is . . . well, running a business. It's hard work and comes with no guarantee of success. But I've been to a lot of fairs and harvest festivals (I'm simple folk), and my observation is that the kettle corn booths consistently draw in crowds where other vendors draw only occasional sales. If the other vendors can scratch out a living, I have little doubt that the k.c. vendors do better. And, while I haven't given it much thought, if somebody held a loaded monkey to my head and forced me into the small-venue, travelling food-service business, I would without question sell kettle corn.

--
My blog | LectroTest

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[ Parent ]
oops (4.50 / 2) (#35)
by squaretorus on Fri Oct 12, 2001 at 11:12:53 AM EST

My post obviously came across other than as intended - I enjoyed the original article and was adding my viewpoint to further expand your point.

I think the lot for ANY vendor is going to be quite poor, but your kettle corn guy is going to be doing better by a hefty margin - as the last part shows, a 10% increase here, or drop there makes a HUGE difference to the eventual returns. If this guy is causing a 10% drop in everyone else, he's doing OK - so yeah, of available foodstuffs to sell, I too would steal HIS job - but he still has a cap on his possible earnings, and it aint that high!

I run a small software company, and when people see us charging 150,000 for a single piece of bespoke work they assume we must be minted - we're not, we make about 10%, at best, but take 10% too long, or get paid 60 days late and we make next to nothing, or a loss. Its hard work, its fun, its worth it, I get to piss about on k5 while my boss is looking ;-)

Business is business. Humor is humor. By putting meat on the bones of your concept I was in no way denying the laughs - but pointing out that it is humour tinged with sadness. Far too many people with poorer math skills than yourself DO believe that the road to riches is lined with food vendor franchises. And a lot of them do badly out of it.

These things are sold in franchise and business magazines as being so straightforward you can hardly fail to make a million. Which is wrong. These things should be changed! They seriously annoy me! They are a bigger evil than missold insurance or badly fitted exhausts, they destroy families.

Now admittedly, thats a lot to read into your funny little tale - but if you cant go way off topic on K5 where can you!

[ Parent ]
$150/night for a hotel room? (4.00 / 1) (#40)
by cymen on Sun Oct 14, 2001 at 02:48:06 AM EST

Now lets assume they have to stay in a hotel one in 3 days because they have travelled to get to a fair. Thats 33 nights, total cost say $150/night - down to $130K

I was kinda with you up until the hotel room. No self respecting kettle corn guru would stay in a hotel that charges $150/night! I mean most of these guys are probably out there in the country where a decent room can be had for $40-$50/night at the most. Of course maybe you're in California or the East Coast but for around here (Midwest) $150/night for a hotel room is pretty damn pricey!

[ Parent ]

this is just too funny... (3.66 / 3) (#36)
by railwave on Fri Oct 12, 2001 at 11:21:03 AM EST

i just want to thank to writer for causing me to laugh this morning... with all that terrible things going on it's refreshing to see someone with a great sense of humor putting themselves out there to crack some smiles... not to mention... you've rekindled my Kettle Corn obsession. I'm off to track some down. Peace! -Matt

Fresh Kettle Corn at home... (4.00 / 2) (#37)
by Some call me Tim on Fri Oct 12, 2001 at 01:18:30 PM EST

My fiancee has a gadget that can, in about 5-10 minutes, make a kettle of sugar-glazed popcorn that just about exactly fits the description of Kettle Korn.

It's called "The Genuine Whirley-Pop", and it's made by Wabash Valley Farms in Indiana. You put a tablespoon of oil, some sugar, and some popcorn kernels in, put it on the stove, and crank the handle until the most amazing carmelized sugar popcorn comes out.

And I'd put better than even money on the secret ingredient being none other than MSG (aka Accent Flavor Enhancer). Makes anything taste more umami.

Don't know where she bought it, but if you search for it online you'll probably be able to dig one up.

Tim

America's new, true enemy | 40 comments (38 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
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