When you were a kid, popcorn was the stuff you’d sometimes get at the movie theater (if you were good), or your mom would make on the stove. A little salt and a little butter, and you’re off and munching.
But as the years have gone by, popcorn has gone gourmet. I remember thinking it was odd to have Cracker Jack and get caramel on my corn. It seemed like a strange step forward when I was a kid, but now we have many choices — cheese popcorn, microwave popcorn and gourmet popcorn.
Melanie Fischer is the person behind Froggy’s Popcorn, so named after her 10-year-old Bengal cat. By day, Fischer serves legal documents and chases down people to serve summonses, making for stories that could be turned into a book. Cooking is her outlet, and her hope is to one day turn popcorn into a full-time business.
Earlier this year, a friend told her that a batch of caramel popcorn she’d made, which included a bit of cayenne kick, should be available for sale. That was all it took for Fischer to create Froggy’s Majestic Popcorn, and if you are a regular at The Flea Off Market or went to the Pride Festival, Brew at the Zoo or other events this year, you might have tried a sample of the snack that Fischer and her supportive friends were handing out at her booth.
The true motivation for trying her hand at selling the stuff, she said, came after having what she called “a life thing.”
“I kind of realized I wanted to do something more fulfilling and to give back to the community,” said Fischer. Her goal is to have a business that would raise money for local animal charities. “I think I was looking for a sense of purpose.”
Good responses and getting her popcorn placed for sale at Apocalypse Brew Works helped inspire Fischer to dip into her recipes and start creating more. Fischer makes the popcorn in rented space at Cooking at Millie’s, a downtown business that offers cooking classes, rentable cooking space and more. Then, she bags it and tags it with a label bearing the cartoon Froggy logo she designed.
Using extracts and natural ingredients, Fischer looks at various recipes wherever she can find them to get ideas for what might work on popcorn. Will the flavors work together? Will it be possible to translate them to a popcorn snack?
“Some work immediately,” she said, and like the beer cheese, “some don’t.”
The list of flavors she now has for sale is varied, to say the least, from Bloody Mary (a top seller) to Birthday Cake.
Yes, Birthday Cake. It has multicolored sprinkles and everything. And, kids, it tastes like birthday cake — or at least it tastes like the white icing that comes on most bakery birthday cakes. It’s borderline uncanny.
Apple Pie and White Cheddar (another top seller) and Pumpkin Pie both taste like snacks you would put out at a family holiday gathering, with bright, distinctive flavor profiles. The Cheddar Ranch is great alone but would be a nice addition to some tomato basil soup, while the Bloody Mary is tomatoey and lightly spicy.
The Everything Bagel & Cream Cheese popcorn offers pleasant cream cheese and sesame flavors, and Maple Bacon does sort of taste like breakfast, although it’s more about that fake bacon smoke than the real thing. But my favorite of those I tried is probably Mexican Street Corn, which had an interesting creamy coating, a flavor like cotija cheese and a sneaky spice.
Fischer’s hope is to get her products into more consignment spaces in the short-term. Long-term, if she can continue to promote the brand and raise awareness, she’d love to have a small shop that would include not just snacks but items that are uniquely Louisville. Of course, animals and animal charities would be part of the plan.
In the meantime, she plans to put together holiday gift packs of various flavors to sell in her booth at The Flea Off Market’s Holiday Bazaar, which is Dec. 15 at the Kentucky International Convention Center downtown. She recently sold out early in the day at NuLu Fest, so she’s hoping for another good day.
Bottom line, if you see Fischer walking toward you, don’t panic; she may have legal papers to serve you, but she also may just have some popcorn for you to try.
“It’s been so rewarding so far,” she said of her fledgling venture. “When I’m serving papers, people are not happy to see me, but when I’m selling popcorn, people are always so happy to see me.”