In 1994, at the age of 10, I’d get off the school bus and head straight for the microwave. It was my after school ritual—a bag of Cousin Willie’s white cheddar popcorn and two straight hours of 90210 reruns (Homework can wait. I need to know if Kelly is going to pick Brandon or Dylan!). Those were simpler times. But while so very much has changed since then, my love for Cousin Willie’s popcorn has remained as steadfast as Kelly Taylor’s love for...herself.
What Makes Cousin Willie's Popcorn So Good?
In the world of snacks, there are chips people, pretzel people, and popcorn people; and I am firmly in the popcorn people camp, in the especially devout cheese popcorn subgroup. From Orville Redenbacher’s sprinkle-over cheddar microwave popcorn (which apparently no longer exists!?) to a fresh bag of Smartfood, I’ve never met a bag of cheese popcorn I didn’t like.
But I love Cousin Willie’s the most because of its subtle Parmesan-y flavor, with a nice round nuttiness that telegraphs: real cheese within. And thankfully, unlike a lot of other cheese popcorn brands, it doesn’t coat the fingers in cheese dust, which, while objectively delicious, is also kind of gross, especially on the hands of my children.
Sometimes though, if I want to amp up the umami level, I might add a sprinkle of Hidden Valley Ranch powder to the bag right out of the microwave and then shake it all up for maximum coverage, or I’ll shake some nutritional yeast on top as a kind of homemade flavor blasting that renders the popcorn so crave-worthy it will visit you in dreams.
The History Behind This Family-Favorite Snack
This family treat is a product of a 77-year-old family-owned company. In 1944, Edward and Agnes Sieg started the company with corn grown on 10 acres in Ramsey, Indiana, selling raw popcorn from store to store out of the back of a pickup truck. In 1960, the next generation of Siegs carried on the family business, starting Ramsey Popcorn Company, which owns the Cousin Willie’s brand as well as Simply Better.
While the packaging has changed a bit over the years, it consistently features an illustration of the original Cousin Willie, Wilfred E. Sieg Sr. who, in his cowboy hat and red suspenders, looks an awful lot like a midwestern version of my own dad. Ramsey Popcorn Co sells about 50 million pounds of popcorn annually worldwide and is a supplier for the Boy Scouts of America.
How My Daughters Carry on the Tradition
One bag of Cousin Willie’s White Cheddar Popcorn is perfect to split between two people, so when my daughters get home from school, they do just that. My older daughter pops a bag in the microwave, smashes that 2 minute button, and a couple minutes later, they’re cozied up with their snack. They might not be watching 90210 reruns (yet!?), but they’re still carrying on an after school tradition I hold dear.