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Peter Martin cooks a batch of kettle corn outside the RAF Lakenheath BX.
Peter Martin cooks a batch of kettle corn outside the RAF Lakenheath BX. (Geoff Ziezulewicz / S&S)

Stop by the Lakenheath base exchange on any given Thursday, weather permitting, and you’ll see Peter Martin popping his kettle corn. Actually, you’ll probably smell it first, a fresh-cooked aroma that harkens back to fall apple-picking or pumpkin patches in the States.

Popcorn is an underrated snack food in Martin’s eye, and he’s eager to let people know about the nutritious deliciousness of his product, a food that’s high in fiber and low in fat.

The Downham Market resident is also looking to expand his business and get a permanent spot in the BX food court. So, follow your nose, and it’ll take you to his stand and his one-of-a-kind wares.

So how long have you been doing this? “Um, been doing it for over a year.”

Was it hard to get set up with such an enterprise on base? “Yeah. It took me over eight months to get the pass to actually get on base. Once you’re on there, everybody loves it.”

Why did you set up on base? “We saw somebody doing it in Florida. I used to own a bakery and several other bits and pieces. I thought, what a brilliant thing to do to earn money. Nobody’s seen anything like this in the U.K.”

Have you peddled your wares off base? “We did try. Unfortunately, English people don’t eat it quite as much as Americans do. And the weather doesn’t help.”

What is the draw with your product? “Everybody loves it. Kettle corn is a big thing in America. I’ve met a woman who buys it and sends it to a friend who was on base. I’ve got girls who’ve got husbands (deployed) and they send it. Kettle corn is quite high in fiber and it’s got next to nothing in it, only a very small amount of sugar and a very small amount of salt. It’s better than chocolate, it’s better than crisps. It’s almost like eating shredded wheat.”

But tastier. Working around it, are you at the point where you could never eat popcorn again? “In fairness, I took some home the other day and ate a bag straight out. I tend to get a bit stuck in my teeth. Because it’s got the sugar and salt in it, you can’t stop eating it.”

What’s the secret to a quality batch? “It’s just getting the right amount of oil and sugar.”

How much ’corn do you go through on a good day? “I probably do 300 to 400 bags. It’s nice going to work on base, because everybody’s polite, the kids are polite. English people can be rude. Everybody’s ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ here.”

With corporate business a huge part of the modern world, are you worried about an Uncle Joe’s Poppin’ Corn franchise, or some other behemoth, mooching on your business? “There is no actual popcorn franchise. The only thing would be if the BX decided they want to do it.”

Yeah, but they’ve got you here already. “Yeah, yeah. Fingers crossed, it wouldn’t even occur to them.”

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