Monday, May 20, 2013

A Word About Popcorn

Popcorn is an American staple.  We eat it by the tubful--especially at the movies.  As a matter of fact, we consume about 16 billion quarts of popcorn annually—that’s around 52 quarts per person.  But what do we really know about this tasty treat?

Popcorn probably came from Mexico where 80,000-year-old corn pollen was discovered 200 feet below Mexico City.  Although it was grown in China, Sumatra and India, the oldest known popcorn was found in central New Mexico dating back more than 5,000 years.  Columbus discovered popcorn when he landed in the West Indies, and the Aztecs served it to Cortez when he marched into Mexico.
Popcorn was originally cooked by stirring the kernels in hot sand until they burst.  Decorative pots, used for popping corn, first appeared in Peru around 300 A.D.  With one handle and a hole in the top, these primitive poppers got the job done.  Native Americans used clay or metal pots and they offered deerskin bags filled with popped corn to the pilgrims at the very first Thanksgiving.  The colonists were so impressed that they ate it for breakfast with cream and sugar—a form of puffed cereal, if you will.

The popularity of popcorn rose in the 1890s as portable popcorn machines designed by Charlie Cretors became available.  Now vendors could push, or have their horses pull, these machines taking popcorn directly to the people.  Charlie Cretors’ family still makes most of the poppers used today in movie theaters and other places of entertainment. 
Sales slumped briefly during the early 1920s when theater owners banned popcorn because of its loud crunch.  Once they realized that they were heading for financial disaster, they once again began selling the popular snack.  Sales boomed again when home poppers became available during the mid-1920s.  Then came World War II with sugar being used for the war effort.  With less candy made on the home front, Americans consumed three times more popcorn than usual.

During the 1950s, popcorn sales declined once more when television caused the movie going public to stay home.  This situation was only temporary, however.  Americans soon figured out that they could enjoy their favorite treat right in their own living room.  With microwavable popcorn produced in the 1980s, sales soared again and the crunchy treat has steadily stayed in the forefront of favorite snack foods to this day. 
So how would you like your 52 quarts this year?  Buttered or plain?


  1. Popcorn was banned in the 1920s due to its loud crunch?! Who knew!

    I prefer my popcorn buttered - and the more butter, the merrier.

    1. And to think moves were 'silent' back then! What difference did a little crunching make???