By Lynn Blamires Content Writer for My Local Utah
National Popcorn Day will be observed on January 19. Many people will pass the day in ignorance, but that does not mean that they won’t observe it in a big way.
According to the Popcorn Board, Americans eat approximately 13 billion quarts of popped corn per year or 42 quarts per person. Perhaps the oldest snack food, popcorn has been enjoyed across the globe for thousands of years.
Only one variety of corn can pop in the perfect way – zea mays everta. It looks very similar to a typical corn kernel – however, this variety is the only one that has the ability to pop once put under heat and pressure.
Popcorn was never really “invented” by man – however, there is evidence of popcorn all throughout the history of the Americas. The oldest popcorn known to date was found in New Mexico. In 1948, small heads of the zea mays everta were discovered by Herbert Dick and Earle Smith in a dry cave known as the “bat cave.” Several individually popped kernels were also discovered. They were determined to be hundreds of years old.
Aztecs used popcorn for decorating clothes and ceremonial embellishments on top of eating! There is also evidence of popcorn consumption with Native Americans throughout North America. Popcorn which dates back to nearly 1,000 years was found in a cave in Utah. The cave was thought to be inhabited by Pueblo Indians.
Before the popcorn machine was invented in 1885, people made popcorn on a stove or over an open fire. As I remember from my boyhood, those methods were not always successful. Not only was popcorn eaten as a snack, but it was also reported to have been eaten with milk and sugar like a breakfast cereal. Popcorn was also cooked by colonists with a small amount of molasses, creating a snack similar to today’s kettle corn.
Things changed when Charles Cretors invented the first commercial, large-scale popcorn machine. This mobile machine increased the opportunity for the production of popcorn. The more people had access to popcorn, the more popular it became.
These popcorn machines began showing up at movie theaters and popcorn became associated with movies. Also, they were among the first street vendors.
Popcorn boomed during the depression because it was cheap and could be afforded by all. It dropped drastically when television was invented and sets were found in nearly every home. It boomed again with the invention of microwave popcorn in 1981 and everyone was making popcorn for their favorite TV programs at home.
I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Popcorn himself – Mr. Orville Redenbacher. His brand of popcorn is still among the most popular today.
Today there are many twists to the classic popcorn that has arisen in recent years. Local gourmet popcorn companies (i.e., Lisa’s Popcorn, Popcorn Cottage, Gary’s Popcorn, and Roosters Gourmet Popcorn) strive to invent new ways to enjoy popcorn. By volume, popcorn is America’s favorite snack food. People still use popcorn as decorations, especially during Christmas time.
At this point it is important to understand what gourmet popcorn is. You can typically count on gourmet popcorn to be made with natural ingredients and to always be fresh. Traditional store-bought popcorn usually only comes in butter, cheese, and caramel flavors and some of the chocolate flavors are more chocolate flavored and not made with real chocolate.
Movie theaters probably have something to do with it – the most popular flavor is buttery popcorn. When it comes to gourmet popcorn, among the offerings from Lisa’s Popcorn, White Chocolate is their best seller. Consider these other flavors to whet your appetite for popcorn –
- Cinnamon Roll
- Jalapeno Cheddar
- Berries and Cream
- Butter Rum
- Orange Cream
- Sea Salt Carmel
- Sour Cream and Onion
These are just a few of the flavors offered for your enjoyment. Whether you get your popcorn at the movies, out of your microwave, or choose one of the amazing gourmet popcorn flavors, you are participating in a favorite American pastime.