What is the one thing that all of us are desperately waiting after the entire lockdown scenarios end?
Obviously, go to the movie theatre on a Friday night to watch the newly released movie and as you enter, you find the ‘pop pop’ sound of small little kernels hitting your ears periodically inside a closed utensil, and then you find the entire room waft with the aroma of various flavours of the hot and freshly popped popcorn.
The popcorny-air around you lures you and like a child you follow it, only to end up in front of a popcorn counter.
While you check out for the options available on the display board bearing delicious names of smoked chipotle popcorn, chocolate caramel popcorn, butter tandoori popcorn and Schezuan popcorn, you realize that your taste buds are already triggered with the tantalizing series of popcorn smell.
You collect your bucket and as irresistible as popcorn is, you grab a piece and while you crunch your first bite, let me time travel you to how and when one grain became a staple snack item!
A Snack, so prehistoric…
Corn has remained the staple diet of America over 2500 years ago and was widely known as pearl. However, it is believed that popcorn was probably cultivated as a domesticated crop around 9,000 years ago.
Peru and Mexico are also traced back to be the hubs of popcorn origin until 2012 that archaeologists unearthed the first evidence of popcorn in Peru where 6700-year-old corn studded with puffed kernels was found.
By the mid of 1800, corn had already shown its strong foothold in America and quickly gained its popularity.
As colonists moved around the region of North America, creating the United States of America people adopted this 5 minute-cook snack more and more. The New Americans liked the snack and continued to love and consume popcorn not only as a snack but also with milk and sugar like a breakfast cereal.
Not all corn kernels make popcorns!
If you are thinking that popcorn is a snack that has been invented by man, then there is a little correction here. Not all corn pops!
Popcorn comes from a certain variety of maize that produces small kernels with a hard outer shell which cannot be chewed and there are high chances that one might just end up cracking his tooth.
Zea mays everta is the only type of corn that has the ability to pop out all-at-once the fluffy edible part when only under heat and pressure.
The corns for popping is grown, cured on the stalk, carefully hand-picked, and then dried until each kernel contains around 14% of moisture and when they are exposed to heat, that moisture in it expands, causing the kernel to burst into the final product, that we enjoy with different toppings.
Popcorn- The most commercialized snack!
With the advancement of technology and invention of new machines, the popularity of popcorn grew and so did the processes thereby making it one of the most commercialized snack items, made not only at home but largely sold at general stores.
Charles Creators invented the first commercial popcorn machine in Chicago in 1885. While designing, it was kept in mind that the machine should be mobile allowing the new sprung-up daily vendors to roam and sell popcorn around the city. Soon, people selling popcorn self-employed themselves outside any movie theatre or crowded place.
Some prestigious magazines like New York’s Knickerbocker and the Yale Literary Magazine started mentioning popcorns in their articles and content.
When televisions entered the American homes, the sale in the popcorn dipped for a while, but again it picked up the market speed soon when microwave and microwave-popcorn recipes were introduced to masses.
How popcorn became a classic movie snack?
The liberty that we enjoy eating and dropping popcorns at movie theatres today had another story when theatre owners were not on board with the idea of selling popcorn in the beginning because they thought it might create an unnecessary nuisance like installing outside vents to get rid of the smoke produced from popping corn. However, popcorn-selling hawkers saw a potential popcorn sale in a place where people spend 2-3 hours of leisure time in recreation and entertainment which would go great with a munching snack item like nothing but popcorn!
Between 1920 and 1930, movies were induced with dialogues, music and sound effects, with the movie industry enormously booming, the American theatres hit a wave of 25-30 million weekly movie-goers every week.
The Great Depression eventually changed the minds of theatre owners when they were convinced that popcorn was a small luxury item that people could afford.
And today, we cannot even imagine walking into a movie theatre without the scent of popcorn welcoming you inside? I sure can’t!!!
Some facts about the all-time favourite snack!
- The oldest popcorn known was first found in New Mexico.
- According to the Popcorn Board, Americans eat approximately 13 billion quarts of popped corn per year or 42 quarts per person.
- Aztecs (the south-central region of pre-Columbian Mexico) used popcorn as a decorative item, especially during Christmas time.
- During World War II, when sugar and other supplies were rationed, popcorn’s popularity grew even more.
- When the Great Depression set in and millions of Americans lost their financial security, popcorn became their go-to “affordable luxury” at 10 cents per bag.
- Popcorn serves as a tool of empowerment and widely provides adults with autism and other disabilities opportunities for employment.
- 19th January is observed and celebrated as An International Popcorn Day.
- Popcorns are whole grain and are rich in fibre, antioxidants and low in calories and are considered healthy.
- Popcorn can serve as an alternative to bread and can help in controlling body weight.
- American eat more popcorn than any other country and autumn is the time where the consumption goes high.
National Calendar Day recognized Popcorn Day as on 19th January since 1988. Popcorn being the most liked snack by all kinds of the crowd can be sweet and savoury, caramelized or tossed with nuts and chocolate are always an affordable treat since time infinity and are definitely tinged with nostalgia. So, this Popcorn Day, grab your favourite popcorn flavour, share a bowl with a friend, take a picture and share it with people. Oh yes, don’t forget the hashtag- #popcornday.