Popcorn: A ‘Pop’ular story, and so interesting!
Posted on: June 20, 2018.

The first thing that would come to our minds, children and adults alike, on hearing the word “popcorn”, is the movie theatre—a more irresistible “movie theatre snack” is yet to be invented. The sound “pop, pop, pop” welcomes you first, and even before you know it, your nose and taste buds get flagrantly pampered by that smell that is so typical of the atmosphere within the theatre lobby and the cinema hall.

So, what makes popcorn “pop”? It is in the kernel of the popcorn where the secret lies. Small kernels with a hard, outer shell—there’s a good chance you’d crack your tooth if you tried to chew it—is produced from a certain variety of maize. Subsequently, heating the kernel turns the moisture trapped within it to steam, and thereafter you get to the fluffy edible part. The popcorn, as we recognize it, is the soft, inner flake that is released by its hard, outer shell that has been pressurized to the point where it busts.

The popping kernels of corn magically transform into billows of crunchy white deliciousness, and you’re completely hooked… …after just your first mouthful! A simple, tasty treat on its own, satisfying your sweet and salty cravings, popcorn is made even more enjoyable with a variety of toppings, popularly butter, sugar, cinnamon, caramel, a sprinkle of smoked paprika, or even chocolate!

Popcorn was widely popularized in modern times by the Americans, but did you know who the world’s first popcorn fans were? They were the Pre-Columbian natives who had domesticated the popcorn variety of maize by 5000 B.C.! Subsequently, archaeologists had also found traces of popcorn in 1,000-year-old Peruvian tombs. John Russell Bartlett included the word “popcorn” in his Dictionary of Americanisms in 1848, claiming that the noise it made on bursting open lent origin to its name.

It was about 2,500 years ago that popcorn is alleged to have arrived in Southwest America, but subsequently, it was only after the early 1800s—when botanical and environmental factors were favourable—that popcorn was cultivated east of the Mississippi region. After the introduction of the steel plough in the 19th century, soil conditions in Midwest America—deemed unfavourable for popcorn cultivation until that time—were rendered suitable for growing corn. The Midwest is famous today for it “Corn Belt”.

Subsequently, by the mid-1800s, families began to enjoy having popcorn in front of the fire, or at picnics and sociable gatherings, and became a much-loved, late-night snack. An efficient method for popping corn was developed in the second half of the 19th century—boxes of tight wire gauze attached to a long handle, “poppers”, meant to be held over an open flame. The ability to simultaneously pop kernels while protecting one’s hands from the exposed flame and also contain the popping kernels was one of the several benefits that the newly invented “poppers” offered.

The snack became even more accessible to the masses after the original popper prototype underwent many changes that improved it, but it wasn’t until the 1890s that large-scale, mass consumption of the treat took off, when the first popcorn-popping machine was built by Charles Cretors, a Chicago-based entrepreneur. Cretors, a candy-store owner, wished to offer freshly roasted nuts at his shop for which he purchased a commercial peanut roaster. He began tinkering with it—unhappy with the machine’s quality—and a few years later, he designed, for both nut roasting and popcorn popping, entirely new machines powered by steam.

By virtue of the stream, the maximum number of kernels would pop, all heated evenly, and also enable users to pop the corn directly in the desired seasonings. An entire era of popcorn consumers began after the introduction of horse-drawn popcorn wagons by Cretors, in 1900. Today, however, most Americans have a much “better” way of getting popcorns than a horse-and-buggy—the microwave. In 1981, General Mills was issued the first patent for a microwave popcorn bag, and in the following years, residential popcorn consumption increased by tens of thousands of pounds, and today, about a million pounds worth of popcorn are consumed annually by Americans.

Movie theatres elevated the popcorn’s personal appeal to new heights. Surprisingly, popcorn sales were not readily embraced by theatre owners to start with. Factors like unnecessary nuisance in addition to requiring expensive changes and the need to install external vents to rid the building of smoky popcorn odours, discouraged theatre owners from opting for popcorn machines. Hawkers, however, took matters into their own hands, seeing the potential in popcorn sales, and began walking up and down the theatre aisles selling popcorn.

Consequently, theatre owners began to view it as a small luxury that patrons could afford, and instead of installing indoor concession areas, theatres charged third party vendors a dollar a day to sell popcorn from outdoor stands. Subsequently, in 1938, popcorn machines began to get installed in the lobbies of theatres owned by Glen W. Dickson, the owner of several theatres throughout the Midwest. He recovered his investment quickly, though construction changes were costly; the trend spread quickly, and his profits skyrocketed.

With an amazing fact to conclude, the popcorn variety of corn has not yet been genetically modified, while the majority of non-popping corn grown in the United States is. With no genetically modified popcorn variety currently available on the market, interestingly, after all of these years, we’re still enjoying popcorn grown from the same seeds our ancestors used!

Leave a Comment

Disclaimer: The information contained within this website is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for obtaining advice from professional experts. The ideas and views expressed here are all from the authors of the content and not from Yokibu. Please seek assistance from professional experts for your specific needs.