So you thought only monuments have a history? Difficult as it may seem to believe, but popcorns do too. Yes, the crunchy little yummy popcorn has so much become a part of our daily lives that one just assumes that it was always there and will so in the times to come. But researches conducted on its existence indicate popcorn does have a history and that too an interesting one. So let’s trail down the memory lane and unravel the popcorn history though this article.
Early History of Popcorn
- In the Bible, the mention of ‘corn’ stocked in Egypt pyramids is misinterpreted. The ‘corn’ mentioned in the bible was most likely barley. This faux pas is the result of an altered use of the word ‘corn’ that denotes the widely-used grain of a particular region. So when interpreted this way, ‘corn’ becomes wheat in England and oats in Scotland and Ireland. Since maize was the common American ‘corn’, it took that name and continues to keep it even today.
- It is assumed that the first use of wild and early cultivated corn was popping.
- The earliest popcorn ears were discovered in the Bat Cave of west central New Mexico in 1948 and 1950. Varying from smaller than a penny to about two inches in size, the oldest Bat Cave ears are near about 4,000 years old.
- In 16th century, popcorn was a basic component of the Aztec Indian ceremonies. Bernardino de Sahagun writes: "And also a number of young women danced, having so vowed, a popcorn dance. As thick as tassels of maize were their popcorn garlands. And these they placed upon (the girls') heads."
- Cortes first sighted popcorn when he attacked Mexico in 1519 and came to know the Aztecs. Popcorn formed a vital food item of the Aztec Indians, who also used it as embellishment in ceremonial headgears, necklaces and jewelry on images of their gods.
- Describing about the Peruvian Indians in 1650, the Spaniard Cobo remarks in his writing, "They toast a certain kind of corn until it bursts. They call it pisancalla, and they use it as a confection."
- Use of moldboard plow became quite common practice in the mid-1800s and led to the extensive cultivation of maize in the United States.
Recent Popcorn History
- The popularity of popcorn heightened from the 1890s till the Great Depression. At parks, fairs and other extravaganzas, the street vendors followed the crowd around selling steam or gas-powered poppers.
- At the time of the Great Depression, the popcorn sold at five or 10 cents per bag was among the handful of luxuries hand to mouth families could afford. Though other businesses failed miserably, popcorn selling saw a boom. Infact there was this Oklahoma banker who went broke after his bank failed. So he bought himself a popcorn machine and initiated from scratch by selling popcorn from a tiny store near the theater. After few years, his popcorn business made sufficient profit to enable him buy back three of his farms.
- During World War II, sugar was exported overseas for U.S. troops. Due to this, there wasn't enough sugar left in the US to manufacture candy. In such situation, Americans consumed three times more popcorn than normal.
- Popcorn too has seen its lows. It went into a slump during the 1950s after television gained popularity. The number of people going to the movie theaters decreased and so did popcorn consumption. But when people began eating popcorn at home, the new kinship between television and popcorn led to its resurge in popularity.
- The very first use of microwave heating in the 1940s led to the annual sale of popcorn worth $240 million in the 1990s.
- Americans today eat 17 billion quarts of popped popcorn every year. The average American consumes around 54 quarts.