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HISTORY OF POPCORN

Europeans learned about popcorn from Native Americans. When Cortes invaded Mexico, and when Columbus arrived in the West Indies, each saw natives eating popcorn, as well as using it in necklaces and headdresses. Native Americans brought a bag of popped corn to the first Thanksgiving. After learning about the fluffy food, colonists began enjoying the first puffed breakfast cereal—a bowl of popcorn, served with cream or milk. Popcorn was very popular from the 1890s until the Great Depression. Street vendors used to follow crowds around selling popcorn at fairs, parks, and near theaters. At 5 to 10 cents a bag it was one of the few luxuries families could afford. While other businesses failed, the popcorn business thrived. Then during World War II when sugar was rationed, there wasn't much sugar left in the States to make candy, therefore, Americans changed their snacking habits and ate three times as much popcorn as before. The theater was the favorite place to eat popcorn but as television became popular during the early 1950s popcorn sales went into a slump. It wasn't until the public began eating popcorn at home, that the new relationship between television and popcorn started all over again and popcorn sales rose.

POPCORN SCIENCE

Popcorn is a whole grain made up of three components: the germ, endosperm, and hull. Popcorn differs from other types of corn in that its hull has just the right thickness to allow it to burst open. Each kernel of popcorn contains a small drop of water stored inside a circle of soft starch. The soft starch is surrounded by the kernel's hard outer surface. As the kernel heats up, the water begins to expand. As it explodes, steam inside the kernel is released. The soft starch inside the popcorn becomes inflated and spills out, cooling immediately and forming into the odd shape we know and love.

POPCORN FUN FACTS

  • The average American eats nearly 70 quarts of popcorn a year.
  • Popcorn kernels can pop up to 3 feet in the air.
  • Popcorn is grown primarily in Indiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky and Missouri.
  • The world's largest popcorn ball was 8 feet in diameter, nearly 24.5 feet in circumference, and weighed in at a whopping 3,423 pounds.
  • Popping popcorn is one of the number one uses for microwave ovens with most microwave ovens having a "popcorn" control button.