Monday, May 10, 2010

Who invented popcorn

Even with a mysterious origin, Americans' enjoyment of popcorn spans centuries

Some may wonder "who invented popcorn"? Popcorn has been a favorite snack literally for centuries. Now popcorn is an American favorite sold at movie theaters across the country as well as in gift baskets given on holidays. It is unclear who the first person to actually invent popcorn, however the oldest ears of popcorn found to date were discovered in a bat cave off west central New Mexico in 1948. The bat cave popcorn ears are gauged to be approximately 4,000 years old. That proves that Americans have literally been snacking on popcorn for centuries! 

Popcorn was "invented" by other people in the world as well. It is probably safe to assume that popcorn was popular in places where corn was grown as a major food source. In 1519, Cortes saw popcorn when he invaded Mexico and first met the Aztecs. Popcorn was important to the Aztec Indians as a food source. But, they also made necklaces and decorated their headdresses with popcorn. It has been recorded that the Peruvian Indians in the 16th century were also using popcorn. 

Popcorn has been very popular in America. From the 1800s until the Great Depression, street vendors would sell it using steam or gas-powered popcorn poppers. The very first commercial popcorn machine was invented by Charles Cretors in 1885 in Chicago, Illinois. There are even old fashioned poppers that'll give your popcorn the same old time flavor that first hooked our society on popcorn. 

Popcorn was priced at about five or ten cents a bag during the Depression, and it was a little luxury that most families could afford. This meant that the popcorn business still did well through the Depression. 

A favorite treat during the late 1800s through the early 1900s was the popcorn ball. Popcorn balls are simple to make. Many people still enjoy them today, and make them especially for the holiday season. People in the 1800s also ate flavored popcorn. Some favorite flavorings include rose, honey, molasses and sugar. Popcorn was also used to make wonderful holiday decorations like garlands that draped the Christmas tree or fireplace mantle in many Victorian households.

During WWII, popcorn became an extremely patriotic snack because sugar was rationed; Americans snacked on more popcorn than ever before. Popcorn remained a popular snack throughout the rest of the twentieth century. With such an interesting history and so many fun facts, not to mention tasty, its no wonder why this food has been apart of American society for so long. 

Today, it is said that Americans eat more popcorn than any other part of the world. We eat popcorn at ballparks, state fairs, carnivals, rodeos, movie theatres, and also at home. Microwaveable popcorn is an industry all of its own – with many people eating microwave popcorn every week as their special snack. Popcorn is primarily grown in America, in states including Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska and Ohio. 

A popular gift at holiday time is large cans of popcorn, with pretty decorations on them. A traditional popcorn can has three kinds of popcorn in it – cheese popcorn, caramel popcorn and butter flavored popcorn. But you can find popcorn in just about any flavor that you desire. There is white chocolate popcorn, peppermint popcorn, chocolate fudge popcorn, cheddar cheese popcorn – just to name a delicious few. If there is a flavor you can think of –surely you can find popcorn in that flavor! 

Popcorn is certainly a snack that we have enjoyed for centuries and that we will continue to enjoy for many centuries to come.


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