National Popcorn Day:
Celebrated on 19th January, the National Popcorn Day is observed to recognize America’s favorite go-to snack, popcorn. Popcorn has become a prerequisite for movie nights and has gained a special place in the munchies world, due to its versatile and easy-to-cook nature. But how did popcorn gain so much popularity in the US and throughout the world? Well, that’s a story rooted in history and propelled by innovation.
Related: Other National Days Celebrated on January:
Why National Popcorn Day?
Whether you are a junkie or fitness freak, vegan or omnivore, sweet-toothed or savory lover there is popcorn for you. There is popcorn for everyone in this world, no matter your taste preferences. Popcorn or popped-corn is a corn kernel that puffs on heating to form a butterfly-shaped or mushroom-shaped kernel that you can enjoy without the fear of gaining extra pounds.
The first known usage of wild corn was for popping. While today popcorn is mainly used for consumption, in the olden days the golden seed was part of several cultural and religious rites. The Aztecs used popcorn in their headdresses which were worn during rituals honoring the god Tlaloc, the god of maize and fertility.
Bernadino de Sahagun a Franciscan friar who observed and recorded the Aztec culture described the ‘popcorn dance’ in which their young women danced with popcorn garlands on their heads. Popcorn was used in their ceremonial necklaces and ornaments that were used to adorn the statues of their gods. According to a Spanish account, the Aztecs held a ceremony to honor the god who watched over the fishermen. They scattered the parched corn known as Momochitl and claimed these to be hailstones offered to their deity.
Corn was domesticated about 10,000 years ago and in 1948 and 1950 the oldest popcorn ears were discovered in the Bat Caves of West Central Mexico. The fossil evidence found in Peru dates back to 4700BC. Archaeologists also found a utensil with many holes and handles in Peru in 400CE and considered it to be the world’s first popcorn maker.
Evidence from a cave in Utah can be traced back to a thousand years and points to the fact that popcorns were consumed by the Native Americans. The French explorers who set their foot in the land discovered how the Iroquois Natives of the Great lake region used popcorn. As the colonists continued to explore and conquer the land, and as the USA came into existence the native American popcorn was adopted by the Americans.
After its introduction to the Americans, popcorn was sold in every nook and corner and particularly fascinated the young. During celebrations such as Easter, Thanksgiving, Halloween, and Christmas popcorns were used as decorations, for food and gift-giving. Popcorn sold along the East Coast Of the United States and came to be known by the name Pearls or Nonpareil. The first reference to the term popped corn appeared in 1848, in the Dictionary of Americanisms by John Russel Bartlett.
Popcorn popping was experimented with during the early nineteenth century. Kernels were stirred and sifted in hot ash, some people tried making popcorn in a kettle full of fat or butter while others cooked popcorn in a wire box that had a wooden handle over the fire. In 1893, Charles Cretors launched the world’s first mobile popcorn machine at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
The founder of the Creators and company was the owner of a candy shop in Chicago and had created numerous steam-powered machines for roasting, He created street carts with steam-powered popcorn makers. The portable machine was designed so that the user can convey the machine to the location of their choice where there are better prospects for the business. The machine weighs only up to 400 or 500 pounds and can be pulled even by a small boy.
Popcorn continued to be popular from the 1890s even though the period of the great depression. The 5-10 cents popcorn-filled bags were one of the cheapest items that people could afford at the peak of an international economic crisis. Even when other industries and sales were deteriorating, popcorn stayed on-demand and became a source of living for the helpless farmers; even the Redenbacher family.
The introduction of popcorn in movie theatres was another reason for the boost in popcorn sales in the 1920s, especially with the advent of the ‘talking pictures’ when movie theatres were much sought-after. Many theatre owners were repelled by the idea of selling popcorn in the theatres as they considered it to be too messy.
But when many vendors started selling popcorn outside the theatres to the people on their way to the theatres, the owners decided to install the setup in the theatres themselves. In addition, the sugar rations during the second world affected candy production, so the Americans resorted to popcorn consumption almost thrice as much popcorn compared to previous years. Though popcorn sales dropped at the theatre with the introduction of television, a new relationship was forged between television binge-watching and popcorn-munching, especially after the invention of the microwave.
A non-GMO, gluten-free, scrumptious, economical, low-calorie snack is indeed a gift to humanity. Popcorn is a snack endorsed by our ancestors and has continued to amaze every generation with its versatile easy to cook nature. On this day we celebrate a snack that warded off the miseries during the great depression, a golden seed that gave hope to the people that after the heated trials life will bring out something better in you.
How Can We Celebrate National Popcorn Day:
Celebrate The Day In Aztec Style
String popcorn together using sewing needles and strings and make garlands to decorate during special occasions like Halloween, Christmas, and thanksgiving. The garlands can also be hung out for birds to eat.
Gourmet Popcorn Spree
Go on a popcorn eating spree and try out fancy Gourmet popcorn like the KuKuRuZa, Truffle Fromage Porcini, Seattle Style, Harry & David’s Moose Munch, etc. You will admire the versatile snack and the various flavors.
Try out different games like popcorn air hockey, popcorn basketball, and popcorn relay race to enjoy your time.
Pop It Up On Social Media
Share your National popcorn day celebration pictures and posts on social media using #NationalPopcornDay and #PopcornDay
Interesting Facts On National Popcorn Day:
- Americans consume about 15 billion quarts of popcorn each year.
- The Air-popped popcorn contains only 31 calories as opposed to oil-popped popcorn that amounts to 55 calories.
- Ray Aden, the production consultant of Dickinson theatres advised the owner Glen W Dickinson to invest in popcorn farms and Mr. Dickinson became one of the first theatre owners to install a popcorn machine in 1938. The popcorn sales in the theatre seemed to be more profitable than selling movie tickets and soon other theatres followed and installed popcorn machines.
- Popcorn consumption makes you thirsty and you are likely to buy more drinks, which works well for the theatres.
- Around six localities in the Midwestern United States including Van Buren, Indiana; Ridgway, Illinois Schaller, Iowa Marion, Ohio, North Loup, Nebraska. Valparaiso, Indiana Claim to be the ‘World’s Popcorn Capital”.
- The most popular popcorn brands in the US are ACT II, Pop Secret, and Orville Redenbacher
- The corn that is used for popping is different from the corn on the cob that we consume. Zea Mays Everta is the corn variety that is used for making popcorn.
- A popcorn kernel can pop up to 3 feet.
History Of National Popcorn Day:
The origin of National popcorn Day is still a mystery. However many people believe that the Super Bowl led to the creation of this unique day, as you can rarely spot an American without a giant popcorn bucket and buttered fingertips during the Super Bowl.