Popcorn, the home movie fun food

Published June 20th, 2020 in Eat for Health, HN4U Blog, Traditional Cookery

by Tammera J. Karr, PhD, BCHN, CNW, CGP

Before the advent of fast snack foods and giant box candies, we had a simple and dare I say, even beneficial snack food – popcorn. This week I read a report on Pepsi-Co launching two new fast service websites for home delivery of their Frito and Pepsi family of products directly to consumers.

This has me confused because everywhere I have been during the COVID-19 closures, the one group of foods the most accessible are junk foods. It is harder to find popcorn, then candy, pop, chips, and cookies. These calory dense snack foods are very much a product of the current modern age. Before the 1970s, snack foods were a treat used on occasion. Today these everpresent junk foods are being used as daily meal replacements for thousands of children in low-income households. Popcorn, by comparison, is a paragon of health virtue.

A Little History

Biblical accounts of “corn” stored in the pyramids of Egypt are a reference to other grains such as barley. The word “corn” was commonly used to refer to various grains in Europe, such as wheat, barley, and rye. In Scotland and Ireland, the term “corn” referred to oats. Maize was the ordinary American corn.

It is believed that the first use of wild and early cultivated corn was popping. Archeologists have found traces of popcorn in 1,000year-old Peruvian tombs. The oldest ears of popcorn ever found were discovered in the Bat Cave of west-central New Mexico in 1948 and 1950.

Popcorn was very popular from the 1890s until the Great Depression. Street vendors used to follow crowds around, pushing steam or gas-powered poppers through fairs, parks, and expositions. According to the Popcorn Board website, “Charles Cretors, founder of C. Cretors and Company in Chicago, introduced the world’s first mobile popcorn machine at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.

Scientific American reported: ‘This machine … was designed with the idea of moving it about to any location where the operator would be likely to do a good business. The apparatus, which is light and

durable, and weighing but 400 or 500 pounds, can be drawn readily by a boy or by a small pony to any picnic ground, fair, political rally, etc. and to many other places where a good business could be done for a day or two.

Popcorn at 5 or 10 cents a bag was one of the few luxuries down-and-out families could afford. During the Great Depression, the popcorn business thrived while other companies failed. A slump did happen during the early 1950s, with the arrival of TV. Attendance at movie theaters dropped and, with it, popcorn consumption. A new relationship between TV and popcorn was formed.

Many of us have fond memories of making Jiffy Pop™. Just this last week, while camping at my husbands’ remote job site, I went looking for JiffyPop. When I found it, it was interesting to read the ingredients list – it was a surprisingly simple list and free of many of the typical industrial additives that are detrimental to our health—developed in 1958 in LaPorte, Indiana.  JiffyPop™ made it big when, in the 1970s, the stage magician Harry Blackstone, Jr. promoted the product jingle.

According to the non-GMO shopping guide,  there is no GMO popcorn, so while hundreds of cone products are GMO and gene-edited, old fashioned popcorn is still the same as when you were a kid.

Our family likes to sit in the yard on a summer night, hang a sheet on the shop wall, and use the projector to screen movies while we enjoy our organic buttered popcorn. Just like the ol’ fashioned drive-in, but better. make as it is to eat.”

Here is to real food that we can have fun with.