- Virginia Johnson
Popcorn was grown by Native Americans long before the Europeans came to the New World. The Aztecs used it, strung into garlands, in their religious ceremonies. Peruvians toasted and ate their popcorn, which was called pisancalla. During the 1830's, it was "discovered" by American farmers who, using a new kind of plow, planted acres and acres of it during the 1850s. By the turn of the 19th century, popcorn vendors could be found in every big city. They'd sell their wares by the bag or the ball and make a profit of about 70 cents on every dollar!
In the 1910s and 1920s, young people would have popcorn-themed parties, an idea that is still popular today. During the 1930s, popcorn was an inexpensive treat that poor people could still afford for their families. During World War II, sugar distribution was limited in the United States. It was counted as a vital supply that needed to be sent overseas to troops. Once again, popcorn came to the rescue, keeping kids happy even without chocolate bars.
Popcorn really took off at the movie theaters, but, once televisions made their way into most homes by the 1950s and 1960s, popcorn's perfect popularity was mostly a warmed over memory. It took another big invention to give popcorn its comeback. Most families own a microwave. They may not use it much for cooking big meals, but it's a good bet that the little button labeled "Popcorn" is given a work out a couple of times a week.
Mostly because of the microwave, popcorn is as popular today as ever it was. Air-popped popcorn is a high fiber and low calorie snack that can be dressed up six ways to Sunday with chocolate, caramel, marshmallows, nuts, cheese or other add-ins. These extras may add in some sugar, fat, and salt as well, but, for special occasions and holidays, there's nothing like a popcorn creation.
Books About Popcorn
The CRRL has many books about how popcorn is raised, its science, and its history-- even popcorn stories! Click here to Get Popping. Any book may be reserved. Click on its title to go to the catalog and request that it be held for you at your favorite branch.
Decorate With Popcorn
When you're planning fun things to do this holiday, don't forget the popcorn. One jar of popcorn equals many beautiful decorations. Use them in your own house, or make them to give to friends, family, and teachers. Popcorn garlands were popular decorations in early American homes. This version uses cranberries and golden dried apricots to give your garland a bejewelled look. Nothing's easier than this popcorn ornament. It starts with Styrofoam balls of whatever size you prefer and hot glue. You add the trimmings to get the look you want.
Have a Popcorn Party
Of course, the best thing about popcorn is the fun of eating it. If you're planning to have a party with friends this fall or winter, why not make it a Popcorn Party? For an autumn party, try Fall Popcorn Balls. Older kids (with mom or dad nearby, please!) can try their hand at old-fashioned, sweet and salty Kettle Corn. A Popcorn Relay Race will keep everybody hustling. A good tip on this one: do it outside on a clear day. It's going to get messy, and better the birds get a free meal than you get stuck cleaning up afterwards.
Edible popcorn decorations add a certain tasty something to the holidays. This sweet Popcorn Wreath is held together with melted marshmallows (yum!) and has a nice crunch from whole pecans. You can also build a couple of Popcorn Snowmen.
More Places to Look for Popcorn Fun and Facts: