Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Popcorn: Too much is TOO much, but a little over the top is A GOOD THING

WARNING: This is a long post.  A very long post. You've been warned.

I was watching TV on a quiet Sunday, waiting for the Daytona 500 to start.  It was stuck in the middle of another rain delay.

My wife was sleeping and my kids were doing other things. I wanted a snack just for me - popcorn.

Popcorn and I have a relationship that goes way back.

I can remember walking the hallways of Margate Elementary School after school raising money for a trip to the Kennedy Space Center.  My mom bagged up pretzels and popcorn in sandwich bags and would shout "Popcorn! Popcorn! 15 cents a bag" to anyone that would listen.

These days, I volunteer at the local high school's concession stand on behalf of the Band Boosters.  I sling hot dogs, nachos, candy, and popcorn.  Popcorn is now a dollar a bag, but I don't have to shout about it.

Corn is native to the Americas and popcorn is thought to be one of the oldest forms.  Evidence of early cultivation of corn has been found dating back to 3600 BC in New Mexico (and possibly as early as 4700 BC in Peru).
Traditional Peruvian Canchita (Popcorn) Cooker (4)
Enter the Spanish Conquistadors.  Cortez invaded Mexico in 1519 and saw popcorn for the first time.

When the English arrived in North America, they also learned about popcorn from the Native Americans.
The English who came to America in the 16th and 17th centuries learned about popcorn from the Native Americans.
Moving forward to the late 1800’s, Popcorn gained popularity throughout the United States with street vendors following crowds around with fresh poppers at parks and fairs.

By the time of the Great Depression, popcorn was considered inexpensive at 5 to 10 cents a bag.  With its popularity growing, the popcorn business thrived while many other businesses failed and growing corn became a source of income for many struggling farmers.

During World War II, many products including sugar were rationed for the war effort.  Candy production dropped causing Americans to increase their consumption of popcorn by over 300%.

Our story takes two directions here.  With the end of Wold War II, Raytheon Corporation had a surplus of magnetrons (a type of vacuum tube used in radar).  In 1946 Dr. Percy Spencer began experimenting with a magnetron when he noticed that the chocolate bar in his pocket had melted.   Out of curiosity, he placed some popcorn kernels next to the magnetron and turned it on - the popcorn popped.

Meanwhile, popcorn consumption had slumped in the early 1950s, when television became popular.  This caused attendance at movie theaters to drop and with it, popcorn consumption.   Yet it was at this same time that the first microwaves became commercially available.

It wouldn’t be until the mid to late 1970s that the microwave became a staple in most households.  With the microwave in the home, many foods could be quickly and cheaply prepared, including popcorn.

The Amana RadarRange was the microwave of choice in the 1970's.  These things were powerful and nearly indestructible.  You could cook almost anything in these things: popcorn, hot dogs, canned ravioli, oatmeal, but you might want to avoid the Legos.  I melted a friend's set of Lego's when I put them in (the wheels had a metal axle)!

I had better results.

That was a lot of information, I imagine you may havea lot of questions

So, why does pop corn pop?

  • Spirits with anger issues?
  • Nitro Glycerin extract? 
  • Water trapped in the kernel?

How can "I" make popcorn?

My advice to you is, don't.  Drive to North Wilkesboro, NC and go to the Liberty Theater.  It's not the prettiest movie theater, and it only has two screens, but for a Saturday matinee you can get 4 adult tickets for $16 dollars.  They play first run movies, and they serve the WORLD'S BEST POPCORN.  It's still cooked in coconut oil, and it's cooked FRESH.  The large bag with one free refill is $4.

If you are still going to make your own popcorn then you have several methods:

Air Popper.  I'm not a fan of using a device just to make popcorn, especially when that device doesn't bring any flavor to the party.  You can use a popcorn for roasting coffee (8), which gives it some merit, but much like a spice grinder, once you've used coffee in it you can't use it for anything else .

Jiffy Pop.  To me this is old school fun.  An aluminum pan, oil, and un-popped kernels covered in foil.  Ready in eight minutes from the stovetop.  And I burned it every time.

Microwave Popcorn.  Walk down the snack aisle in any supermarket and you'll find scores of different brands and flavors of microwave popcorn.  They all break down to the following:  a special bag with a metal film laminated to one side, popcorn, solidified cooking oil, and one or more seasonings (usually including salt), and natural and artificial flavorings.  Recently there has been some concern that a chemical used to give microwave popcorn its tasty butter flavor, diacetyl, may pose a health hazard.

Personally, I prefer The Brown-Bag method

Take 1/2 cup popcorn kernels

Place in brown lunch bag

Fold over the top

microwave for 2:30

sift out unpopped kernels

Cookie Sheet/Cooling Rack (3)

To put over the top do the following:

Spartacus Popcorn
(thanks Jenn)

Melt 3 tablespoon of butter


  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • sprinkle of salt

What do you get?

I want to thank you for making it through this INCREDIBLY LONG blog.  As a treat, one more POP for you!

Until next time, I wish you Peace, Love, and Hollandaise Sauce.

(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Popcorn#History
(2) http://www.popcorn.org
(3) http://microwavecooking.com/History_of_Microwave_Popcorn.htm
(4) Photo Credit: http://www.travelblog.org/South-America/Peru/Arequipa/Colca-Canyon/blog-401585.html
(5) Photo Credit: http://thewhizzer.blogspot.com/2006/12/news-as-i-read-it-around-globe.html
(6) Photo Credit: Rockwell Museum or Western Art
(7) Photo Credit: http://www.kitchenkneads.com
(8) for more information on using Air Poppers for roasting coffee, check out: http://www.sweetmarias.com/airpop/airpopmethod.php


Jenn said...

Extraordinary! Awesome topic,I'm going to try ur popcorn!

Judybelle said...

I wanna try your brown bag method, too!! And, I thought the history you included was great. Keep up the great work!! :D

Judybelle said...

And, btw, I wonder how you put the band booster food a little over the top? I'm sure you find a way. ;-)

DL said...

This may lead into another post, but I can't go over the top for Band Booster Concession Stand food. When I make my own though, I can go a little wild, for example we make Frito Pie (Chili and Cheese Sauce over Fritos). I like pulled pork BBQ with hot sauce, cole slaw, and a little cheese sauce on the side.

Judybelle said...

Yum!! Back to the popcorn, you don't need to put any oil in with the kernels before microwaving? And, does all the over the top stuff go in before or after popping? Excited to try this healthier and more natural popcorn!!