Tahlequah Daily Press

Features

September 12, 2007

Popcorn popularity high, despite cautions

(Continued)

TAHLEQUAH DAILY PRESS —

The favored brand of microwave corn is Pop Secret, which carries the endorsement of popcorn magnate Orville Redenbacher.

And a type of corn promising to recreate the experience of purchasing a bag or bucket of buttered corn in a movie theater also sells well, Moore said.

"Traditional popcorn doesn't sell nearly as well. The convenience factor of the microwave is so much better," Moore said.

He believes that besides buying popcorn to consume at home, many people take it to the office for a midmorning or mid-afternoon snack. Some people even use it for lunch at work.

Why does popcorn pop? Native Americans told tales of spirits that lived inside each kernel. When the corn was heated, it angered the spirits and they began to shake violently, finally bursting out of their homes.

Actually, each kernel contains a tiny drop of water, surrounded by starches and a hard outer shell. As the kernel heats up, the water expands and eventually the starches, fueled by the steam, break through the shell.

According to The Popcorn Board, popping was apparently the first use for wild and cultivated corn. The oldest ears of popcorn, tinier than today's, date back around 4,000 years. They were discovered in the Bat Cave in west central New Mexico in 1948 and 1950.

During the early 16th century, conquistadors documented the use of popcorn by the Aztecs in their ceremonies, including a popcorn dance performed by young women. Popcorn was used as an ornament on the statues of some gods, including the rain and fertility god Tlaloc.

Spaniards also wrote about popcorn use by the Incas in Peru.

From the 1890s through the Depression, popcorn was a favorite snack dispensed by street vendors. The invention of a portable popping cart made this possible. During the Depression, popcorn at 5 or 10 cents a bag was one of the few affordable luxuries for many people.

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