Though we can argue about its historic origins, it’s safe to say that almost everyone loves popcorn. Light, fluffy, satisfying and crunchy, popcorn has been enjoyed for thousands of years. Take a look at some of these amazing food history facts borrowed from the educational Popcorn Board website at www.popcorn.org:
– It is believed that the first use of wild and early cultivated corn was popping.
– The oldest ears of popcorn ever found were discovered in the Bat Cave of west central New Mexico in 1948 and 1950. Ranging from smaller than a penny to about 2 inches, the oldest Bat Cave ears are about 4,000 years old.
– Popcorn was integral to early 16th century Aztec Indian ceremonies. Bernardino de Sahagun writes: “And also a number of young women danced, having so vowed, a popcorn dance. As thick as tassels of maize were their popcorn garlands. And these they placed upon (the girls’) heads.”
-In 1519, Cortes got his first sight of popcorn when he invaded Mexico and came into contact with the Aztecs. Popcorn was an important food for the Aztec Indians, who also used popcorn as decoration for ceremonial headdresses, necklaces and ornaments on statues of their gods, including Tlaloc, the god of rain and fertility.
– An early Spanish account of a ceremony honoring the Aztec gods who watched over fishermen reads: “They scattered before him parched corn, called momochitl, a kind of corn which bursts when parched and discloses its contents and makes itself look like a very white flower; they said these were hailstones given to the god of water.”
-Writing of Peruvian Indians in 1650, the Spaniard Cobo says, “They toast a certain kind of corn until it bursts. They call it pisancalla, and they use it as a confection.”
-The use of the moldboard plow became commonplace in the mid-1800s and led to the widespread planting of maize in the United States.
Besides all that, I say popcorn is just plain fun to eat.
FYI on Nutrition and Health: Popcorn is one of nature’s calorie-light foods. It’s got fiber, protein and virtually no fat, so a “naked” popcorn snack is pretty hard to beat for satsifying a snack craving. But watch out for the bagged, microwaveable varieties – some are laden with bad fats and calories.