I love popcorn. Not the soggy, salt crystal laden, agricultural grade swill one gets at the movie theater, but the hot, light, crunchy and flavorable stuff at home. I make bowls of it, no make that HUGE vats of it on a regular basis. Decided to jot down just a few facts, figures and thoughts on the topic…
- The earliest remains of popcorn are almost 6,000 years old and were found in caves in New Mexico.
- Popcorn was used by the Aztecs to make decorations and offerings for their god of maize, rain and fertility, Tlaloc.
- When a kernel pops, its the moisture inside explosively evaporating causing the soft starch inside to burst, turning the entire kernel inside out.
- During the American Depression, popcorn was a cheap luxury for many families and the mainstay of street vendors and movie theaters.
- It was an experiment of popping popcorn with microwaves in 1945 that led to the creation of the microwave oven.
- Americans consume 17 billion quarts of popcorn annual; that’s approximately 58 quarts per person!
- One GALLON of unbuttered popcorn weighs only 3.5 ounces and has just 390 calories.
- Popcorn is a great snack food and has more protein than any other cereal grain, more iron than eggs, peanuts, spinach or roast beef and more phosphorous & fiber than potato chips, ice cream cones or pretzels.
Microwave popcorn is a convenience but frankly horrendously overpriced, notoriously temperamental and very limited in variety. Many folks swear by air-poppers, but I prefer an old-fashioned pot, lid and a little light oil (peanut oil being my personal favorite). Although, air-poppers are fast and convenient, oil popping makes more flavorful popcorn and makes seasoning easier.
And speaking of seasoning… everyone is familiar with the practice of drenching one’s popcorn in melted butter, but frankly, its one of my least favorite ways to enjoy the snack. Butter is often overdone, making popcorn unhealthy and overwhelming the taste of the popcorn itself. Here are a couple other ways to experiment with your popcorn:
- Garlic Salt & Parmesan cheese
- Chili powder & Taco Seasoning
- Oregeno, Basil & Parsley
- Shredded Parmesan, Romano & Asiago
- Cinnamon & Sugar
The key with seasoning is not to go overboard. If you consistantly find a mound of seasoning at the bottom of your bowl, you’re overdoing it. One way to season your batch without making a colossal mess is to use a paper bag. Simple fill part-way, season, seal and shake thoroughly.
I consider myself one of the Iron Chefs of popcorn poppery. This measure of maizely deftness is determined by how few unpopped kernels one has at the end of a batch. The rules are simple. Popping must be done in a simple pot & lid with oil, each batch must use a minimum of 1/3 cup of kernels and all partially popped kernels count as “popped”. To date my record is a single unpopped kernel in a 1/2 cup batch.