While it may seem like a relatively recent phenomenon, people have been snacking on popcorn for thousands of years. Its unknown just when the first ancient civilization discovered certain types of corn could pop, but it could be as early as 300AD. In Mexico, where popcorn originates from, funeral urns dating from this period show a maize god with what looks like popcorn on his headdress.
Early Natives loved eating popcorn, and used it not just for food, but also for decorations on their clothing and in ceremonial items. It was a rich part of their life, and as good as popcorn is, who can blame them?
Much later, a mere 5,000 years ago, the oldest popped popcorn kernel in the world was found in a cave in New Mexico. Other popped popcorn kernels have been found after that, though none as old, all around the Americas.
When the first European settlers arrived, popcorn was already a well understood snack all throughout the Americas. Unsurprisingly, it quickly became a popular snack for the settlers as well. A favorite way to consume it was with milk and sugar, as if it were a modern day breakfast cereal.
Popcorn in the great Depression
When the great Depression struck the world, the desperate situation pushed many companies out of business, including snack food businesses. Luckily for popcorn, its very affordability saved it from the same fate.
Thanks to it’s extremely cheap price (a bag of popcorn typically went for 5-10 cents) popcorn grew even more in popularity rather than failed. Popcorn may well have saved many farmers from destruction thanks to the fact that everyone could afford it.
A brief slump
When the modern day television was invented, popcorn sales began to decline. This was due in part to the fact that fewer people were now attending movie theaters, since television was readily available at home. Popcorn may have continued into its twilight years, if it wasn’t for yet another new invention – microwavable popcorn.
General Mills patented the first microwave popcorn bag in 1981, and the rest is history. Home popcorn became a hit as the convenience of popcorn with a few pushes of a button warmed people back up to the power of popcorn.
We now enjoy popcorn pretty much the same way we have since 1981, with a few exceptions. Gourmet popcorn shops have become available, offering popcorn with special flavorings you may not find anywhere else. Home popping machines that allow you air-popped corn, as well as more traditional types are now available for home use.
These popping machines are replacing microwave popcorn in some places because it allows healthier popcorn, and more flavor options.
The future of popcorn
It’s too early to say what new inventions will bring the world of popcorn, but one thing is certain. We will continue to love and enjoy this great snack all around the world. Popcorn is something we love the world over, and it unites us through its delicious flavor and fun toppings.