February 22, 2022
There are topics which come to my attention from time to time that cause me to say: that just can’t be right.
According to a number of sources on the internet, it was on February 22, 1621, when a Native American by the name of Squanto, at the first Thanksgiving, showed the settlers how to make ‘popcorn’.
Hmmm… wasn’t the first Thanksgiving held in the fall and not February? And did the natives of that region really eat popcorn?
A little refresher. The Pilgrims landed in what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts in November of 1620. For the next year they struggled mightily, enduring hardships and starvation. There was no feast in February 1621. That did not occur until sometime between mid-September and early November 162.
Now on to the second question about the popcorn. According to History.com:
I feel confident that the two groups were not sitting around the campfire enjoying a batch of jiffy pop in February 1621.
“It’s been said that popcorn was part of the first Thanksgiving feast, in Plymouth Colony in 1621. According to myth, Squanto himself taught the Pilgrims to raise and harvest corn, and pop the kernels for a delicious snack. Unfortunately, this story contains more hot air than a large bag of Jiffy Pop. While the early settlers at Plymouth did indeed grow corn, it was of the Northern Flint variety, with delicate kernels that are unsuitable for popping. No contemporary accounts reference eating or making popcorn in that area, and the first mention of popcorn at Thanksgiving doesn’t appear until a fictional work published in 1889, over 200 years later.”
But, the history of popped corn is interesting. A uniquely western hemisphere food, there is evidence that corn has existed and had been used as food for thousands of years.
While the Infallible Wikipedia was silent on the Pilgrims angle, it does share the following:
“Corn was domesticated about 10,000 years ago in what is now Mexico. Archaeologists discovered that people have known about popcorn for thousands of years. Fossil evidence from Peru suggests that corn was popped as early as 4700 BC.
Through the 19th century, popping of the kernels was achieved by hand on stove tops. Kernels were sold on the East Coast of the United States under names such as Pearls or Nonpareil. The term popped corn first appeared in John Russell Bartlett’s 1848 Dictionary of Americanisms. Popcorn is an ingredient in Cracker Jack and, in the early years of the product, it was popped by hand.
Popcorn’s accessibility increased rapidly in the 1890s with Charles Cretors’ invention of the popcorn maker. Cretors, a Chicago candy store owner, had created a number of steam-powered machines for roasting nuts and applied the technology to the corn kernels.
By the turn of the century, Cretors had created and deployed street carts equipped with steam-powered popcorn makers.”
It was, however, during the Great Depression when popcorn consumption really took off. With sugar in short supply and sweets largely unavailable, American’s discovered they could have an inexpensive salty, buttery snack instead. Soon popcorn was sold in movie theatres and people could pop it at home.
Popcorn popularity surged once again in the 1980’s with the ability to cook the product in microwave ovens. It’s estimated that Americans today consume more than 17 billion quarts of popcorn annually!
Some of my earliest memories center around popcorn. My dad would pop a pan full on most Saturday nights of my childhood; a once a week treat while the family played cards.
When I went away to college at the University of Puget Sound, I brought with me two ‘appliances.’ One was a small electric kettle and the other was an all in one popcorn popper. Of course I was not the only girl to have one in the sorority, but one could be sure that the smell of the popping corn would be a siren call to others; soon the party would be in my room.
I associate popcorn with the hubby. Not only does he LOVE popcorn, it was the thing we were both eating on the night of our first ever phone call.
In 1979 there were no cell phones. We did not have individual phones in our rooms either. Instead, there was a multi-line phone system in the Alpha Phi sorority where I lived, and down the hall from my room was ‘the phone room.’ This was a closet size space with a small desk and chair, and the phone for the entire sorority was located there. Additional handsets were located on the second floor and another in the basement. Members took turns being on phone duty in the evenings, answering the calls and then, via intercom, paging those who had a call.
The evening of our first call, I had just finished making a batch of popcorn when the intercom near my room announced, “Call for Barbie D on line 2.” So, with a bowl of popcorn in hand, I made my way to one of the phones. As the conversation got going my new romantic interest and I discovered that we were both enjoying the same snack.
Our mutual love of popcorn has never wavered and we are in agreement that popcorn is best when it has butter drizzled over it and a few turns of the salt grinder on top of that. Sometimes the simplest things are the best.