Tag Archive | Popcorn

Popcorn!

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.

The hubby and I have had this same set of bowls for decades now… and still use them

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.

Colorful dried corn

“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.

Charles Cretors with one of his popcorn machines

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.

My first popcorn popper was likely a Stir Crazy or similar. You poured a bit of oil on the base and heated it up, then added the popcorn kernels. It was fun to watch the popcorn fill the lid – which you turned over and it became the bowl.

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.

The hubby’s older brother, while we were on a waterski trip to Lake Tapps in 1981, decided the hubby was a good ‘target’ for getting popcorned.

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.

The links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Popcorn

https://www.history.com/news/a-history-of-popcorn

Probably our 4th or 5th popcorn popper. The bowl and popcorn canister we’ve had since the 1980’s. The average American consumes 58 quarts of popcorn a year!

… Coca Cola

July 10, 2018

things go better with cokeIt is a slogan all Americans of a certain age are familiar with: Things Go Better With Coke. Except for in 1985 when there was a brief period in time when the world shook on its axis and consumers rebelled against  what was branded as “New Coke.”

The controversy began in April that year when Coca Cola replaced the original formula with the new version in an effort to regain some of its lost market share to Pepsi.

From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“By 1985, Coca-Cola had been losing market share to diet soft drinks and non-cola beverages for many years. Consumers who were purchasing regular colas seemed to prefer the sweeter taste of rival Pepsi-Cola, as Coca-Cola learned in conducting blind taste tests. However, the American public’s reaction to the change was negative, even hostile, and the new cola was considered a major failure. The company reintroduced Coke’s original formula within three months of New Coke’s debut, rebranded as ‘Coca-Cola Classic’, and this resulted in a significant gain in sales. This led to speculation by some that the introduction of the New Coke formula was just a marketing ploy to stimulate sales of original Coca-Cola; however, the company has maintained that it was a genuine attempt to replace the original product.”

New Coke was out and Classic Coke was back on July 10, 1985.

The history of the soft drink is, primarily, a tribute to marketing and also the use of corporate profits to acquire multiple business lines. Although its current rank on the Fortune 500 is at 87 (down from 64 in 2017), it will celebrate 100 years as a publicly traded company in September 1919.

For me, as a child, there really were only three choices in ‘soda’ or ‘pop’ as we called it: Coke, 7-Up, and Root Beer. Root Beer was a special treat as we occasionally drove to the A&W drive in and got a frosty mug of the treat, sometimes as a float. And I was never a big fan of 7-Up.

But Saturday nights always involved getting to drink Coke while we ate popcorn and played a game my parent’s called ‘DeVore Rummy.’

rummy handThe game was six hands of cards where you collected, first, two groups of three cards; then a group and a run of four (all the same suit); then two runs. After the halfway point, things got more difficult with needing to acquire two groups and a run, then two runs and a group and, finally, two groups AND two runs plus you had to lay your entire hand down – with no leftovers –  to win the round.

I have several distinct memories of playing the game. First, as a seven year old, tossing down my cards in frustration as I lost (yet again) and stomping away from the table in tears.

Then as a teenager, not acknowledging that family game night was an important event which was designed to keep us at home and provide an excuse for our friends as to why we were not out partying like so many were.

By the time my teen years rolled around I was frequently the only child still around on Saturday nights but often my friend Pam joined us, and we  added Pinochle to the mix; many a night that was what was on the menu instead of Rummy.

But the other things never changed. I can still see my dad, standing at the avocado green electric stove, a large aluminum pan with a wooden handle in front of him. He’d cover the bottom of the pan with vegetable oil and, when the oil was hot, put in three popcorn kernels and cover the pan with an aluminum pie plate as the original lid was long gone.

We’d wait for the telltale pop-pop-pop and he would add the rest of the kernels. Soon, with our heaping bowls of salted and buttered popcorn, and the always present glass of Coke, we’d gather round the dining room table for the games.aluminum pot

Over the years I grew to love the event – whether with my own parents, siblings, husband, kids, nieces, in-laws – for the wonderful gathering it is. And I no longer stomp from the room but instead, win or lose, value the time spent with family. And I always make sure there’s a bottle of Coke in the fridge for those who want it.

For more information about New Coke: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Coke

And for the exhaustive history of the company:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Coca-Cola_Company

I cannot find the exact rummy game we played, so it must have been a family variation, but here’s a link to a variety of such games:

http://www.rummy-games.com/