The History of Popcorn

Ancient History

The first account on this topic is far ago when archaeologists have found 80,000-year-old corn pollen below Mexico City. Because this pollen is almost exactly the same as modern gourmet popcorn pollen, researchers believe that "cave people" most likely had popcorn (probably not gourmet...).

The oldest ears of popcorn ever found were discovered in the Bat Cave (a site known to have been occupied by cave dwellers practicing primitive agriculture three thousand years ago) of west central New Mexico in 1948 and 1950 by anthropologist Herbert Dick and botanist Earle Smith, Harvard graduate students. They found tiny cobs of popcorn in which each kernel was enclosed in its own husk. (Harvard and gourmet popcorn definitely go well together...).

Among those prehistoric kernels, they found six that were partly or completely popped. These grains have been so well preserved that they would still pop. In fact, they took a few unpopped kernels and dropped them into a little hot oil to prove that they could still pop. They have been carbon dated to be about 5,600 years old (I'm not sure about carbon dating, but good old-fashioned dating - a night at the movies - is better with King Korn gourmet popcorn).

Prehistoric popcorn was popped by throwing it on sizzling hot stones tended over a raging campfire. Naturally, as it popped it shot off in various directions. The game was to catch the popcorn and the reward was snacking on it (A new gourmet popcorn game? Could this replace Bunco?).

Grains of popcorn over 1,000 years old were discovered on Peru's east coast. Preservation methods of the Peruvian Indians was so advanced that 1,000 years later, this corn still pops. (King Korn Gourmet popcorn definitely has a long shelf life, but I wouldn't eat it after 1,000 years...)

Recent History
French explorers of the Great Lakes region in 1612, have mentioned the use of popcorn by the Iroquois. The Frenchmen took part in an Iroquois dinner that included popcorn soup and popcorn beer. (hmmm... Gourmet Popcorn Soup - now that's a thought...)

Popcorn was spreading through almost all tribes of North and South America by the time the Pilgrims arrived. Quadequina, a brother of Chief Massasoit of the Wampanoag tribe brought popcorn to the first Thanksgiving dinner in Plymouth, Massachusetts (this definitely had to be gourmet...). The Indians brought popcorn to many of the meetings with colonists as a goodwill gesture - kind of like their contribution to the potluck meal. (We think Gourmet Popcorn should be served at all meeting functions - don't you?)

With the opening of movie theaters across the nation early in the 20th century, popcorn became a part of the new excitement. During the Depression years (1929-1939), popcorn was one of the few luxuries down-and-out families could afford (aren't we in a re-depression - gourmet popcorn is still your luxury of choice...). While other businesses failed, the popcorn business thrived. There is a story about an Oklahoma banker who went broke when his bank failed. He bought a popcorn machine and started a business in a small store near a theater. After a couple years, his popcorn business made enough money to buy back three of the farms he had previously lost. (not planning on buying farms? you could still make extra money selling KingKorn Gourmet popcorn in your business - ask us how.)

Today the American public eats over one billion pounds of popcorn per year; translating to seventeen and a half billion quarts! The average American chows down on approximately 70 quarts per person yearly. (we can definitely understand why - gourmet popcorn - nothing tastes better...)

Information sources for the History of Popcorn: The Popcorn Board

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