National Popcorn Day is observed annually January 19th.
This time-honored treat can be sweet or savory, caramelized, buttered or plain, molded into a candied ball or tossed with nuts and chocolate. However, it is enjoyed, enjoy it on National Popcorn Day, January 19th.
The word “corn” in Old English meant “grain” or more specifically the most prominent grain grown in a region. Maize being the most common grain in early America, the word “corn” was aptly applied.
As early as the 16th century, popcorn was used in headdresses worn during Aztec ceremonies honoring Tlaloc, their god of maize and fertility. Early Spanish explorers were fascinated by the corn that burst into what looked like a white flower.
Popcorn started becoming popular in the United States in the middle 1800s. It wasn’t until Charles Cretors, a candy-store owner, developed a machine for popping corn with steam that the tasty treat became more abundantly poppable. By 1900 he had horse-drawn popcorn wagons going through the streets of Chicago.
About the same time, Louise Ruckheim added peanuts and molasses to popcorn to bring Cracker Jack to the world. The national anthem of baseball was born in 1908 when Jack Norworth and Albert Von Tilzer wrote Take Me out to the Ballgame. From that point onward, popcorn, specifically Cracker Jack, became forever married to the game.
Popcorn has another romance that may have had a slow start, but eventually took off. Today, who can image going to the movies without getting a box of buttered popcorn. While popcorn itself was an economical choice for a snack food, the expense of installing a machine and venting the building properly didn’t seem worth the effort. If it wasn’t for Glen W. Dickson, we would be purchasing our popcorn from a vendor on the street before taking in the show. Dickson put in the effort and expense of placing machines inside his theaters. After realizing how quickly he recouped his costs, other theater owners followed suit.
Then next big advancement for popcorn was the invention of the microwave. Magnetrons, a technology produced by Raytheon Manufacturing Corporation for the military during World War II, were later used to develop microwave ovens. Percy Spencer was the man who made it happen. Popcorn was one of his primary experiments during the microwave’s development.
Today, Americans consume 13 billion quarts of popcorn a year, more than any other country in the world. A majority of the popcorn produced in the world is grown in the United States. Nebraska leads the corn belt in popcorn production.