Whether it’s buttered and salted at the movie theater or coated in crunchy caramel, there’s no denying that popcorn is a snacking staple in the United States. Americans eat more popcorn than any other country in the world; we consume about 51 quarts per person each year. Despite the fact that popcorn is so common in the United States, there are a few things you may not know about it.
Believe it or not, popcorn is a snack with ancient roots; it is believed that the first use of both wild and cultivated corn was popping. The oldest known popcorn kernels were found in New Mexico and they are believed to be at least 4000 years old. By the sixteenth century popcorn had become an important part of Aztec ceremonies; it was used to make headdresses, jewelry, and ornaments for statues of the gods. Three decades later, advances in farming technology and the advent of moldboard plow led to the widespread planting of corn in the United States; popcorn has grown in popularity ever since.
Though modern popcorn is often thought of as a movie theaterer snack, it’s actually consumed more commonly at home; about 70 percent of all popcorn consumed in the United States is made at home, most of which is microwaved or air-popped. When vendors first started selling popcorn outside of movie theaters in the late nineteenth century, theater owners were skeptical — they thought the sale of popcorn would cut into their profits. Today, popcorn is an essential part of the theater experience; theater owners have taken advantage of the snack’s popular appeal, and today popcorn sales yield higher profits than ticket sales.
But, what about the some of the lesser known popcorn facts — like “what is an old maid and what does it have to do with popcorn?” We’ve rounded up eight fun facts every popcorn aficionado should know.
It Takes 135 Pounds of Pressure to Pop Corn
Each kernel of popcorn contains a small amount of water which, when heated, turns to steam. This steam builds pressure. When the pressure reaches about 135 pounds per square inch, the kernel will explode.
Popcorn Comes in Two Basic Shapes
Most popcorn comes in two basic shapes. The larger snowflake shape is used in ballparks and theaters, and the smaller mushroom shape is used for confections like caramel corn.
Kristie Collado is The Daily Meal’s Cook Editor. Follow her on Twitter @KColladoCook.