The exact origin of popcorn is unknown. What is known is that, long before the navigator Christopher Columbus arrived in America, the indigenous people of the north of the continent already ate popcorn.
They started to do it with the whole cob placed on a skewer and brought to the fire. Afterwards, they started throwing the loose grains directly into a low fire. There was a third, more sophisticated method, which consisted of cooking corn in a clay pot filled with hot sand.
About 7,000 years ago, corn was already grown in the Gulf of Mexico. The Aztecs used popcorn in various ceremonies. Women danced wearing crowns made from the delicacy.
Does any grain of corn turn into popcorn?
Popcorn is made from corn that grows on plants that are smaller and more fragile than common corn. Corn species are evaluated by a criterion called “expansion capacity,” which determines whether or not they serve as popcorn.
The popcorn kernel contains about 12% water in its interior. The popcorn explosion is nothing more than the expansion of water vapor inside the grain. The starch in the corn turns into the white flake we call popcorn.
The higher the expansion capacity, the more kernels pop and the softer the popcorn.
Who invented this business of eating popcorn at the movies?
Around 1840, popcorn began to be sold at fairs, festivals and rallies across the United States. The first portable popcorn maker was invented in 1885. So, where there were crowds of people, there were popcorn sellers — as it still is today.
In the early 1910s, popcorn sellers, looking for another market, started parking their carts in front of sophisticated cinemas. In the beginning, theater owners were terrified of popcorn because of the dirt left in the theaters, the strong smell of popcorn, and the snack’s association with popular shows.
It didn’t take long for movie theaters to realize that popcorn was a lucrative business. In 1925, American Charles Manley created the first electric popcorn machine.
A few years later, with the United States plunged into the Great Depression, popcorn was the delicacy that the consumer could still afford. Movie theaters installed Manley machines inside their establishments and sales took off, thus starting the tradition.
Profits from popcorn made it possible to drive down ticket prices, establishing movies as affordable entertainment for most Americans. It’s not like that anymore…
Why is there a right side to put the bag of popcorn in the microwave?
Product manufacturers explain that corn and fat are deposited on one side of the package, on top of a device called a susceptor. It is a square laminated with aluminum and polyester.
This part of the bag should face down so that the corn kernels are on top of it. Thus, when the oven emits microwaves, they encounter the susceptor, are reflected by the aluminum and return to the inside of the package, promoting a concentration of heat that causes the popcorn to burst.
Just one more question to finish: why is the player who runs away from disputes for the ball called a “pipoqueiro”?
Because he jumps out —like popcorn— when the opponent makes a tough move or goes for a tackle.
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