Any great movie is incomplete without stellar acting, exciting music, hard-hitting dialogue, and… drum roll, please… popcorn! A snack that has made its way into the front seats of cinemas around the world, it’s almost impossible to even think about watching a movie in a theater and not munching on popcorn. This simple snack has become so important to moviegoers that they are even willing to spend a lot of money to buy this free treat. But has it always been this way? There must be a story behind how these buttery, light and crunchy “popped-corns” became a must-have snack along with your movies, especially in theaters. Curious? Here is the exciting story that will leave you amazed.
Grab a tub of popcorn, we’re having a little history lesson
Eating popcorn with a new movie can feel like something modern and contemporary. But according to scientists and archaeologists, popcorn is as old as 8,000 years and originated in Mexico, North America. Popcorn’s popularity isn’t new either. According to research, popcorn was also common in parts of India, China and Sumatra before the discovery of America, notes Encyclopedia.com. However, it is still not known how or why popcorn existed in these parts of the world.
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Buckle up, it’s time for a story
Before they were widely consumed as a food in the Americas, the Aztecs — Native American people of the early 16th century — decorated their gods of rain and corn with strings of popcorn. The popped kernels became an official part of Western culture at the first Thanksgiving celebration. According to popular legend, Quadequina, brother of the Indian chief Massasoit, brought a deerskin bag filled with pre-popped corn to the historic first potluck dinner.
Popcorn – A favorite snack for gatherings
In early America, eating popcorn became part of celebrations and gatherings such as quilting bees, barn raisings, singing and banjo playing. People would pop popcorn in the fireplace and season it with fat or butter. In the 18th century, popcorn also became a popular breakfast product, which people enjoyed by eating it with milk and sugar.
Also read: 5 easy homemade popcorn recipes you can make for movie nights
How popcorn became a commercial product
With the invention of the first automatic popcorn popper in 1885 and the glass-sided popcorn machine with its gasoline burner around 1890, the snack became a popular item for vendors to sell at circuses, carnivals, fairs and other events. The fact that the cooker was portable gave popcorn an edge over the other popular snack – the potato chips.
Cinemas were initially not interested
“Movie theaters didn’t want anything to do with popcorn because they were trying to copy what was done in real theaters. They had beautiful carpets and rugs and didn’t want popcorn painted into it,” explains Andrew Smith, author of “Popped Culture: A Social History of Popcorn.” Furthermore, since films were previously silent, the sound of snacking crunchy popcorn in the background was seen as more of a distraction and was therefore unwelcome.
Also read: Is popcorn healthy for weight loss? Here’s everything you need to know
Popcorn vendors started business outside theaters
Around the Great Depression, a lot of audiences went to movie theater. The films were no longer silent, and thus literacy was no longer a parameter to be able to enjoy a film. Street vendors seized this opportunity and sold popcorn outside the theaters by bringing their pop machines.
Realizing the fantastic profits they could reap, theater owners began allowing vendors to sell popcorn in the lobby, which was more on the street in front of the theater, charging a daily fee. One of the best things that clicked about popcorn was that it was cheap for both the sellers and the buyers. Also, the aroma in the air around the vending machine would automatically attract people.
Eventually, with the advancement of technology, theaters were able to install popcorn machines in the theaters and the rest as you now know it is history. As for popcorn’s migration to other places around the world, it was transported overseas for American soldiers and was eventually adopted by other countries.
Did reading so much history make you hungry? Go grab some hot and fresh popcorn!