Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Totally True Tuesday - Guess What I Am

It’s been around for over 5000 years. It was an important staple to the Aztec Indians and it even helped in the inventing of the first microwave oven. Plus, movie night just wouldn't be the same without it.

Can you guess what it is?

That’s right, it’s popcorn.

A Kernel of History

The oldest corn recorded today was found in the Bat Cave in New Mexico. These ears of corn ranging from smaller than a penny to about 10cm long, are thought to be approximately 5600 years old. Kernels of corn have also been found in tombs in Peru and some still pop after 1000 years.

Popcorn, was known as momchitl, to the 16th century Aztec Indians, and played an important role in their lives. They used it not only as a food source, but also in their ceremonies.  Garlands and headdresses were made from thick rows of popcorn and used in traditional dances. Popcorn was also thought to bring peace and goodwill. Perhaps that is why statues of one of their most important gods, Tlaloc (Tlah-loc), their ancient god of rain, was also adorned with popcorn necklaces.

One account tells of the Aztec people scattering momchitl before the fishermen went out to sea. The popped corn represented hailstones and was given to the god of water in hopes of a safe journey for them.

Make it Pop!
Popcorn poppers have changed drastically over the years. Some ancient poppers were made out of soapstone or clay. This covered bowl was hung from a tripod-like holder and placed directly over the fire. Another method of popping corn is from the Winnabago Indians. They just stabbed a pointy stick through the entire cob, and then held it close to the fire. When finished, it was eaten like corn-on-the-cob.

Today, we have microwave ovens that do all the popping for us. In fact, it was popcorn that actually helped invent the first microwave. In 1946 an engineer by the name of Perry Spencer was experimenting with a new vacuum tube called a magnetron. (Magnetrons are used to produce the high energy that is used in microwaves.) When he was working with the magnetron, he realized the candy bar in his pocket had melted.

Being the electronics whiz that he was Percy Spencer had an idea and immediately sent for some popcorn. This time he placed the popcorn kernels near the tube and soon history was made. The kernels popped and he went on to create the first microwave oven.

More Popping Facts

~ The first microwave oven was 6 feet tall and weighed 341 kilograms. That’s 750 pounds!

~ Microwave popcorn sales amount to 250 billion dollars a year.

~ Popcorn pops into one of two shapes- the snowflake, which is big and fluffy or the mushroom which is round and firm.

~ The biggest popcorn ball recorded today is from The Popcorn Factory in Lake Forest Illinois. It weighs in at 3423 pounds and is 8 feet in diameter and 24.5 feet around. That’s about 50,000 times bigger than normal popcorn balls and it's all edible.

~ There’s actually a National Popcorn Day. It’s celebrated on January 19th.

Who knew popcorn had such a history? From caves to ceremonies to microwaves, this fun food has seen it all. Perhaps that’s why it has stood the test of time and still remains a favourite today.


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