Popcorn is the only kind of corn, the grains of which pop when exposed to high temperatures. Little explosions happen because of a certain correlation of water and starch contained in the grains. When temperatures increase, the water starts boiling, turns into steam, and the pressure inside corns begins to grow. When a corn is no longer capable of holding the inner pressure, it bursts open and turns inside out.
Humans have been familiar with these unusual qualities of popcorn for long already. It is generally believed that people living on the territory of New Mexico 5,600 years ago were making popcorn in hot sand or ashes. Native Americans began to pop corns in clay pots with a small hole on the lid. This method was used before 1885, when American Charles Cretors invented the first steam popper. The wheeled machine allowed to make popcorn at any location – near movie theaters, in zoos or busy streets.
Nowadays popcorn has become a national dish in the USA, which even has its own national holiday on January 19.
Maya used to make bracelets and necklaces of popcorn. North American women used to adorn their hair with it. They would heat up a small cob, making the corns burst on it to form a branch with white flowers.
Trade companies attempted to use popcorn as protective packing material to transport fragile cargoes. However, popcorn became a great attraction for rats.
When television hit the USA in the 1950s, all movie theaters found themselves on the brink of bankruptcy, which subsequently resulted in a nationwide drop of popcorn sales.
Nowadays, when movie theaters prosper, popcorn brings an immense profit in the industry. In addition, popcorn intensifies the feeling of hunger, which leads to bigger sales of drinks.
However, many movie theaters decided to refuse from selling popcorn. Britain’s Picturehouse Cinema followed customers’ requests and made Tuesday evening shows popcorn-free. Daniel Broch, the owner of the renowned Everyman cinema in London's upmarket Hampstead district, banned popcorn in his theaters too.
"I will de-popcorn every new venue I acquire," he said. "It has a disproportionate influence on the space in terms of its overwhelming smell, the cultural idea of it and the operational problems created by the mess it produces.”
"I'm not saying no popcorn is better than popcorn. But I am saying there is no way in which it fits with the culturally sophisticated brand I wish to sell,” he added.
Popcorn is rich with cellulose which improves digestion and reduces the level of cholesterol in blood. Pop singer Madonna said once that she managed to lose weight after child labor with the help of popcorn.
Specialists say that the consumption of cellulose reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases, as well as stomach and rectum cancer. One should bear in mind the fact that popcorn can be good only if it is made with no oil and no flavoring or aromatizing agents.
Many employees of US-based popcorn-making enterprises complained of lung problems during 2002-2005. It turned out later that the popcorn disease was caused with diacetyl, a harmful agent which gives a buttery flavor to products in which it is used.
Wayne Watson, a 53-year-old man from Centennial was hospitalized with respiratory problems in 2007. The man said that he would often pop popcorn at home – two or three bags a day. Specialists concluded that the concentration of diacetyl in his kitchen could be compared to industrial “norms.”
US pediatricians do not recommend popcorn to children under four years of age because small children may choke on the snack to death.
US inventor Percy Spencer found in 1945 that the microwave radiation makes popcorn pop. He substantiated his surmise on other food and concluded that microwaves could cook meals. As a result, Spencer received a patent for the first-ever microwave oven in 1946.