An old-fashioned snack


Everyone is worried about being healthy these days, checking calories and watching their consumption of junk food and processed products.

Did you know there is a snack out there that in its pure form is nutritious and low calorie, non-GMO and without sugar? Even fruit has natural sugars, but good, old-fashioned popcorn fibre and carbohydrates and is even gluten-free.

Two tablespoons of kernels will make four cups of popcorn, which has 120 calories.

I bet you’re saying, “Who knew?!”

Well, wait until I tell you some of the history of this amazing little snack food. As a dedicated movie goer, I figured a little tribute was in order, you see, as Jan. 19 is actually considered Popcorn Day.

Did you know that popcorn has been around for thousands of years? Pre-Columbian indigenous peoples used it extensively.

When explorers discovered the Americas they saw popcorn for the first time, Hernando Cortes recorded in 1519 that the Aztecs he encountered not only ate it, but also used it as a decoration and in tribute to their gods.

French explorers near the Great Lakes met Iroquois that were making popcorn in a heated pottery container buried in sand. And yet, interestingly enough, it was not until the 1800s that American culture records eating popcorn.

At first, it was ground and eaten as a breakfast cereal (Mrs. Kellogg apparently enjoyed it most mornings before her husband invented Corn Flakes. No kidding.)

In 1848, the word popcorn was included in an American dictionary, as popping the kernels was becoming more popular.

The first poppers were just wire cages with a long handle that were held over a fire. Charles Cretors adapted his street cart technology for roasting nuts to popping corn in 1885.

His family business is still where most movie theatre poppers are bought (along with most other concession machines). His great grandson, also named Charlie, will tell you all about their history if you visit their website.

Popcorn seemed to inspire the creative entrepreneurial nature in many people. Louis Ruckheim would never have made his fortune with Cracker Jack if he hadn’t had popcorn as a base ingredient.

His product and plain popcorn were the first movie snacks hawked by independent sellers in movie theatres at the turn of the 20th century.

You see, movie theatre owners thought popcorn was an “unnecessary nuisance” and would detract from the movie experience.

As the Great Depression made things tougher for most people, popcorn became one of the few “affordable luxuries” that could be enjoyed on an outing.

Theatre owners only gave in little by little, at first charging vendors a dollar a day to sell popcorn outside the theatre (in those days, the popcorn sold for five to ten cents a bag).

In 1938, a fellow named Glen W. Dickson saw the wave of the future and renovated his Midwest theatres to include indoor concessions. He never looked back.

During the Second World War, when sugar rationing became the norm, the consumption of popcorn increased threefold.

Of course, you can get popcorn at home too. Jolly Time was the first brand available in grocery stores in 1914. (Orville Redenbacher didn’t show up until 1970).

Overall, in both Canada and America, the per person consumption of popcorn is about 43 quarts per year (there are four cups in a quart).

You’re skeptical, I can tell.

I have covered the idea that this is a whole grain snack made simply for easy enjoyment. But many people get caught up in the argument about genetically modified food, as the corn used for animal feed and many products we consume is often at the top of that list.

However, from my research of various sources I always got the same answer: the type of maize that is popcorn is currently not nor has it ever been genetically modified in North America.

There is also no awareness of it having been modified anywhere internationally. Isn’t that interesting?

Not any corn can be popcorn, it’s a certain type with specific qualities – notably the hard shell and specific moisture level (it’s the moisture expanding as steam when the kernels are heated that makes it pop).

Don’t you feel better now? So, with Popcorn Day coming soon, and the Oscars right behind it, here’s your chance to keep up if you think you’re down on your popcorn consumption.

After all, it’s a whole grain, a good, old-fashioned healthy snack. 

Did you know that Tuesday is cheap night at the theatres? All the local theatres (Landmark and Cineplex  offer half price admission for everyone.

There are also offers for other nights that apply to seniors and kids and students. Check out their sites at the links above for details.

If you’d like a new twist on the old favourite, here’s a fun exotic popcorn recipe I found on the U.S. Popcorn Board’s website. (It’s a fun resource if you want to try more recipes, or your kids need to do an essay on something fun.)

Happy munching.

Coconut Curry Cashew Popcorn

Makes 10 cups  Preparation time: 45 minutes


  • 10 cups popped popcorn
  • 2 cups cashews
  • 1/2 cup flaked coconut
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 honey
  • 1 tablespoon mild curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda


1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Place popcorn, cashews and coconut in a large bowl; set aside.

 2. Heat butter, sugar and honey in a medium saucepan. Stir mixture over medium heat until it begins to boil. Boil 2 minutes without stirring. Remove from heat and stir in curry powder and baking soda (mixture will foam).

3. Pour syrup over popcorn mixture in bowl and stir until evenly coated. Pour mixture onto a large, rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan lined with foil and sprayed with nonstick spray. Bake 30 minutes, stirring twice during baking time. Stir mixture a few times as it cools on baking sheet. Store in an airtight container.

More Happy Gourmand articles

About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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