Pre-Columbian indigenous Central Americans were likely the first to pop kernels, heating ears of maize to render them puffy. And according to the Popcorn Board, a non-profit funded by US popcorn manufacturers, the popped kernels were a central element of Aztec ritual.
Today, popcorn is more casual. It first peaked in the '30s as a result of the cinema boom, and again in the '80s with the rise of microwaves. Most recently, the Guardian reported a 16.9% increase in ready-to-eat popcorn and caramel corn sales from February 2016 to February 2017. This news arrives at a key moment for popcorn, with the brisk arrival of fall and October branded as "National Popcorn Poppin' Month."
Perhaps we can attribute its recent resurgence to a new vein of popcorn products, like Skinnypop, that advertise a lower-calorie, gluten-free, non-GMO snack. Personally, I welcome the healthier take on the buttery snack, which has left bloated and sleepy after many a movie. But don't just relegate popcorn to the movie theater. You can enjoy the crunchy snack at home. Try your hand in your own kitchen with some of our recipes: