Yes, even popcorn has its own month. October is National Popcorn Poppin’ Month, the height of autumn harvest and lead-in to Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
It is a celebration I might ignore, except for the fact that I’ve had a lifelong love affair with popcorn.
When I was a little girl, my sister and I shared a bedroom, a room that also housed our baby brother’s crib. That baby would put up quite a ruckus at bedtime if he was alone, and sometimes Mom would tuck all three of us in at an ungodly early hour, with the promise to come back and rouse us when he quieted down for the night.
Sometimes, there was a promise of popcorn if all went well. Then came the signal. “Pssst,” meant that we could sneak out of the room and join her for a sitcom and popcorn. It was the beginning of my decades-long addiction to the treat.
Popcorn is an inexpensive snack that easily lends itself to family time and sharing. It’s hard to imagine curling up on the sofa to watch a movie without a bowl of popcorn within reach. Americans will consume a whopping 16 billion quarts of popcorn this year.
Popcorn for Healthy Snacking (Pan-popped or Air-popped)
- Popcorn is a whole grain snack that fulfills hunger pangs;
- provides carbohydrates and fiber to our diet;
- is naturally low in calories;
- and the American Diabetes Association recommends popcorn as a healthy alternative to other snack foods, as long as you stay away from movie theater butter or sweet toppings like caramel.
Popcorn is Not Perfect
- The American Academy of Pediatrics warns that infants should never be given popcorn or other foods that can be easily aspirated. Choking is a common cause of unintentional injury or death in children under age one, and the danger remains high until age five.
- The American Dental Association cautions that popcorn kernels can crack a tooth. I’ll vouch for that.
Some Popcorn Should Come with a Warning Label
- Microwave popcorn is a potential danger to health. A report from the FDA indicates that a chemical coating used in microwave popcorn bags, when heated, breaks down into a substance called perfluorooctanoic. The Environmental Protection Agency has identified this as a “likely carcinogen.”
- Another potential danger in microwave popcorn is a chemical found in the fake butter flavoring. A debilitating respiratory disease called “popcorn workers lung,” has affected microwave popcorn factory workers who inhaled the chemical’s fumes for an extended period of time.
- Movie theater popcorn is often loaded with saturated fat and gobs of fake butter topping, making it a caloric disaster and health hazard.
Next: Take the Popcorn Pop Quiz!
The Popcorn Pop Quiz
See how well you know your popcorn, courtesy of The Popcorn Board. (answers below)
1. Popcorn explodes when…
A. The water inside is superheated and turns the starch to a gelatinized goop
B. The gelatinized goop reaches about 347 degrees
C. The pressure inside the kernel reaches about 135 pounds per square inch
D. All of the above
2. Popcorn grows on a stalk that has several WHAT growing on it?
3. How big are popcorn kernels after they pop?
A. 2-3 times original size
B. 10 times original size
C. 20 times original size
D. 35-40 times original size
Next: More popcorn trivia, plus answers
4. If you dry a kernel of sweet corn, it will pop just like popcorn when heated.
5. One of the earliest methods of popping popcorn involved:
A. Wrapping kernels in layers of animal fat and placing in a clay pot over an open flame
B. Placing kernels in a covered pot in the hot sun to warm for several hours
C. Wrapping heated stones and kernels together in an animal skin
D. Mixing unpopped kernels with extremely hot sand
(Answers: 1 – D, 2 – B, 3 – D, 4 – B, 5 – D)
Photo copyright: Photoxpress.com
Writer Ann Pietrangelo is a regular contributor to Care2 Healthy & Green Living and Care2 Causes, and is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and The Author’s Guild. Follow on Twitter @AnnPietrangelo