Monday, December 21, 2009

The History of Popcorn in Ypsilanti a curious one. Dusty D is diggin' down to the unpopped kernels ["known as "old maids" or "spinsters"] of history. As it were. The most curious fact I've uncovered thus far, aside from a two-man popcorn shop on Michigan Avenue in 1860s Ypsilanti [?!], is that popcorn used to be eaten as a breakfast food. This is before the advent of Kellogg's panoply of flakes and chips and things with raisins. Hearken now to this 1918 tidbit from the periodical "Simmon's Spice Mill": a poem about breakfast cereals followed by a tidbit of popcorn history:

The package cereal is one of the greatest of American inventions. It has revolutionized the food habits of the nation and bids fair to sweep round the world. It is cleanly, convenient and wholesome and it permits the housewife to cater to the diverse, diverted and diverting tastes of her family. Many a household can rival the famous Spratts:

Lycurgus votes for Father's Oats;
Proggins appeals to May;
The Junior John subsists upon
Uneeda Bayla Hay.*

Corrected Wheat for little Pete;
Flaked Pine for Dot; while Bub
The infant Spratt is waxing fat
On Battle Creek Near-Grub.**

But the pioneer of American cereals, pop corn, has been overshadowed by its later and more aggressive rivals for it is modest and fails to advertise. It masquerades under no curiosity compelling name and bears no pretty girl on its carton. Yet there is nothing more toothsome, delightsome and wholesome than a dish of freshly popped corn—and nothing half so cheap. Its fluffy and fantastic flakes are crisp yet crunchable and their starch has been made soluble by the pressure of superheated steam. The process has been ingeniously extended to other cereals and we now have puffed rice and wheat shot out of a cannon. But the pop-corn kernel is its own autoclave and any kitchen can prepare it. Fireplace or stove, coals or gas, wire cage or iron spider can be used and ten minutes will suffice to put it fresh and hot upon the breakfast table. It can be sugared or salted; it can be savored with syrup or butter; it can be mingled with berries or served with meat. It can take the place of potatoes and other foods in their various uses. In any shape it is a dish fit for an American citizen.

*probably a parody of Uneeda Biscuits, made by the National Biscuit Company, the forerunner of Nabisco.
**"Battle Creek Near-Grub" suggests that even back in the day, some people found Kellogg's novel new health foods rather weird and only quasi-food, or, "near-grub."


Dusty D said...

So in other words, Rice Krispies were inspired by popcorn. Huh. Live and learn.

Edward Vielmetti said...

Popcorn with cinnamon, and maybe a little milk, yum.

Dusty D said...

It actually does sound good! Not too different from Rice Krispies...and popcorn balls are not too different from Rice Krispie Treats.