Legends told by Native Americans claim that small spirits living inside each kernel of popcorn get angry and literally blow off steam when their tiny homes are heated by cooking. Other legends say that a hot summer caused corn to pop on the stalk, thereby tricking livestock into thinking it was winter. None of this stopped people from enjoying the crunchy snack. Humans were familiar with popcorn perhaps as long as 8,000 years ago. The Aztecs used it for food and for ceremonial decoration, while Native Americans used it as a meal-on-the-go and shared their kernels with the colonists.
Just watching the kernels pop over a fire or in a heated bowl is entertainment. By the mid-1800s, popcorn had exploded into American homes, bags and breakfasts. Surprisingly, though popcorn was an inexpensive and beloved snack by the 1920s, movie theaters initially shunned it because they didn’t want the mess and noise of concession snacks. The Great Depression “talkies,” and a cost-effective chance to sell snacks to moviegoers, just underscored the nibble’s popularity.