Wait, since when was popcorn salty?

The party was just getting started. She propped a bowl of popcorn in front of me, “popcorn”.

I grabbed a bit and we got chatting. I must have made a face because she stopped me mid conversation.

“Haha whats up?” she asked?

“Huh, nah, it’s salty… the popcorn…”

“Yea? I don’t get it, that’s popcorn.”

“What about sweet popcorn?”

“What, why would people do that?”

Turns out popcorn in Europe is salty! Okay, maybe I’m the only one who would be surprised by that. Coming from Singapore where the more popular flavour of popcorn is caramel/sweet (with salty popcorn served at the side), seeing popcorn served salty was a surprise to me.

You know popcorn, the one thing that somehow has become a worldwide staple at the movies.

A cheap huge bundle of carbohydrates that are essentially tasteless but a must have at the cinema.

But even then, I only knew about sweet popcorn. So I decided to do some googling.

It seems like sweet popcorn, the likes of Garrett are found mostly in Chicago and Asia, and wherever there is sweet popcorn there will also be a side offer of salty. Conversely, salty popcorn is popular throughout the United States and most of Europe and can be served on its own without a sweet option. Sweet popcorn it seems is still considered a regional thing.

garrett-popcornSweet Gourmet-style Garrett Popcorn from Chicago (Source)

But it turns out that popcorn is a complex thing. It’s not just corn that pops and gets put in your mouth. There are two ways of preparing popcorn – pop and kettle. According to this site, “Popcorn is made from a special variety of corn that has been bred to burst open and puff up when exposed to heat. There are a number of ways to make popcorn, including heating the kernels in an oiled pan or kettle, or popping whole ears over an open fire. When heated without the use of oil, popcorn is a very healthy snack, with a high fiber content. It is of Native American origin and has been made for centuries in the Americas. Along the way, many variations on plain popcorn were developed, with kettle corn being one of the earliest and most popular.”

“Kettle corn is traditionally made by making popcorn in a large iron kettle that has been oiled. After popping, the popcorn is tossed with salt and sugar to create a distinctive flavor, with the oil attracting the flavorings so that they don’t fall off. Kettle corn and popcorn in general can be eaten hot or cold as a snack, with some people making large batches that are allowed to cool before being stored in airtight containers for future use.”

The history of popcorn is interesting. It was first discovered in Mexico more than 9000 years ago but it really became easier to prepare only in the 1890s with the creation of the popcorn maker in Chicago, Charles Cretors. Popcorn gained in popularity in the 1930s during the Great Depression because you were about to get a bulky portion for a very low price. Popcorn was actually something that rescued the movie industry.

I still don’t get salty popcorn though.

But hey, when in Rome…


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