Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

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It appears from archaeological remains in Mexico that popping in the embers of a fire may have been the first method for cooking corn. Early explorers described popped corn among the Aztecs, Incas, and North American tribes. In the 19th century, Americans served popcorn as a breakfast cereal, made it into porridges, puddings, and cakes, added it to soups, salads, and main dishes, and mixed it with molasses to make an ancestor of the sweet popcorn ball and Cracker Jack. Popcorn was a popular finger food in the United States in the 1880s, then became associated with movie theatres, and later with watching television in the home. In the 21st century, most of the popcorn sold in supermarkets is packaged for microwave cooking.