Last night, my husband Russell and I attended our daughter Mia's high school football game as band chaperones. These games are fun to attend for a few reasons; the football team is rather good, they won the game, the Patriot Band is phenomenal and the fans are a hoot!
When we first moved to the this area of the East, our real estate agent warned us about football in these parts. She said, 'Football is sort of like a religion around here and you best get used to it.' We thought she was exaggerating but she was not. You see, as a Californian, it is a new experience for me to see graduates of the various high schools attending the games, even if one of their own family members is not on the team. They attend, merely because they are "fans." The language, fashion choices and face paint sort of add to the whole experience too. The dedication and enthusiasm are something to witness. It's an entire "culture" that was new to us. Maybe you are part of this fan culture, Dear Readers. (Share in the comments section if you are.)
Anyway, getting back to the game...
As chaperones, we sit with the band. We help them, watch over them, check uniforms and clean up after them. We sit at about the 50 yard line, with parents and fans of the team and band all about us. To our extreme left, sit the school's Riot Squad. The Riot Squad is comprised of "Super Fans" from the high school and are one of the most entertaining aspects of game attendance. They throw gold powder packets (and each other) in the air, cheer, paint their bodies with school colors and in general, rev-up the crowd. The first time we attended a game as "fans" not "chaperones," Russell and I accidentally sat above the Riot Squad. Suffice it to say, that the last time we did that...
Last night, a mother of one of the football players was standing, not sitting, throughout the entire game. She had her face painted and wore color-coordinated socks to match the face paint. (Her mouth was pretty colorful at times too but if my son was out there, I cannot say I would sound any different.) She was dedicated and adorable. Some of her friends and family joined her in the stands and they brought along with them the most precious twin girls! As soon as the twins showed up, they were plied with noisemakers and treats; namely popcorn. Each was given a bag half as big they were tall. I'm talking HUGE bags of popcorn!
About halfway through the game, I looked over and noticed one of the girls had nearly finished her bag of popcorn. The little nymph was happily and gustily shoving, and I mean shoving, the popcorn into her little baby girl mouth as though she had not eaten in weeks. All I could think about was how much her little baby girl tummy was going to hurt from all that popcorn! Her daddy tried to sneak a handful or two of the popcorn, but only when his daughter was distracted by something else, like tucking her toy and her sister's toy into a blanket "bed." Only then could her daddy grab a quick bite of popcorn.
In our house, popcorn is a welcome and popular snack, especially with Mia and me. I use an air popper and eat mine with different salts like Himalayan or the Takesumi Bamboo Sea Salt I purchased in Japan last summer. The Takesumi salt has a smoky, almost metallic, sulfurous taste and compliments the sweetness of popcorn very well. (I know that sounds odd, but it's yummy.) As I watched the twin girls eating their popcorn, I thought about why (and how) popcorn pops. Here is the "Hull" Story.
Once upon a time, what would become "American corn" grew. These first stalks of wild corn (or maize) grew in South America in Peru over 5000 years ago! Those smarties in South America realized they could cook the maize and that it was not only delicious but also could be stored for long periods of time. Un-popped kernels of popcorn were found in a cave thousands of years later, in New Mexico, by some archeologists. Those archeologists must have been foodies because they actually popped the stuff! (That must have been kind of cool to see 5000 year old kernels pop BUT, hard pass on the tasting part, thank you.) As usual, I digress. In case you don't know, popcorn pops because each kernel has a tiny bit of water inside of the shell, or hull. As the popcorn is heated, that tiny bit of water becomes steam, which builds up as pressure and then, POP! The kernel explodes into a billowy cloud of goodness which we humans shove into our mouths with great joy. That's the "Hull Story." The end.
Popcorn and football. Popcorn and movies. Popcorn and fun. Popcorn is a huge part of our culture and we have some geniuses from ancient Peru to thank. Who'd have thunk it?
How do you, Dear Readers, prepare your popcorn? Do you like your popcorn plain, with butter and salt, caramel, cheese, chocolate or a combination of all these flavors? Maybe you put something else entirely different on top of it? Do you pop it in a hot air popper or on the stovetop? Is microwave popcorn a beloved treat? Please share in the comments section how you like to make and eat your popcorn.
Avid home cook and passionate instructor