Like one of Pavlov's dogs...when I catch just the sight or smell of it...my mouth waters...and I crave a bowl. In the American culture...I am not alone. At virtually any function where crowds of people are...there will be someone selling popcorn to the masses. One can hardly watch a movie in this country...without a heaping helping of popcorn to snack on. One might think that it's use started with us...but it's roots go back thousands of years.
While we may think of popcorn as just a snack that we might have for fun...it has qualities that also make it a great staple to be had for tough times...
Let's consider some of the virtues of popcorn...
1. It fills that desire for the "munchies"...when only something salty and crunchy will do.
2. It is not complicated to make. Even the cooking inept can make an edible product.
3. It requires only popcorn and a heat source. An oil can increase the flavor...but popcorn will pop without it.
4. Even the most finicky will eat it.
5. It can store for several years in a kernel form. The moisture and oil contained in the kernel is what makes it pop...and is probably the reason why you need to rotate it more often than you would other dry corns you might store. Popcorn at 14.5% moisture can be safely stored over winter and into early spring. For longer term storage, it should be dried to 13.5-12.5%.
6. It can be good for you! Nutritionally, it is one of the best all-around snack foods, providing 67% as much protein, 110% as much iron and as much calcium as an equal amount of beef. An average 1.5-ounce serving of popcorn supplies the same energy as two eggs; and a cup of unbuttered popcorn contains less calories than half a medium grapefruit. In addition, hull is excellent roughage, comparing favorably with bran flakes or whole wheat toast.
8. It is a comfort food of the highest degree and can increase morale.
9. It takes little room to store...and expands greatly for consumption. It can make your belly feel full.
10. It is versatile...as it can be seasoned a variety of ways to make the flavor sweet, salty...etc...
11. It is inexpensive.
12. It can be made primitively and doesn't require fancy equipment. You can make it on your stovetop with pans you already have or purchase a stovetop popper. I have this stovetop popper and use it several times a week. It is available in an aluminum or steel version. I honestly don't know which one I have. I picked it up at target after christmas for a fraction of the price as it was in their Christmas clearance.
13. It is mild for most stomachs. One can eat a lot of it and not get sick.
14. It can be used in the place of other dried corns in cooking. Cornbread for example.
Picking a Popcorn
There are actually 6 (or more) different types of corn...so make sure that it is a popcorn and not one meant for flour or something like that.
If you have ever tried various popcorns...you may have noticed that some taste better than others. I'm not talking about what toppings you put on them...but the actually taste of the unadultered popcorn. They also have varying puffiness and texture. If a kernel has too much moisture...it will be chewy and won't store well. If it is too dry...less kernels will pop.
After trying quite a few...the best I have found is an organic variety that is available through Azure Standard that when bought in bulk is within a few nickels of the price of the yellow popcorn from Winco's bulk bin. I purchase a few big bags and put them into 5 gallon buckets with lids that I get from a donut shop and some into smaller more easily managed containers as well. When those containers get low I refill them from what is in the buckets.
I encourage you to avoid "prepopped" popcorns that you might buy at the store as they have all kinds of chemicals on them to make them fresh. I also would recommend that you not eat the microwave varieties as they have something in them called "diacetyl" that is known to be bad for you. You know... since I'm on a roll here...I'll say...you might consider not putting most anything unhealthy on your popcorn! Especially anything manufactured to taste like something real! Cooking popcorn in some tasty oil (I like coconut) with some salt is beyond toothsome. I also sometimes jazz it up and make "pickle popcorn" by sprinkling nutritional yeast, salt, and organic dill weed on it. The kids LOVE it!!
It should also be mentioned that there are other seeds and grains that also "pop". Wheat...that you probably already have stored can be made to "pop". Amaranth is another grain that can be made to pop as well. While these may be good in their own right...I doubt they'll take the place of popcorn anytime soon!
So one day...if all of your cheetos and potato chips have been consumed...and no trucks will be delivering any more any time soon...you may be glad you had the foresight to store some popcorn!