With the Oscars right around the corner, movie buffs and amateur viewers alike are flocking to the theatres and Netflix to watch this year’s contending films. And what better way is there to enjoy (or endure) a movie than with a big bowl of delicious popcorn?
Named by the Illinois General Assembly as the “official snack food” of the state in 2003, popcorn and Chicago have had a long and fruitful relationship, beginning long before the famous Chicago hot dog or Chicago deep-dish pizza. Walking down the famous Magnificent Mile, one is as likely to see tourists lugging enormous bags of popcorn as they are American Girl or Macys bags.
DePaul University students also have a penchant for the snack. Some students, like sophomores Jed Harrison and Steven Wilhelm, are fans of the more traditional (and dorm-friendly) microwave bag popcorn – “Orville Whatshisname-Redenbacher!” was their brand of choic e- while other students like Nick Sturgeon and Iain Collins prefer sweet flavors, like caramel. Then you have students like Chris Klein, who, when asked, said he loved “any popcorn that comes my way.”
So, what is it about popcorn and Chicago that go so well together?
Part of it is history. Popcorn has long held a place in Chicagoans hearts because Chicago is where popcorn really took off as the snack of the people. The first mobile popcorn vendor was unveiled by Charles Cretors at the Chicago World’s Columbian Exhibition (the first Chicago World Fair) in 1893 and the iconic baseball staple snack, the Cracker Jack, also had its debut there, cementing Chicago as one of the forefather cities of mass popcorn production.
Another part of popcorn’s popularity is modern innovation. Over the years, popcorn flavors have evolved from simple salt-and-butter to the fun and funky, with flavors like tutti frutti, chocolate, and cheddar bacon.
And popcorn’s variety is only outstripped by its versatility as a snack. Popcorn is relatively easy to produce, and thus one of the cheapest snacks on the market. If you buy un-flavored popcorn, the options for adaptation are almost endless. Popcorn is also probably the most guilt-free snack, after maybe baby carrots, providing fiber and whole grains, while only having about 30 calories per air-popped cup.
The Chicago Popcorn Board – a non-profit organization devoted to “raising awareness of popcorn as a versatile, wholegrain snack” according to their website – has an entire collection of popcorn-inspired recipes, from snack mixes to muffins, proving that you can eat popcorn for breakfast.
Whether you are a gourmet popcorn connoisseur or a devotee of the microwave, popcorn is truly the snack for all people: you can have it sweet or salty, plain or outrageous, with candy or fruit, and the only real limit to it is the consumer’s imagination. The point of popcorn is simply to enjoy it.
Popcorn Recipes from Popcorn.org
Cranberry Almond Popcorn Muffins
Yield: 12 Muffins
5 cups popped popcorn
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2cup dried sweetened cranberries
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1.Preheat oven to 400?? F. Spray a 12- cup muffin pan with cooking spray or line with paper liners; set aside.
2.Blend popcorn in a blender or food processor until finely ground. Pour ground popcorn into a large mixing bowl.
3.Add flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cranberries and stir until blended; set aside.
4.Beat milk, egg, oil and almond extract together and pour over dry ingredients; stir just until combined.
5.Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling each about half full.
6.Divide almonds among muffin tops and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
7.Bake 15-18 minutes or until tops are lightly browned; serve warm with butter.
Cinnamon Popcorn Crunch
Yield: 4 1/2 quarts
3 quarts popped popcorn, unsalted
1 can (6 1/2 ounce) salted mixed nuts
1 pound light brown sugar
1 cup light corn or maple syrup
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1. Mix popcorn and nuts in large buttered bowl.
2. Combine sugar, syrup, butter or margarine, water, salt and cinnamon in saucepan.
3. Heat slowly to the boiling point, stirring until sugar melts.
4. Cook to hard crack stage (290-295 degrees Fahrenheit).
5. Pour syrup in a fine stream over popcorn and nuts.
6. Stir until popcorn and nuts are evenly coated with syrup.
7. Spread out on large buttered surface or waxed paper.
8. Separate into bite-size portions with forks. Cool.