Across the United States and Canada, many families cook abundant meals on Thanksgiving. Although family recipes differ, many stick to the basics: mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, pumpkin pie, and, of course, the star of the show, turkey. However, your mother probably did not delight dinner guests with popcorn.
Nevertheless, legend has it that popcorn may have been included in the first Thanksgiving feast. According to the lore, the Wampanoag tribe brought popcorn in a satchel to share with colonists at the first Thanksgiving celebration in 1621. Moreover, Squanto is said to have shown early American settlers how to grow corn and pop its kernels.
However, the History channel states that this story “contains more hot air than a large bag of Jiffy Pop.” The myth of popcorn as a Thanksgiving staple traces its roots back to a fictional work published in 1889.
Although the settlers of Plymouth Rock did indeed raise and harvest corn, they mainly produced Northern Flint: a variety of corn native to the northern tier of the United States and better suited to creating corn flour.
Although the Thanksgiving popcorn story may be false, it does contain a “kernel” of truth: popcorn does appear to have originated with the Native Americans, specifically those in South America. Archeologists have discovered 5,600-year-old popcorn in the caves of Peru. Early natives mixed hot sand with kernels in clay pots or flung the kernels directly onto the fire in order to make popcorn.
While this snack’s inclusion in the first Thanksgiving feast is questionable, popcorn is nonetheless an easy alternative to traditional Thanksgiving sides.
Mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and stuffing can take anywhere from one to two hours to prepare. Roasted vegetables can take about 20 minutes, not including prep time. On the other hand, stovetop popcorn takes about 10 minutes with absolutely no prep.
With some creativity, popcorn can go from a simple snack to a snazzy one. For instance, recipes like pumpkin spice popcorn, caramel apple popcorn, or savory thyme and garlic popcorn put a modern twist on the movie theater snack.
Additionally, snacking on popcorn before the main course can prevent dinner guests from becoming “hangry” while waiting for the turkey which never seems to be done on time.