Published January 8, 2023


Written by
Kim Fundingsland
| The Dakotan

A Slice of Life 

Popcorn -- the most popular snack food of all-time. 

Okay. I have not researched any factual data for that declaration, but it has to be true. Who doesn’t love popcorn? 

I have memories of my mother making popcorn on a stove, dumping kernels from a bag into sizzling oil and waiting for the popping to begin. She’d melt butter too, a universal popcorn topping. Then came the salt to taste and Disney’s Wonderful World of Color on Sunday evening television. 

That’s one of my earliest memories of popcorn and I’ve been eating it ever since. I would guess my popcorn story is similar to everyone else. There’s been some changes since those early experiences with popcorn though, mostly brought on by the invention of the microwave. 

Popcorn used to come in plastic bags, still does, but the paper-bagged microwave popcorn dominates the way people cook popcorn today. Darned convenient too. And in different variations of butter, even flavors. 

Of course, it is movie theater popcorn that attracts huge sales. It is all but impossible to sit in a movie theater without a bag or bucket of popcorn in your lap. Did you know there was a time in United States history when movie theaters were about the only place to get popcorn? 

It’s true, at least I remember reading that in a History of Popcorn book authored by popcorn connoisseur Orville Redenbacher, a sort of idol of mine. I looked for that book before authoring this story but couldn’t locate it. It is somewhere in safe-keeping, I’m sure. 

Anyway, as I recall, and my memory is, well, somewhat reliable at times, the country experienced what was known in popcorn circles as the “Great Popcorn Slump” when, with the advent of television, making popcorn at home became popular and popcorn sales at movie theaters took a hit. It didn’t last long though as movie goers returned to the concession stands, lured by the smell of freshly popped and buttered popcorn. 

Those nickel, dime, and quarter bags are long gone, several dollars today, but people still can’t seem to go to a movie without buying popcorn. Often, I think, people go to movies just for the popcorn which usually deserves a better review than many movies. 

A few years ago a fire alarm was set off at the State Capitol Building in Bismarck when an unattended bag of microwave popcorn caught fire, causing enough smoke to trigger emergency measures. My thought when I heard about it was not about the fire, but rather why would anyone leave such a wonderful bag of popcorn unattended where it could easily be snitched by someone else? 

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