Popcorn, Pilgrims….

Myth and Magic

Once upon a time, a long time ago…

John Howland pondering popcorn at the first Thanksgiving - from a scene from a 19th century novel

John Howland pondering popcorn at the first Thanksgiving …MYTH

CHAPTER XXVI.

THE FIRST THANKSGIVING DAY OF NEW ENGLAND.

The meal was a rude one looked upon with the dainty eyes and languid

appetites of to-day, but to those sturdy and heroic men and women it was

a veritable feast, and at its close Quadequina with an amiable smile

nodded to one of his attendants, who produced and poured upon the table

something like a bushel of popped corn,–a dainty hitherto unseen and

unknown by most of the Pilgrims.

All tasted, and John Howland hastily gathering up a portion upon a

wooden plate carried it to the Common house for the delectation of the

women, that is to say, for Elizabeth Tilley, whose firm young teeth

craunched it with much gusto.

Breakfast over, with a grace after meat that amounted to another

service,…..

STANDISH OF STANDISH : A Story of the Pilgrims By JANE G. AUSTIN Author of “A Nameless Nobleman,” “The Desmond Hundred,” “Mrs. BeauchampBrown,” “Nantucket Scraps,” “Moon Folk,” Etc., Etc.Boston and New York Houghton, Mifflin and Company The Riverside Press,Cambridge 1892 Copyright, 1889,by Jane G. Austin.All rights reserved

But the problem with myth, is that it GROWS….

… and then other myths grow from there.

Popcorn is American. Nobody but the Indians ever had popcorn, til after the Pilgrim Fathers came to America. On the first Thanksgiving Day, the Indians were invited to dinner, and they came, and they poured out on the table a big bagful of popcorn. The Pilgrim Fathers didn’t know what it was. The Pilgrim Mothers didn’t know, either. The Indians had popped it, but it probably wasn’t very good. Probably they didn’t butter it or salt it, and it would be cold and tough after they had carried it around in a bag of skins.

Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls WIlder, p. 32.

Farmer Boy coverAnd who doesn’t want to believe Half-Pint?

laura6

Melissa Gilbert as Laura Ingalls in the TV show ‘Little House on the Prairie’

So although popcorn is a variety of corn that was not grown in New England before the nineteenth century, and therefore popcorn could NOT have been part of the first Thanksgiving, popcorn has a whole lotta cool in its past….even in the Little House in the Prairie series….like this:

You can fill a glass full to the brim with milk, and fill another glass of the same size brim full of popcorn, and then you can put all the popcorn kernel by kernel into the milk, and the milk will not run over. You cannot do this with bread. Popcorn and milk are the only two things that will go into the same place.

Farmer Boy, Chapter 3

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3 Comments

Filed under Autumn, Thanksgiving

3 responses to “Popcorn, Pilgrims….

  1. I really love the way you move through time and space as a historian, through reality and pop culture… Am going to serve popcorn now at my Thanksgiving.

  2. If anything had anything crunch at that first Thanksgiving, it would have been parched corn — which is a lovely snack, but which is not popcorn. Popcorn didn’t make it to the United States until the mid-1800s, when whaling ships from New England started bringing it back from South America. I have a whole chapter on popcorn in my book Midwest Maize, and it covers all this. It’s an interesting history — not just where the popcorn started and later traveled, but also all the ways people tried to prepare popcorn. It took us a while to come up with the ways we now enjoy it.

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