Thursday, October 17, 2013

Celebrating the pop in popcorn plus wine-ing cats get their own vintage

Unbeknownst to me, which is quite surprising given my love for the food, October is "Popcorn Popping Month." According to the EncyclopediaPopcornica (it's a for real site)
people reading this are probably wondering about how it all came about. Here are some corny facts:

- Americans consume 16 billion quarts of popped popcorn annually or 51 quarts per man, woman and child.

- Approximately 70 percent is eaten in the home (home popped and pre-popped) and about 30 percent outside the home (theaters, stadiums, schools, etc.). Un-popped popcorn accounts for approximately 90 percent of sales for home consumption.

- It's believed that the first use of wild and early cultivated corn was popping. Does this mean that ancestors, pioneers and the like actually made popcorn presumably over a fire? More importantly, did they add salt?

- The oldest ears of popcorn ever found were discovered in the Bat Cave of west central New Mexico in 1948 and 1950. Ranging from smaller than a penny to about 2 inches, the oldest Bat Cave ears are about 4,000 years old.

- Popcorn was integral to early 16th century Aztec Indian ceremonies.

- In 1519, Cortes got his first sight of popcorn when he invaded Mexico and came into contact with the Aztecs. Popcorn was an important food for the Aztec Indians, who also used popcorn as decoration for ceremonial headdresses, necklaces and ornaments on statues of their gods, including Tlaloc, the god of rain and fertility.

"So tell us, Eleanor - so what is the science involved in making popcorn pop?"

Again, referring to the EncyclopediaPopcornica:"each kernel of popcorn contains a small drop of water stored inside a circle of soft starch. Popcorn needs between 13.5-14% moisture to pop.  The soft starch is surrounded by the kernel's hard outer surface.
As the kernel heats up, the water begins to expand.  Around 212 degrees the water turns into steam and changes the starch inside each kernel into a superhot gelatinous goop.  The kernel continues to heat to about 347 degrees.  The pressure inside the grain will reach 135 pounds per square inch before finally bursting the hull open.
As it explodes, steam inside the kernel is released.  The soft starch inside the popcorn becomes inflated and spills out, cooling immediately and forming into the odd shape we know and love.  A kernel will swell 40-50 times its original size!"

These are important or at least interesting popcorn trivia facts we popcorn lovers should (or could or might) want to memorize and bring up at cocktail parties to impress strangers.

"Oh look. Those canap├ęs remind me of popcorn," a person could say in the way of creating a means to bring up the subject in conversation. "Reminds me that pressure inside a popcorn grain can reach 135 pounds per square inch. Just can't get enough of the stuff."

At which point, depending on the response and interest, a person could continue and personalize the conversation by asking the preference of adding butter and salt or whether they prefer to pop their corn at home or restrict their eating at movie theatres. Interesting stuff like that.

On a personal note, my love affair with popcorn goes back to the time when kernels were thrown into hot oil in a saucepan with the result being a lot of black popcorn. These days it has progressed to the point where companies have created built-in receptacles containing the raw kernels and all that's necessary for your regular popcorn aficionado is to toss it into a microwave oven. For me, the best popcorn is made in movie theatres when it's served hot. Too often it's allowed to stand resulting in cardboard-like kernels. How many people reading this eat the half-popped kernels?

Statistically, the majority of popcorn eaten across this planet is grown in the U.S. and Americans eat more popcorn than residents of all other countries.

Cheateau du Chat

Most cat owners will attest that cats have it made and although they ask for nothing, they seem to have the ability to get special treatment. Somehow, somebody must have felt the need that they i.e. cats, needed still more and to this end have created - wait for it - wine especially for cats.

The wine created by a Japanese company, offers felines who want only the best (don't they all?), their vintage, Nyan-Nyan Nouveau or for English cats, Meow Nouveau.

It was created in response to requests from people  who were looking for a liquid consumption in which their pussycats could imbibe and join in holiday celebrations. There is no need for concern about drunken felines or the need for establishing a special group to get cats off the bottle, since the wine is none-alcoholic. The wine does contain vitamins, a trace of catnip to give them a "high" and made from Cabernet Franc wine grapes.

Thinking further...wonder if somebody will create special wine vessels specifically geared for wine-consuming kitties. Moreover, could this idea spread with special wines specifically geared for pet hamsters, budgies, lizards and other household pets?

Nyan Nyan Nouveau costs 399 yen (or $4) for per bottle and the company is limiting its run to a 1000 bottles. It's the cat's meow in the true sense of the word.

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