Popcorn Country: The Story of America's Favorite Snack


Book Information

Boyds Mills Press April 2019
  • Science Curriculum
  • Social Studies Curriculum

“You put the oil in the pot

And you let it get hot

You put the popcorn in

And you start to grin”

-- Raffi, “Popcorn” (1979)

“Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast...sold...as a food product...in the form of flakes or yellow powder...It is popular with vegans and vegetarians…[It] has a strong flavor that is described as nutty, cheesy, or creamy…”

-- Wikipedia, “Nutritional Yeast”

“As the waterproof hull, or outside of the kernel, heats up in hot oil, the bit of moisture inside it turns to steam, and the steam softens the starch in its center. The pressure inside the kernel builds and builds until the temperature reaches 347 degrees and the starch turns to liquid.

Then BOOM! It explodes.”

As an environmentalist and a vegan who sees climate change as a critical and immediate problem, I believe most of the corn-growing done in the United States involves inefficient use of limited resources and should be phased out. That’s because most of the corn is either grown to feed animals or utilized for making ethanol.

Of the portion of corn grown in the U.S. to directly feed humans, most is turned into high fructose corn syrup which has been repeatedly connected to soaring rates of obesity.

Just a small portion of the corn grown in the U.S. is popping corn which, I learned from POPCORN COUNTRY: THE STORY OF AMERICA’S FAVORITE SNACK, is different from field corn, dent corn, or sweet corn. And, as I also learned, “The United States produces nearly all of the world’s popcorn.”

As much as I’m opposed to the other corn crops, I am all in favor of farmers growing popcorn. I am a big fan.

I don’t pour melted butter on my popcorn because I am a vegan. I don’t add salt because my doctor told me to eliminate it from my diet. But I nevertheless manage to pop and eat my fair share. The oldest piece of kitchenware I own is an old, heavy, blue cast iron pot that is perfect for popcorn.

Half a lifetime ago, when the blue pot was still almost new, I was introduced to “hippie popcorn” which is popcorn topped with a liberal dusting of nutritional yeast. It’s yummy, healthy, vegan, and doesn’t need salt. I encourage you to give it a try.

Meanwhile, POPCORN COUNTRY is worth a read just for that great mini science lesson about why and how corn “pops.” And there is so much more to learn from this photo-filled picturebook that explains the four kinds of corn grown in the U.S. and then focuses on the history and processing of popping corn. I love the photo that catches a kernel in mid-POP!

Did you know popcorn is lab-tested for pop-ability?

POPCORN COUNTRY will be an engaging nonfiction read for elementary students. But beware: Reading it aloud will all but require you to provide a heaping bowl of you-know-what.

Recommended by:  Richie Partington, MLIS, California USA

See more of Richie's Picks  http://richiespicks.pbworks.com

32 pages           978-1629798929          Ages 4-8


How does a field of corn become a delicious bowl of popcorn? The story behind the fluffy snack the entire country loves is revealed in this photographic nonfiction picture book.

Kids love food--and they especially love to eat popcorn! Author Cris Peterson offers an illuminating step-by-step examination of the history and science behind America's favorite snack. With photographs illustrating every stage, readers get a behind-the-scenes view of how popcorn is planted, grown, harvested, processed, tested, and finally shipped to stores and movie theaters all over the world. Back matter delves into the history of popcorn and how it became so popular in the United States.--from the publisher

Keywords:  food, how things work, plants, growing, farm, history, informational picture book, agriculture, farming, crops, food chain

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