As much fun to make as it is to eat!
Popcorn has been an American staple since Native Americans brought it to the first Thanksgiving. It grew in popularity throughout the country as street vendors hawked it and eventually became a staple at movie theaters in the 1900s. Once television came into being and attendance at movie theaters waned, so did the popularity of popcorn– that is, until marketers began tying home television watching with the fluffy snack. And presto! There was once again a niche for those beloved kernels of puffy corn product.
Looking for an inexpensive, easy and convenient way to make fresh popcorn for snacking on in front of the TV, Fred Mennen created Jiffy Pop in 1958, after 5 years of experimentation with a special yellow hulless hybrid corn which grew near his home in La Porte, Indiana. He began marketing his product in Natural and Butter flavors, starting in 1959. By 1960, the tasty treat had major distribution in every US market.
And a commercial from a little later in the 70s:
The idea behind Jiffy Pop is very simple – a popping pan, corn and seasoning in one self-contained package. One only needed a heat source and the ability to shake the handled pan to have a giant bowl of flavorful, homemade tasting popcorn.
As kids, it was always fun hanging out in our jammies in the kitchen waiting for the popcorn to be ready. Mom would never let us young ones touch it. It’s kind of amazing to watch as you hear, one by one, the little pops get faster as the small package starts to expand into a gigantic foil bubble! Careful though – if you don’t keep shaking that pan it won’t cook evenly and will no doubt burn the corn. In fact, many who reminisce about this snack remember fondly– and frustratedy– the smell of burned corn and scavenging for the few edible kernels.
It is important to note that even if you notice no taste difference between microwave and Jiffy Pop, remember – unless you want to tote that microwave into the woods – Jiffy Pop is really the only way to take fresh popcorn along on camping trips with the family. That is, unless you really want to do it the way the ancient Aztecs did or Native Americans did – heated in sand or in a hollowed out branch.
Jiffy Pop culture isn’t limited to the dinner table. It has appeared in a number of television shows and movies, including Saturday Night Live, Real Genius and Scream. Although it is hard to find this fun treat at grocery stores, sometimes you’ll find it hiding on the lowest shelves next to an endless array of microwave popcorns – none of which quite match up to the freshness and taste of a fresh batch of Jiffy Pop.
Do you harbor fond memories of curling up on the couch to an old movie, with a freshly-made batch of Jiffy Pop at your side? Are you still able to find Jiffy Pop in a store near you, and more importantly, do you still purchase it, preferring that your popcorn be made in a more old-school fashion. Tell us all about your Jiffy Pop memories from yesteryear, as we celebrate this unique and unsung hero of the snack aisle, here at Retroland.