popcornEven the National Popcorn Board (really) is unclear about the origin of National Popcorn Day, which might be today, or the day of the Super Bowl; yes, even the date is unclear. Me, I'm happy to cram down a bowlful on both dates, just to be sure.

January is a good time for the celebration for at least three reasons. This is the month where we pay the plastic piper for the extravagance of the Christmas season, and popcorn is a good budget snack alternative.

It can also be a filling and relatively low-calorie choice for those of us attempting to shed the yes-mom-I'll-have-some-eggnog-and-cookie pounds that came with the holidays.


January is also a time when we spend more time at home in front of the TV, and watching "American Idol" with a bowl of popcorn provides us with not just a tasty snack, but something to throw at Simon Cowell when he casts one too many aspersions.

Our country eats an estimated 4 billion gallons of popcorn a year, or 13 gallons per person. Sure, it usually contains some oil from the popping, some butter or butter-like substance (or bacon grease, re: my wife's grandmother) that has been drizzled over top, but the corn itself is a whole grain. It comes in two configurations: snowflake and mushroom. Snowflake, the kind you get at the movie theater, is puffier, while mushroom, used for popcorn balls and other candies, is less likely to crumble.

A group in Sac City, Iowa recently created the largest popcorn ball in history, weighing 5,000 pounds and measuring almost 29 feet in circumference. For those who value quality over mere quantity, Popcorn Palace offers a gourmet popcorn Kernel of the Month Club, with a different confection every month for a year, for a mere $389.

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