Never mind sticker shock. I am in popcorn shock.

A few weeks ago I took my grandchildren to the movies – three, who of course each needed his or her own box of popcorn. The kid behind the counter measured them out and then asked me for $16.50.


“What? I said. “That has to be wrong. I ordered three small containers.”

“Five fifty apiece,” he told me. “Do you want them?” I stood there calculating what I was buying versus what would be eaten, a poor price-to-consumption ratio for sure.

“Dare I ask what a large would cost?” “Seven fifty a pop,” he told me. A friend of mine who owns movie theatres told me that the profits are in the concession, not in the tickets. I do not doubt him.

At any price, I think, popcorn will always have a buyer. You smell it, you need it. Americans, including men, women and children, consume some 16 billion quarts of the popped stuff annually. That means your share is 52 quarts (estimates run as high as 65 quarts), given that popcorn is one of those foods you never stop eating until you are nauseous or you can’t bear one more un-popped morsel between your molars.

While I don’t think most people reach for popcorn for the nutrition, it is, if unbuttered, a great choice for those trying to take off some pounds. There are only 30 to 50 calories in one cup. And here are a dozen useful and not-so useful-but-good-for-trivia tidbits about popcorn:

  • It is a whole grain food, and we’ve all read enough to know that whole grains are good things.
  • It is high in fiber, another good thing because we all need fiber and some of us need it more than others for reasons we need not become specific about.
  • Popcorn has no artificial additives (in its naked state) and is sugar-free
  • You cannot pop any old corn. Of the 6 types of maize/corn—pod, sweet, flour, dent, flint, and popcorn—only popcorn pops.
  • Most U.S. popcorn is grown in the Midwest, primarily in Indiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky and Missouri.
  • Many people believe the acres of corn they see in the Midwest during growing season could be picked and eaten for dinner, or dried and popped. In fact, those acres are typically field corn, which is used largely for livestock feed, and differs from both sweet corn and popcorn.
  • The peak period for popcorn sales for home consumption is in the fall.
  • Most popcorn comes in two basic shapes when it’s popped: snowflake and mushroom. Snowflake is used in movie theaters and ballparks because it looks and pops bigger. Mushroom is used for candy confections because it doesn’t crumble.
  • Popping popcorn is one of the number one uses for microwave ovens. Most microwave ovens have a “popcorn” control button.
  • “Popability” is popcorn lingo that refers to the percentage of kernels that pop.
  • The world’s largest popcorn ball was created by volunteers in Sac City, Iowa, in February, 2009.  It weighed 5,000 lbs., stood over 8 ft. tall, and measured 28.8 ft. in circumference.
  • If you made a trail of popcorn from New York City to Los Angeles, you would need more than 352,028,160 popped kernels!

An important note: Popcorn is not a great snack for children under four because it is a choking hazard. Children’s air passages are not wide enough to accommodate popcorn and other known dangerous foods such as hotdogs, grapes, carrots, firm apples, hard candy and anything that can get wedged or lodged in an air passage – even soft foods like peanut butter.