History

The Popcorn Myth | Did the Pilgrims Eat Popcorn?

Did the pilgrims eat popcorn? We asked Plimoth Plantation for the truth about this common popcorn myth.

By Yankee Magazine

Jul 15 2016

pilgrims-popcorn-myth

Did the pilgrims eat popcorn? We get to the bottom of the popcorn myth.

Photo Credit : Thinkstock
Did the pilgrims eat popcorn? We get to the bottom of the popcorn myth.
Did the pilgrims eat popcorn? We get to the bottom of the popcorn myth.
Photo Credit : Thinkstock

At one time, the record books said that the first popcorn ever served was in New England in 1631. We called Plimoth Plantation to see if they had any record of how the colonists liked the treat. They told us this popcorn myth is all fiction.

“It’s a classic case of disinformation,” said Plimoth librarian Carolyn Travers. Years ago, Jane G. Austen (no, not the Jane Austen) wrote a novel called Standish of Standish that included a scene in which a Native American brings a treat “something like popped corn” to a colonists’ dinner. “That inspired someone, and we started getting these stories that not only had popcorn been served, but also that the brother of Massasoit, Quadequina, brought an entire deerskin pouch full of it.” (That’s the version we’d read in an official reference book.) “Then I heard that Quadequina brought the popcorn for the Pilgrim children. And then, that it was for the children’s breakfast. The story acquired a life of its own. Next, I heard that the Pilgrim children had poured maple syrup over their breakfast popcorn, initiating a tradition.” She paused for a breath. “This is all untrue. The corn plant native to that area at that time was flint corn. My staff and I tried to cook some — to pop it, to parch, microwave it. The shell gets a little soft. The whole thing is mealy and disappointing. Popcorn as we know it was introduced to the public at the Chicago World’s Fair.”

Excerpt from “’The New England Sampler,” Yankee Magazine, February 1993.