Traverse City Record-Eagle

Feature Columnists

November 23, 2013

Rob Ford: Origins of popcorn unclear, but give thanks for it

This is a Thanksgiving story that I never get tired of telling.

I was once equally certain that my father was the creator of popcorn as people were 500 years ago that the world was flat.

Follow me.

My Dad was employed by the United States Air Force in the 1960’s as a radar technician. In that capacity, he was one of thousands of young GIs who were watching radar scopes for inbound aerial attacks all across North America.

One of his many stops was at the small radar site in Empire, which is where I was born in the fall of 1958.

Sometime in 1962, he was sent to watch a scope in an even less populated location than Empire. It was located high atop a mountain two hours, by airplane, north of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

If your memories as a 3-year-old mirror mine, then this explains why I didn’t really “meet” my dad until he came back home a year later.

By the time he returned to Empire, I was a nearly 5-year-old kid ready to impress a kindergarten teacher with my knowledge of all things, including where popcorn comes from.

The fact of the matter as I knew it, was that popcorn, the perfect food, was invented in 1963 by Air Force Sgt. Oscar Ford, Jr.

Prior to that year, I had never enjoyed the glorious culinary symphony of grease and grain.

I had never seen it, smelled it or tasted it. I had never experienced the wonder of melting a lump of Crisco in a sauce pan, pouring in a half cup of seeds and shaking the pan across a glowing stove top until the lid blew off.

From that moment forward, hardly an evening passed without a bowl or two of popcorn being shared by the Ford family.

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