What Little House on the Prairie Taught Me About Popcorn

updated May 1, 2019
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Popcorn served in a bowl
(Image credit: Christine Han)

I spent a portion of my childhood during the ’80s completely lost in the collection of Little House on the Prairie books and glued to the TV every time Michael Landon and his homesteading family were on the screen. I was fascinated by their lives in nineteenth-century America, and all the more so when I discovered we had something in common: a love of popcorn.

Not only were the Ingalls and Wilder families enjoying one of my favorite snack foods, but they taught me (and probably many others) a few important things about popcorn that stuck with me to this day.

What would Caroline Ingalls do?

When it comes to making popcorn at home, ask yourself this: What would Caroline Ingalls do? She and Pa regularly munched on popcorn late at night, nestled in bed under a homemade quilt, while talking about the day. She certainly wasn’t using an air popper (like I was at the time) or a microwave popper.

Simplicity reigned supreme. While we never actually saw them make this beloved snack food, the Ingalls clan taught us that all you really need to make popcorn is a pot, some kernels, and a hot flame. Of course, there was also melted butter and salt. No muss, no fuss, and no fancy equipment necessary.

To this day, even when the fancy and fabulous flavors of popcorn come my way, it’s still the simple popcorn that I go for. The method we recommend at Kitchn will help you pop up a tasty pot over and over again. So even if you’re a popcorn pro, brushing up on the steps keeps you making simply perfect popcorn every time.

Popcorn for breakfast? Farmer Boy showed the way.

Reading through Farmer Boy was a revelation that blew my socks off (maybe yours too?). In addition to meeting Almanzo (spoiler alert: Laura’s future husband), we learned that he and his family adored popcorn just as much. And more importantly, we were introduced to the idea of eating popcorn with milk. Popcorn with milk? Kind of a wild idea in these times, but the more you think about it, it’s sounds pretty much like a precursor to much of the cereal we make today.

Now, I’m not going out of my way to pour ice-cold milk on a bowl of buttered popcorn, but I loved learning about a particular cooking and eating practice of that time from one of my favorite books. If there’s a bigger message to get from popcorn cereal, it’s a reminder that we can have our snacks any way we want. So whether it’s super simple, like Caroline, on the unconventional side, like Almanzo, or somewhere in between, don’t hesitate to let the popcorn habits described in Little House on the Prairie be your guide.