The Algonquins, Orville, & October

by Derek Holser, Tastemaker in Residence

October is upon us, bringing its bewitching contrast of falling leaves, cool evenings, and sporadic Indian summers. The origin of the term “Indian summer” is the topic of much debate among a handful of Farmer’s Almanac aficionados, Native American historians and of course, the oft-overlooked Pilgrim Popcorn Parable. 

I’m not referring to Indian Summer, the 1993 film starring Alan Arkin and Diane Lane. I know, it’s a common mistake.

If you were among the 300 or so people who went to see Indian Summer, you may recall that it took place at Camp Tamakwa Algonquin Park in Ontario. The various tribes of Native Americans who spoke the Algonquin language ranged from central Canada and Michigan, into Eastern Canada and New England. 

Which brings us to the Pilgrim Popcorn Parable. It’s a well-known tale about the first Thanksgiving that as the settlers of Plymouth neared the conclusion of their meal with the Native Americans, one of the natives shared a “bushel of popped corn”, which was unlike anything they’d eaten before and quickly became a favorite, especially during Pilgrim family bingo night.

It’s a great story, though no one knows for certain who originated popcorn. It wasn’t Orville Redenbacher. Though the bow-tie wearing Hoosier sure did market it better than anyone else, the humble popped corn has found a home in just about every American’s home since the beginning. 

Indian Summers, Pilgrims, Orville Redenbacher? What’s the common denominator? 

It’s Autumn. The time of year that Orville first started popping corn. The time of year when everyone gets excited about Halloween. The problem is Halloween is only one day of the month. I understand the power of the sugar rush and the fun costumes (though the preoccupation with death and evil is a little off-putting), but it’s still only one day.

Meanwhile, Popcorn Popping Month is the entire 31 days of October. That’s right, you get to have 31 times the fun of Halloween. Maybe you hadn’t heard? Understandable, what with the skeletons and jack-o-lanterns blanketing every store and elementary school in the country. But now you know. Now it’s time to pop some corn. Make Orville proud. Bring harmony to your neighborhood. Gather round the table or big screen with butter, salt, and on the stove-top popped corn.

For this ultimate American snack, here’s a classic recipe from the ultimate American concept turned business, Consumer Reports: Stovetop Popcorn Recipe

Call up some friends, rent Indian Summer, if it's available in any format, and enjoy the most affordable, delicious American treat. And then, have some tomorrow, and the day after that. All month long – it’s better than Halloween!