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Texts for reading and retelling
There is a legend that old-timers tell of one particular summer when it got so hot that the corn in the fields stared popping right off the stalks. The cows and pigs thought it was a snow blizzard and they lay down and froze to death.
In American Indian folklore, some tribes were said to believe that quiet, contented spirits lived inside of each popcorn kernel. When their houses were heated, the spirits would become angrier and angrier, shaking the kernels, and when the heat became unbearable, they would burst out of their homes and into the air in a disgruntled puff of steam.
Most of the world's popcorn is grown in the Midwestern part of the United States - principally in Nebraska, Iowa, and Indiana where it can get mighty hot in the summer. Although popcorn has been with us since pioneer times, it was not until 1890 that popcorn became important enough to be raised as a crop for market. Before that time, individual families raised their own popcorn or bought it from their neighbors. Since that time, popcorn has brought enough income to its growers to earn the name “prairie gold.”
Prehistory - The oldest ears of popcorn ever found were discovered in the Bat Cave (a site known to have been occupied by cave dwellers practicing primitive agriculture three thousand years ago) of west central New Mexico in 1948 and 1950 by anthropologist Herbert Dick and botanist Earle Smith, Harvard graduate students. They discovered layers of trash, garbage, and excrement, which had accumulated over two thousand years. In the trash were 766 specimens of shelled cobs, 125 loose kernels, 8 pieces of husks, 10 of leaf sheath, and 5 of tassels and tassel fragments. The deeper they dug, the smaller and more primitive the cobs, until they reached bottom and found tiny cobs of popcorn in which each kernel was enclosed in its own husk. Among those prehistoric kernels, they found six that were partly or completely popped. These grains have been so well preserved that they would still pop. In fact, they took a few unpopped kernels and dropped them into a little hot oil to prove that they could still pop. They have been carbon dated to be about 5,600 years old.
There is a Nebraska legend that the popcorn ball is actually a product of the Nebraska weather. It supposedly invented itself during the "Year of the Striped Weather" which came between the years of the "Big Rain" and the "Great Heat" where the weather was both hot and rainy. There was a mile strip of scorching sunshine and then a mile strip of rain. On one farm, there were both kinds of weather. The sun shone on this cornfield until the corn began to pop, while the rain washed the syrup out of the sugarcane. The field was on a hill and the cornfield was in a valley. They syrup flowed down the hill into the popped corn and rolled it into great balls with some of them hundreds of feet high and looked like big tennis balls at a distance. You never see any of them now because the grasshoppers ate them all up in one day on July 21, 1874.
The Healthy Eating Pyramid includes the following:
The body needs carbohydrates mainly for energy. The best sources of carbohydrates are whole grains such as oatmeal, whole wheat bread, and brown rice. They deliver the outer (bran) and inner (germ) layers along with energy-rich starch. The body can't digest whole grains as quickly as it can highly processed carbohydrates such as white flour. This keeps blood sugar and insulin levels from rising, then falling, too quickly. Better control of blood sugar and insulin can keep hunger at bay and may prevent the development of type 2 diabetes. Plus, a growing body of research suggests that eating a diet rich in whole grains may also protect against heart disease.
Healthy Fats and Oils
Surprised that the Healthy Eating Pyramid puts some fats near the base, indicating they are okay to eat? Although this recommendation seems to go against conventional wisdom, it's exactly in line with the evidence and with common eating habits. The average American gets one-third or more of his or her daily calories from fats, so placing them near the foundation of the pyramid makes sense. Note, though, that it specifically mentions healthy fats and oils, not all types of fat. Good sources of healthy unsaturated fats include olive, canola, soy, corn, sunflower, peanut, and other vegetable oils, trans fat-free margarines, nuts, seeds, avocadoes, and fatty fish such as salmon. These healthy fats not only improve cholesterol levels (when eaten in place of highly processed carbohydrates) but can also protect the heart from sudden and potentially deadly rhythm problems.
Vegetables and Fruits
A diet rich in vegetables and fruits has bountiful benefits. Among them: It can decrease the chances of having a heart attack or stroke; possibly protect against some types of cancers; lower blood pressure; help you avoid the painful intestinal ailment called diverticulitis; guard against cataract and macular degeneration, the major causes of vision loss among people over age 65; and add variety to your diet and wake up your palate.
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