Recipes on a Budget

"Affordable Recipes for All"

A Food is Born – 2

Duncan Hines

Duncan Hines was a traveling restaurant critic in the 1930s.  His book Adventures in Good Eating – a guide to restaurants along major highways – was so popular that his name became a household word.  Hines’s notoriety attracted the attention of Roy Park, a New York businessman who was looking for a way to promote his new line of baked goods.  He asked Hines to become a partner in the company, and Hines agreed.  Together they formed Hines-Park Foods, Inc. in 1948.  Their line of cake mixes captured 48% of the American cake mix market in less than three weeks.

 McDonald’s Filet-o-Fish Sandwich

The first successful non-burger “entree” in McDonald’s history was a concession to organized religion.  In the early ‘60s, the McDonald’s in Cincinnati lost sales every Friday because the large Catholic population couldn’t eat meat – and McDonald’s had nothing else to offer.  the owner asked chairman Ray Kroc for permission to expand the menu.  Kroc resisted at first (“Let ‘em eat burgers, like everyone else!”), but ultimately supported research into selling a fish sandwich.  McDonald’s researchers decided to use codfish, but didn’t call it that for two reasons:  one, they were legally allowed to call it the much classier “North Atlantic Whitefish,” and two, Kroc’s childhood memories of cod liver oil were too unpleasant.  After successful test-marketing, the fish sandwich went on the McDonald’s menu permanently in 1963.

 Macaroni and Cheese

During the Depression, the Kraft Company tried to market a low-priced cheddar cheese powder, but the public wouldn’t buy it.  One St. Louis sales rep, looking for a way to unload his allotment of the stuff, tied individual packages of the cheese to macaroni boxes and talked grocers on his route into selling them as one item, which he called “Kraft Dinners.”  When the company found out how well they were selling, it made the Dinners an official part of its product line.

 Celestial Seasonings

In the 1960s, four hippies spent their time roaming the Rocky Mountains gathering herbs for their own homemade tea.  They got so good at it that they decided to sell herbs to local health-food stores.  They bankrolled the operation by selling an old Volkswagon and named the company after one of the women, whose “cosmic” ‘60s name was Celestial.  Today, Celestial Seasonings is the largest herbal tea company on Earth.

 Caesar Salad

The name of this unique salad doesn’t refer to the Roman conqueror, but to the man who created it – a Tijuana restaurateur named Caesar Cardini.  Here’s one account of its origin:  “Cardini started several restaurants in Tijuana, Mexico, in the early ‘20s.  He devised the salad in 1924 during the Fourth of July weekend at Caesar’s Place.  He served it as finger food, arranging the garlic-scented lettuce leaves on platters.  Later, he shredded the leaves into bite-sized pieces.  The salad became a hit with the Hollywood movie stars who visited Tijuana, and soon was a specialty of such prestigious restaurants as Chasen’s and Romanoff’s.”

 Maxwell House Coffee

In the 1880s, a young Tennesseean named Joel Cheek became obsessed with the idea of roasting the perfect blend of coffee.  After years of experiments, be came up with a blend he liked.  Then, in 1892, he persuaded the owners of Nashville’s ritzy Maxwell House Hotel to serve it exclusively.  Cheek was so encouraged by the clientele’s enthusiastic response to his coffee that he named it after the hotel.


In 1930, a General Mills executive traveling by train ordered some biscuits in the dining car.  He expected them to be cold and stale, since it was long past the usual dinner hour.  But instead, they were hot and fresh – and they arrived almost instantly.  He inquired how this was possible, and was told that the bread dough had been mixed in advance and stored in the refrigerator.  The executive thought it was a great idea.  He worked with General Mills chemists and created a similar product – but one that could be kept in a box, unrefrigerated.  It was so popular when it was introduced in the ‘30s that it revolutionized American baking habits.


10/13/2009 - Posted by | Food Origins

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