The genius of Dorcas Reilly: More than 100 million Americans will have her dish on the table this Thanksgiving.

This is my first re-post, but it is so seasonally appropriate.

It also came to mind because some relatives I love dearly asked if I could make “the” green bean casserole.

Wait. I don’t do that.

Fortunately, I have wriggled my way into other responsibilities, but I know I am clearly in the minority:

Stock Tips:  Buy Luby’s.  Buy Campbell’s. (from May 2010)

If Luby’s stockholders read the Taste section of the San Antonio Express-News, I thought, NYSE: LUB will tumble dramatically on Monday.

A reader wrote in to the San Antonio Express-News requesting an “old” Luby’s recipe for eggplant casserole.  To the credit of the “new” Luby’s, which is promoting “healthy sensations,” the manager of an area Luby’s said she could not find the recipe.

The Express’ Karen Haram dug up the recipe from a 1994 column.  The ingredients seem more vintage than that.  In addition to eggplant, the casserole includes diced onion, peppers and celery.  Fine so far.  But the add-ins and add-ons include a can of cream-style corn, a can of cream of mushroom soup, bacon bits, two cups of crumbled cornbread and a cup of, believe it or not, shredded American cheese.  Results:  Extremely well-disguised eggplant with the capability of single-handedly supplying more than half of your sodium intake for the day.

Having not purchased a can of mushroom soup for at least 25 years, I thought nobody was cooking this way any longer.  But I am dead wrong.  My cooking evidently is out of step with the majority of America.

Dorcas Reilly gets a lot of the credit (blame?).  According to Rod Taylor in a 2003 article for Promo Magazine:

Reilly was the midwife, as it were, who gave birth 48 years ago to the mother of all comfort foods: “Campbell Soup’s Green Bean Casserole.”

The now 77-year-old Reilly was in charge of the Campbell Soup Co. test kitchen in 1955 when the recipe was created.  “My initial inspiration for the Green Bean Casserole was really quite simple,” Reilly notes.  “I wanted to create a quick and easy recipe around two things most Americans always had on hand in the 1950s: green beans and Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup….”

Campbell estimates that 40% of its annual sales of Cream of Mushroom Soup end up in this recipe, which isn’t too surprising when you consider the company also estimates that 1.5 million cans of Campbell’s soup are used as an ingredient to prepare dinner every day….  Although consumers use the recipe year-round in their cooking, Thanksgiving represents the pinnacle of usage with an estimated 20% to 30% of all US households making the casserole for their holiday feast.

Run the numbers on that one and you’ll discover we’re talking 17.6 million homes on the low end.  Figure that one casserole feeds six, and you’re reaching an estimated 105.6 million Americans in one meal, well over a third of the total population, and that’s on the low side as an estimate….  Consider this:  their Cream of Mushroom soup ranks as one of the six fastest moving items in the entire dry grocery category.

And think about all the additional people who purchased other brands of mushroom soup?

Taylor claims:

Last year Reilly appeared at the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame to donate her original copy of the recipe to the museum.  Her now-yellowed 8 x 11 recipe card takes its place alongside Enrico Fermi’s invention of the first controlled nuclear reactor and Thomas Alva Edison’s two greatest hits:  the lightbulb and the phonograph.

That seems like a big stretch for combining cans of soup and green beans, and I could not verify the story.  The National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum in Alexandria, Virginia, is closed right now as it prepares for the opening of a major exhibition, “Inventive Eats: Incredible Food Innovations,” which does, however, sound like a logical time to spotlight Reilly’s contribution to American cuisine.

But wait, is this the same country in which Julia & Julia grossed $95 million at the box office?  Paraphrasing Julia Child’s husband Paul in the film, I thought her book changed the world.

Campbell Soup Company’s stock continues to rise.

Hey, five recipes on the label of every can, all much easier than any of those through which Julie Powell plowed and blogged her way.

Forget my initial market prediction.  Buy Luby’s stock.  Buy Campbell Soup Company’s stock.

Cheez Doodles as Art

Blame the arrival of The McNay’s Impressions in the mail for making me veer off in this direction….  

Photograph of Morrie Yohai by Bill Davis of Newsday reproduced in The New York Times

Where was I the day Morrie Yohai died? 

I have no idea.  I completely missed his death in early August. 

Maybe it wasn’t big news in Texas.  San Antonio is Cheeto-land, staked out by Charles Elmer Doolin in 1948.   

But I’m originally from the East Coast.  We ate Cheez Doodles before the Frito-Lay invasion, and Yohai was the man credited with their invention.  Although I can’t locate a copy of the image online, his obituaries all repeat the claim he proudly kept a photo of Julia Child fondling Cheez Doodles on display.

Wonder what makes them such an artificially bright orange.  DADT.  Know I outgrew grabbing bags of these out of vending machines long ago, but the memory of attempting to keep control of the steering wheel with slimy, orange-encrusted fingers is still strong.  In a 2008 interview, artist Sandy Skoglund said: 

The manipulation of food in terms of shape, color, taste, and so on, has achieved highly unnatural results.

Au gratin bather: Doodle-lover from http://www.davesdaily.com/pictures/267-cheesedoodles.htm

An ounce of these baked puffs actually provides 15 percent of your daily calcium needs, but analysis beyond that definitely ruins the pleasure.  DADT.  According to doodle fun facts, that pleasure is significant enough for people ignoring the nutritional warnings to consume the equivalent of 36 Olympic-sized pools filled with Cheez Doodles each year, or the equivalent weight of 1,000 African elephants – 15-million pounds.  If you laid these Cheez Doodles end-to-end you could munch your way all the way from downtown San Antonio to the top of the steps of the Texas State Capitol.

Sandy Skoglund's "The Cocktail Party"

Have no idea how many Cheez Doodles Skoglund used to create “The Cocktail Party,” a cheesy (apologies)  installation recently acquired by the McNay Art Museum.  But I don’t think the writer for the McNay cares for Cheez Doodles much:

“The Cocktail Party” evokes decadence as Sandy Skoglund transforms reality into a garish dream world where mass-produced food products threaten to consume. 

Makes the Doodle people in Skoglund’s installation sound as though they are pod people from a horror film.  But Skoglund herself makes food seem a logical medium: 

…I used the subject of food to create a common language.  After all, everyone eats.

On PBS, Skoglund explained how art became her chosen path: 

…the interesting thing for me is the ultimate sanity of allowing yourself to behave insanely.  When I think back to why I became an artist, it was all about feeling I wasn’t normal….  Even before…I knew what an artist was, I was interested in creating my own worlds.

Before Skoglund gets too far into her lecture at the McNay on Sunday, January 30, I hope she will quickly provide the answers to the low-brow, trivial Cheez-Doodle questions that, left lingering, might distract some small-minded listeners from focusing on her meatier, more meaningful remarks.  Questions such as:

  • Do rodents or roaches ever crawl into museums to nibble away at the Cheez?  
  • You created this piece a number of years back, are these still the original Doodles?
  • When you were taking the photograph, how did the models walking on them keep from crushing Doodles?
  • And, if these are the original Doodles, are they one of the frightening foods that, left undisturbed, will never, ever disintegrate?

Okay.  If I promise not to ask any of these, can I get past the guards?

Update on March 3, 2011: Installing oodles of doodles is no easy task. Watch the time-lapsed video of the staging of “The Cocktail Party” at the McNay.

Stock Tips: Buy Luby’s. Buy Campbell’s.

If Luby’s stockholders read the Taste section of the San Antonio Express-News, I thought, NYSE: LUB will tumble dramatically on Monday. 

A reader wrote in to the San Antonio Express-News requesting an “old” Luby’s recipe for eggplant casserole.  To the credit of the “new” Luby’s, which is promoting “healthy sensations,” the manager of an area Luby’s said she could not find the recipe.

The Express’ Karen Haram dug up the recipe from a 1994 column.  The ingredients seem more vintage than that.  In addition to eggplant, the casserole includes diced onion, peppers and celery.  Fine so far.  But the add-ins and add-ons include a can of cream-style corn, a can of cream of mushroom soup, bacon bits, two cups of crumbled cornbread and a cup of, believe it or not, shredded American cheese.  Results:  Extremely well-disguised eggplant with the capability of single-handedly supplying more than half of your sodium intake for the day.

Having not purchased a can of mushroom soup for at least 25 years, I thought nobody was cooking this way any longer.  But I am dead wrong.  My cooking evidently is out of step with the majority of America. 

Dorcas Reilly gets a lot of the credit (blame?).  According to Rod Taylor in a 2003 article for Promo Magazine:

Reilly was the midwife, as it were, who gave birth 48 years ago to the mother of all comfort foods: “Campbell Soup’s Green Bean Casserole.”

The now 77-year-old Reilly was in charge of the Campbell Soup Co. test kitchen in 1955 when the recipe was created.  “My initial inspiration for the Green Bean Casserole was really quite simple,” Reilly notes.  “I wanted to create a quick and easy recipe around two things most Americans always had on hand in the 1950s: green beans and Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup….”

Campbell estimates that 40% of its annual sales of Cream of Mushroom Soup end up in this recipe, which isn’t too surprising when you consider the company also estimates that 1.5 million cans of Campbell’s soup are used as an ingredient to prepare dinner every day….  Although consumers use the recipe year-round in their cooking, Thanksgiving represents the pinnacle of usage with an estimated 20% to 30% of all US households making the casserole for their holiday feast. 

Run the numbers on that one and you’ll discover we’re talking 17.6 million homes on the low end.  Figure that one casserole feeds six, and you’re reaching an estimated 105.6 million Americans in one meal, well over a third of the total population, and that’s on the low side as an estimate….  Consider this:  their Cream of Mushroom soup ranks as one of the six fastest moving items in the entire dry grocery category.

And think about all the additional people who purchased other brands of mushroom soup? 

Taylor claims:

Last year Reilly appeared at the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame to donate her original copy of the recipe to the museum.  Her now-yellowed 8 x 11 recipe card takes its place alongside Enrico Fermi’s invention of the first controlled nuclear reactor and Thomas Alva Edison’s two greatest hits:  the lightbulb and the phonograph.

That seems like a big stretch for combining cans of soup and green beans, and I could not verify the story.  The National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum in Alexandria, Virginia, is closed right now as it prepares for the opening of a major exhibition, “Inventive Eats: Incredible Food Innovations,” which does, however, sound like a logical time to spotlight Reilly’s contribution to American cuisine.

But wait, is this the same country in which Julia & Julia grossed $95 million at the box office?  Paraphrasing Julia Child’s husband Paul in the film, I thought her book changed the world.

Campbell Soup Company's stock continues to rise.

Hey, five recipes on the label of every can, all much easier than any of those through which Julie Powell plowed and blogged her way. 

Forget my initial market prediction.  Buy Luby’s stock.  Buy Campbell Soup Company’s stock.