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    Entries in History (2)


    It Started at Hostess at 7 years old... 

    I get asked in almost every class I teach. “What made you decided to get into the food business?  Here is my story. It started in 1st Grade at Crenshaw Elementary in Torrance, CA. Mrs. Jamile showed two films one week. “Do you want to be a Farmer?” and “Do you want to be a baker.” A farmer and a baker must get up very early in the morning. Remembering the films, I thought the baker sounded more interesting. He was mixing a bunch of things in a mixer taller than he. He also took and make dollops of red raspberry jelly into the center of squares of dough.  That’s all I recall. Then the last day of the week we went to the Hostess Factory! My Mom was one of the room helpers and she still talks about how they gave her the bratty group of boys.

    Once in the factory, we donned or paper hats. We dropped off our sack lunches in the employee workroom first. Walking past the Twinkies. WOW!!!  I never liked those. But watching 3 “needles” shoot cream filling into the bottom of the sponge cake was exciting. I noticed how all the workers seemed so happy. The aromas of sugars and chocolates filled the air. oh boy. I was in heaven.  Next the icing of the cupcake area. After they had their chocolate tops, they filed in a row underneath the swirling white glaze. (I was told every cupcake has 7 swirls, which meant. 7 days of freshness). Then the donuts. (Donettes as they call them) being tossed in the white sugar powder. The tour guide grabbed a few for each of us in our group to try. Hot and Fresh! Nothing like I had ever eaten.

    We all went to the lunch room to enjoy what we brought (Mom always packed my favorite for field trips. (A tuna fish sandwich). Only on field trips and I don’t think I have had one since. We each got a dessert of a Hostess Product to savor after our lunches. Then prior to loading back into the bus we each were given a large bag of powdered sugar donettes. I had never seen such a large bag. Only the 6 pack. We all carried our prized possessions back to school and then home. Even after a full day of travel these donettes were the softest and freshest you have ever tasted.

    Yes. I knew for sure in 1967. I was not going to be a farmer but a baker!

    Years following, I enjoyed my share of Hostess Products. On Friday nights in the summer, after dinner my sisters and I would walk down to the corner store and get one of the products for our dessert. They were 16 cents. I could name all the products that had.   Ho Ho’s, Cupcakes, Ding Dongs (King Dongs on the East Coast), Glazed Honey Buns, Apple Pies, Snow Balls. The list goes one and on.  

    Years later after culinary school I was piping red raspberry filling into squares of Danish. A little smile came over me. I was thinking about that film.

    50 years later, last month I was in that Hostess Building. It no longer makes the sweet baked goods, but is a prop house. They still do have a few pictures and signs of the old factory up.

    Last week I was defending on Twitter a colleague with CBS News in another city as to his vice is Hostess cupcakes.  Hostess read my tweet and asked me to direct message them with my address. Today.. a huge box (that I could never eat myself) of Hostess Products came. I sent them around the neighborhood hoping that one of the kids will be inspired to also be a baker. Sad the factory tours are no longer. But I have those memories as if they are yesterday!  


    The History of…. The Brownie.. (Maybe)

    The History of…. The Brownie.. (Maybe)

    History intrigues me. I always have felt you cannot look to the future until you look at your past. My 5th grade teacher Mr. Fickart said “History Repeats Itself”…

    This is a new idea I have regarding history of food. When I was researching my latest book L.A.’s Legendary Restaurants three of the recipes in the book were “firsts”. I thought it would be an interesting blog as to the “firsts” as we know them in food. Or the claims we have heard. With a recipe or two thrown in. 

    The Brownie.

    Many have claimed they invented what today we know as “the Brownie”  I enjoy the Potter and Bertha Horne Palmer story. It all starts at the Palmer (Today known as The Palmer Hotel ~ A Hilton Hotel). Today the Palmer sits 17 E. Monroe (at State) in Chicago. The current hotel is the third Palmer at this location. The first was built in 1871 (as a wedding gift to his wife) and 13 days later it burnt down in the Great Chicago Fire. Four years later, it reopened as “The World’s Only Fire Proof Hotel”. In the 1920’s the current hotel was built bigger on the same site to accommodate the business in downtown. Today the Palmer has 1,641 rooms that make it the second largest hotel in Chicago.

    Bertha Palmer was the President of the Board of Ladies Managers of the World’s Columbian Commission in 1890. Duties of the President were important besides conducting and leading dozens of the lady managers of the board. Because of her influence and stature in the community and having the largest most opulent hotel didn’t hurt. Bertha called on her pastry chef at the hotel to design a dessert for the upcoming woman’s picnic for the board (It was held at Grant Park in the Ladies Pavilion). She knew the ladies could not have a piece of cake or pie in their picnic basket without it ruining their gloves.  Cookies were too mundane. So he created a “bar cookie” of sorts. Today when you stay at the Palmer, you get a brownie during turn down service.

    Technically, there is no written evidence on menus or such that the Palmer called them Brownies. The first recipe for “brownies” in a cookbook was Fanny Famer, in the 1896 edition of the Boston Cooking School Cookbook. But it didn’t have chocolate, so it was what we today all a “Blondie”. The first time in print with reference to Chocolate and Brownie was on April 1st, 1898 in the Kansas City Journal on sale for .15 cents a pound. The updated 1909 Boston Cooking School Cookbook had two recipes one for Brownies with and one without chocolate.

    Palmer House Brownie Recipe

    1909 Boston Cooking School Recipe

    Pumpkin Brownies

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