Many news reports have celebrated the 100 year anniversary of the Oreo. I've been wondering about it. I mean, one hundred years is a long time. Did the bakers in that factory in Chelsea, NY think that their little chocolate cookie would become an American classic?
I started digging for information about the year 1912. Of course the Titanic sank. But what else was going on the year the Oreo was born? Turns out, despite a national tragedy, 1912 was a significant year in food.
March of that year also brought the Girl Scouts to the United States. Juliette Gordon Low's goal was to help girls realize their potential. I am certain she would not have predicted that one hundred years later, her organization would make millions desperate for an annual cookie fix.
Nabisco launched Lorna Doone cookies that year. The cookie gets its name from the novel of the same name, written by R.D. Blackmore in1869. I bet he was flattered to have a treat named after the heroine he created.
Clarance Crane had an idea that year, too. He wanted a candy that didn't melt in summer. His big idea became Pep-O-Mint Life Savers. He aptly named the candy after their resemblance to life preservers. Over the years, new flavors and even gummy varieties hit the market, but Americans still stand by those five classic flavors most: lime, lemon, orange, cherry and pineapple.
The Standard Candy Company in Nashville, Tennessee may not have been the innovators of a non-melting candy, but they were innovators nonetheless. They manufactured the Googoo Cluster candy bar. It had marshmallow, peanuts, and caramel covered in milk chocolate. They made something that hadn't been done before: a candy bar with multiple ingredients. I am not sure who at that company decided that a chocolate bar needed a companion of ingredients, but I am terribly grateful that they did.
Up North in Hanson, Massachusetts, the invention of the cranberry separator was patented. This invention made the first mass-marketed cranberry sauce available. One hundred years later, Thanksgiving dinner lovers are still expressing gratitude.
I know I'd be lost if New York deli owner, Richard Hellman, didn't decide to put a certain spread in a glass bottle in 1912 and market it for sale. His idea (his wife's mayonnaise, actually) has made every sandwich I have ever loved better. It's the only brand I will use.
Julia child was born a few months after the Oreo. She brought the mystique of fine cooking into the housewife's everyday kitchen and broke it down step by step in a non-threatening way. Every Food Network star knows she paved the way.
I would think that every year brings some special invention or innovation that will leave its mark across decades. But who could predict at the time what will last and what will fade away? It makes me want to walk up and down the supermarket aisle and take note of new products released this year. Which ones will become American classics still enjoyed in 2112?
If you want to learn more about how products and food personalities have emerged over time, the Internet is filled with timelines that will tell you that in 1911 both Crisco and free flowing Morton's table salt came to be. For more substantial reading, Andrew F. Smith wrote an interesting food history book last year entitled Eating History: Thirty Turning Points in the Making of American Cuisine. It will help you wonder about why we eat what we do, and what products, inventions and decisions might drive us across the next hundred years.
Chocolate-Covered Oreo Cookie Cake (via kraftrecipies.com)
1 pkg. (2-layer size) devil's food cake mix
4 squares Semi-Sweet Chocolate
1/4 cup butter
1 8 oz. package Cream Cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups thawed whipped topping
12 Oreo cookies, coarsely crushed
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Prepare cake batter and bake in 2 (9-inch) round pans as directed on package. Cool cakes in pans 10 min. Invert onto wire racks; gently remove pans. Cool cakes completely.
Microwave chocolate and butter in small microwaveable bowl on high 2 minutes or until butter is melted. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Cool for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl with mixer until blended. Gently stir in the whipped topping and crushed cookies. Place 1 cake layer on plate, spread with cream cheese mixture. Top with remaining cake layer.
Spread top with chocolate glaze; let stand 10 minutes or until firm. Keep refrigerated.