Showing posts with label junk food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label junk food. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

It was a brutal year for hillbilly food: say farewell to the inventors of Spaghetti-O's, Cheese Whiz, Pringles, and the Egg McMuffin

2008 was a tough year for the junk-food pioneers, following a brutal 2007 in which the guy who has to be the Dean of Junk Food, food scientist Edwin Traisman died at the age of 92 [ed's note: these guys all lived long lives] after having invented what must be the ultimate hillbilly treat: Cheese Whiz.

The Whiz is a jarred (but also available in a spray can), thick, viscous, somewhat sweet processed cheese sauce, with American Cheese as a base that is reprocessed with additional ingredients such as emulsifiers and stabilizing agents like xanthan gum or carrageenan, and citric acid and flavoring compounds (and Annatto, for coloring). I remember it often starring as the filling in celery sticks (and olives when used in its even more processed aerosol form), as well as as a base for various dips, sauces, and emollients.

We didn't know their actual names (only their achievements), but growing up hillbilly in the farmtown of Kent, Wash., these heroes furnished us with many of staples of our diets. [Ed's note: it also makes us wonder about the fates of the creators of Jell-o, Cool-Whip, Fizzies, Kool Aid, Cheetos, Bugles, and Spam].

Kurt Eberling, Sr., after fighting in the Korean War, Kurt snagged a job at the Campbell Soup Company (Jersey's finest!). Somehow he came up with the idea of creating ring-shaped pasta, putting it in a can with meatballs, and sauce, and SpaghettiOs were born. Kurt became a beacon to every Willie Loman in the world, who, one day, hoped to invent The Next Big Thing.

Herb Peterson, Food Scientist, invented the Egg McMuffin in 1972, after endless experiments with all the known and unknown potential permutations of crumpets, croissants, rolls, biscuits, eggs, sausage, ham, bacon, mayonnaise, and cheese. "Pete" died peacefully at home, with his family, in March.

Finally, on May 4th, the inventor of the Pringles can called it a day. Fred Baur was a chemist and food storage expert. He came up with the idea of inserting a uniform, molded, pre-formed potato chip into a can that remarkably resembled a tin sleeve of tennis balls. The best part of his passing: at Baur’s request, he was cremated and his ashes were buried in a Pringles can! Fred also invented freeze-dried ice cream and ultra-efficient industrial frying oils, but neither of these came close to the monolithic impact of Pringles, a food that became an immediate and long-lasting hillbilly favorite.