Tag Archives: food and drink

The Demise of Burnt Toast: The Invention of the Pop-up Toaster

Burnt toast doesn’t seem like a big deal, but if you had to eat it on a consistent basis you may feel otherwise. Humans have been eating bread for over 6,000 years and toasting it over a fire for just as long. Electricity was first introduced to American homes in the late 1800s. This generated demand for electric household appliances. The first electric toaster was invented in the 1890s. This device could only toast one side of a slice of bread at a time and needed to be monitored closely so that it didn’t burn the toast. Apparently, this happened frequently enough to inspire an invention that most people in the twenty-first century take for granted: the automatic pop-up toaster.

In 1919, Minneapolis resident Charles P. Strite was working at a manufacturing plant in Stillwater. According to Strite, the cafeteria often served burnt toast. This inspired him to create a toaster that would toast bread automatically with minimal human intervention. Strite’s device was called the Toastmaster and he was awarded a patent for it in 1921. The Toastmaster had heating elements that could toast both sides of a slice of bread at the same time. The device also had a timer that would turn off the heat and a spring that would eject the toast, eliminating the chance of burning. Strite’s invention found its way into restaurants immediately. By 1926, he introduced a consumer version with a variable timer that allowed the user to adjust the desired lightness or darkness of their toast.

The toaster in this photograph, one of three Toastmasters we have in our collection, was manufactured in 1931. It is a model 1A2 in chrome with a sleek art deco design. There are two Bakelite handles on either end of toaster with a fabric covered power cord extending from the back.

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By 1930, more than one million toasters were being sold annually and by 1960 they had become ubiquitous in American kitchens. Today, a century since Charles Strite innovated the automated home appliance industry, toasters are still produced utilizing the same basic design. Although we may take perfectly toasted bread for granted, we should not forget that the inventor that allows us to do so was a resident of Hennepin County.

This toaster was inventoried and cataloged as part of our larger collections inventory project. This publication was made possible in part by the people of Minnesota through a grant funded by an appropriation to the Minnesota Historical Society from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Any views, findings, opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the State of Minnesota, the Minnesota Historical Society, or the Minnesota Historic Resources Advisory Committee.

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Nordic Ware’s Bundt Pan

Nordic Ware boasts a long history of innovative engineering and manufacturing of cookware. Their most famous product is undoubtably the Bundt pan. Today more than 70 million American households have one of these iconic pans in their kitchens. Despite producing a wide variety of products, the Bundt pan remains the most recognizable and has maintained the most longevity. Bundt pans, like those in our collection, are a broadly fluted circular mold made of aluminum. While there are many different recipes for Bundt cakes, they all have one thing in common, the unique shape created by the Bundt pan that forms grooved sides and a cylindrical hole through the middle the cake. While many people are familiar with the Bundt pan, most are not familiar with the history of hard work, innovation, and local connections that led to its creation.

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Dave Dalquist and his wife Dotty started their business, originally named Plastics for Industry, in the basement of their Minneapolis home in 1946. The company made parts for General Mill’s home appliances. Shortly thereafter they began to manufacture Scandinavian kitchenware. In 1950 they acquired Northland Aluminum Products and thus inherited a line known as Nordic Ware. That same year, Dalquist was approached by two members of the local chapter of Hadassah, a Jewish women’s volunteer organization, about recreating a mold from the Old World that was known as a bund pan in Germany. Bund cakes, or bundkuchen, were served for various celebrations in which people gathered together. The Hadassah women gave Dalquist a cast iron model of the mold from which he created a cast aluminum pan. They then sold the pans to fellow members of their organization locally and nationally, and the money earned was sent to Israel to help pay for schools and hospitals.

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Due to the popularity of the pans, Dalquist started to market the bund pans to the public. He added the “t” to the end of the word so that he could trademark it and avoid any association with a German-American pro-Nazi group that existed in the thirties and forties with the same name. Despite being sold in major department stores for several years, the Bundt pan didn’t become famous until 1966 when a woman used a Bundt pan to win second place in the Annual Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest. After this, Pillsbury was inundated with inquiries from women who wanted to know where they could purchase a Bundt pan. Both Nordic Ware and Pillsbury recognized the potential for partnership and soon after Pillsbury began creating a new kind of cake mix that was developed especially to be used with Bundt pans. When three versions of cake mix had been developed, Pillsbury began to offer them along with a Bundt pan at a discounted price. Bundt pans began flying off the shelves, outperforming all expectations and achieving international fame.

Today, two out of three Americans have a Nordic Ware product in their kitchen. After over seven decades Nordic Ware is still family owned and operated, and one of only a few companies that continues to manufacture their products in the United States, doing so at their factory in Minneapolis. By striving to innovate kitchenware characterized by quality and value, the company has grown to employ over 350 people and produce hundreds of products sold globally. If all this was not enough evidence of Nordic Ware’s success, the nostalgic feelings and fond memories of family gatherings inspired by Bundt cakes certainly are.

Our Nordic Ware collection was inventoried and cataloged as part of our larger collections inventory project. This publication was made possible in part by the people of Minnesota through a grant funded by an appropriation to the Minnesota Historical Society from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Any views, findings, opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the State of Minnesota, the Minnesota Historical Society, or the Minnesota Historic Resources Advisory Committee.

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Take the Bitter with the Sweet: Abdallah’s Banana Split Dish

This banana split dish is from the 4th generation family owned business established by Lebanese immigrant Albert Abdallah. Albert opened Calhoun Candy Depot in 1909 on the corner of Lake Street and Hennepin Avenue in the Uptown area of Minneapolis. In 1916 it was renamed Abdallah Candy Company. Abdallah’s served chocolate, caramels, toffee, truffles and ice cream.

Over the years Abdallah’s persevered in the face of adversity. After the Great Depression, Abdallah’s was forced to close due to bankruptcy. However, Albert was able to pay off his debt and reopened a smaller store a few blocks from its original location just a few years later. Abdallah’s later struggled through the Food Rationing Program enacted during World War II. Finally, in 1965 the business was destroyed in a fire caused by a gas explosion, forcing them to completely rebuild.

Through hard work and dedication, Albert Abdallah was able to establish a successful chocolatier and confectionery that is still in operation today, over a century later. His great-grandson carries on the family tradition in their current location in Burnsville, using some of the original recipes perfected by Albert.

Author Bio

Alyssa Thiede in the Assistant Collections Manager at Hennepin History Museum.

Les Amis d’Escoffier Dinner at the Hotel Radisson

Hungry? This souvenir plate commemorates the 1957 menu for the annual Friends of Escoffier dinner. The banquet was one of the highlights of the Twin Cities’ gastronomic calendars, and provided an opportunity for the host hotel – in this case, the Hotel Radisson – to show off their skills to a cross-section of Minnesota tastemakers.

The local Friends of Escoffier, or Les Amis, were part of a larger movement to honor famous French chef Auguste Escoffier (1846-1935). Men, and later women, gathered to enjoy elaborate French-inspired feasts. At the 1957 dinner, a solo table was set for the deceased chef, complete with full place setting and a portrait.

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August Escoffier (from The Gourmet’s Guide to London, 1914)

Serving a roomful of gastronomes was no small undertaking. Work on the menu and procuring necessary ingredients began months in advance. During the evening itself, there was a two-person team serving every six guests. This event was carefully observed and heavily publicized, and the Hotel Radisson left nothing to chance.

The Radisson’s efforts appear to have paid off. The following day, George Rice of the Minneapolis Star reviewed the dinner (under the heading “After This, the Little Woman’s Meals Will Seem Awfully Dull”). His column was full of enthusiasm about the six-hour affair, including nine courses and six wines. The night was “a gastronomic tour de force,” the “eye was delighted,” the “nostrils are charmed,” the palate was “nearly overwhelmed,” the service was “flawless,” and the kitchen staff received a standing ovation at the end of the night.

Attendees came from a range of backgrounds – union organizers, hotel managers, cooks, doctors, and, of course, journalists – and paid only $35 for the night.

“I enjoyed the challenge of putting it on, preparing the 200-pound live turtle into soup, flying in crawfish tails from Denmark, salmon from British Columbia, pate de foie gras and truffles from France, and caviar from behind the Iron Curtain. It took 1000 man hours to prepare the dinner for 127 men.”

-Chef Jorgen Viltoft, quoted in the Minneapolis Morning Tribune, January 15, 1957

According the Hotel Radisson’s own advertising column:

“The only sad note in the Escoffier banquet preparations took place last week when the large choice turtle, which had won the hearts of the Radisson staff and become a pet, had to be sacrificed for the preparation of soup of the banquet.”

“At the Radisson,” January 1957

The final annual Escoffier dinner in Minneapolis was held in 1958, although there was an attempt to revive the tradition in 1970.

This was cataloged as part of the museum’s ongoing comprehensive historic inventory project. Your financial contributions make this and our other activities possible. Click here to make a donation today to support local history preservation efforts at Hennepin History Museum. Thank you!

A Large Coffee, Please

This monumental coffee pot shaped coffee grinder is crafted of cast iron and aluminum. It was manufactured by the American Duplex Company of Louisville Kentucky. The grinder offers several features or settings for achieving the desired grind, and ultimately, the perfect cup of coffee.

This grinder was used at Hawkinson’s Red and White grocery store, located at 4306 Upton Avenue in the Linden Hills neighborhood of Minneapolis.

The Hawkinson family had owned, and operated, grocery stores at 2716 W. 45th St. and at 4429 York Avenue, in Minneapolis, as early as 1910. In 1925 they moved to the 4306 Upton Avenue location. By 1950, Roy and Stella Hawkinson had become a part of the Red and White food store chain, which was established in Chicago in 1925, and quickly spread across the country. The chain was formed to allow small independent grocery stores to carry the Red and White brand, and compete with the large chains, which were already beginning to overtake the neighborhood corner store. The Red Dot logo was instantly recognizable on signs and awnings of small stores everywhere. By 1957 there were seven Red and Whites in Minneapolis.

The chain is still in business, and although most of the stores have been replaced by large supermarket chains, you can still see the famous red dot logo on small stores across the United States. Hawkinson’s closed their doors in 1980.

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Please Pass the Mustard

This unmarked pressed glass cruet set was used at the Russell Hotel and Coffee Shop, located at 14-18 South Fourth Street in downtown Minneapolis. The set consists of a glass caddy with stainless steel handle and four glass condiment containers.

For its time, this is a comparatively simple cruet set, practical, and appropriate for use in a busy hotel restaurant/coffee shop. By 1913, when this one was used, cruet sets, along with tableware, and table settings in general, had reached extremes in design and embellishment totally eclipsing any suggestion of practicality. “More is More” was the ideal. Many sets consisted of ten, even twenty condiment containers created in elaborately cut crystal and sterling silver, as well as a dizzying array of miniature serving implements for transporting the condiment from the bottle to the plate.

These elaborate affairs were most often relegated to a sideboard or buffet. Every truly well-dressed table or sideboard, though, was incomplete without a generous selection of condiments, preferably served from a fine cruet set.

This caddy was donated to Hennepin History Museum by Harriet Lycken of Minneapolis.

About the author

Jack Kabrud is curator at Hennepin History Museum.

Hungry for History: Pie Edition

Did you know that Hennepin History Museum is home to an extensive historic cookbook collection? The collection includes dozens of community cookbooks created by local churches, hospitals, schools, businesses, and other organizations, as well as cookbooks  by local authors or featuring local restaurants and advertising cookbooks or recipe booklets distributed by Hennepin County companies.

Betty Crocker Pie & Pastry book 1968

Included in this cookbook collection is an extensive run of General Mills and Pillsbury cookbooks, including this first edition of Betty Crocker’s Pie and Pastry Cookbook. Cookbooks like this had a national appeal; you were as likely to find it on the shelf of a resident in Texas, New York, or Montana as you were Minneapolis, Minnetrista, or Maple Grove. But residents here, unlike those of those farther-flung locations, were able to call General Mills their hometown company.

Cookbooks like this – in addition to being a font of inspiration for your next dinner party – provide insights into daily life and changing American culture. Betty Crocker’s Pie and Pastry Cookbook was first published in 1968, joining 11 other cookbooks on the General Mills cookbook shelf. The company had observed many changes since the first Betty Crocker cookbook was published in 1950. According to an interview in the 1968 Minneapolis Journal, some of these highlights included:

  • More women worked outside of the home
  • More Americans traveled, both domestically and internationally
  • Americans were increasingly interested in outdoor life, including camping and  barbeques
  • People had more free time, as well as a greater interest in trying new foods
  • More Americans were increasingly cooking with wine

Betty Crocker’s Pie & Pastry Cookbook retailed for $2.95. Contents included holiday staples such as the “Old Fashioned Pumpkin Pie” shown above, as well as a cheeseburger pie, grasshopper pie, jam tartlets, and a wide variety of other sweet and savory pies and pastries. The recipes in this and other Betty Crocker cookbooks were tested and developed in the General Mills company kitchens in Golden Valley.

What about you? Do you have Betty Crocker memories? Favorite pie recipes, past or present? Please share your memories in the comment section below.

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