Tag Archives: food and drink

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.

Did you know that we depend on individuals like you to fund our operations, including maintaining our library and archives? Please consider making a gift today to support local history. Every dollar makes a difference. Click here to support Hennepin History Museum 

Advertisements

Sweet Treats and Baklava: A Brief History of the J.G. Villas Confectionary Shop

By Jack Kabrud, Hennepin History Museum curator

Demetrios Giorgos Villas was born in Niata Greece in 1883. He immigrated to the United States, alone, at the age of twelve, arriving at Ellis Island in the winter of 1895. During the cold of his first winter in America he slept in doorways, sometimes waking to find his hair frozen to the pavement. In the spring he began to sell fruit on the streets, saving what he could, until he earned enough for passage to Minneapolis. He spoke no English and travelled on the train with his destination and name pinned to his jacket.

Upon his arrival in Minneapolis he began working for, and learned his trade, at the Boosalis fruit brokerage firm. By 1910 he, along with his wife Caroline, had established their own business, the J.G Villas confectionary store, at 135 South 7th Street in downtown Minneapolis.

The store became a destination point for downtown shoppers, including future Minneapolis Star columnist Cedric Adams. Adams was so impressed by the store that nearly half a century later, in 1958, he wrote in his regular column

“On the site of the present Baker Building there was a Greek candy store and ice cream parlor with its huge electric fans hanging from the ceiling, its windows filled with fresh chocolates and bon bons, and its white-aproned Greek proprietor behind the soda fountain. Grandpa Adams and I made it over there two or three times during my visits for a chocolate soda. I haven’t tasted chocolate like that since.”

The stock market crash in 1929 hit the business hard. By the mid-1930s J.G Villas was forced out of business. Villas then went to work for the Phil Malay company as a produce broker.

These four confectionary jars were used in the J.G Villas confectionary store from 1910 to the mid-1930s. The jars were made purely for function and not decoration. They are made of thick, clear, unfrosted, and un-embellished glass, with the intention of showing off their tasty, and often beautiful, contents.

The jars were given to Villas’ daughter, Jeanne Villas Dorsey, (incidentally, the best Spanakopita maker I ever knew) and from her, to his three granddaughters, Caroline Dorsey Truth, Patricia Dorsey Nanoff, and Mary Jeanne Dorsey, who gave them to Hennepin History Museum in 2008

 

An Inedible Arrangement: Samples from the History of a Local Landmark

This appetizing assortment of biscuits sits in a frame that was once a display “window” on the outside of the Burch Pharmacy at Hennepin and Franklin Avenues in Minneapolis. It contains 22 different products, all made by Huntley & Palmers, an English brand. Passerby could look up from the street outside and see what options were available, including those on display in the other product windows.

When the Burch Pharmacy closed in 2010, it was the last of the 215 independently owned drugstores listed in the 1948 Minneapolis Directory.  Interestingly, the building, which is now Burch Steakhouse, was designed by Edwin H. Hewitt, who also helped design the Christian Family Residence, now the site of everyone’s favorite history museum!

The pharmacy had been part of Minneapolis ever since it was founded in 1913, and there are many fascinating stories tied to it, such as the string of robberies, including one by “stylish burglars” who drove a car through the window and stole a stamp machine. George Burch, owner of the store, chased off another thief in a running shootout, with Burch firing some sort of machine gun as he pursued the “Bearded Bandit”.

George Burch sold the store in 1917 and ended up accidentally shooting himself through the heart in 1922, but the pharmacy continued on under Ben Cohen and Gene Johnson. Cohen opened the store’s second and more famous location in 1930.

Biscuits detail 2

Huntley & Palmers is less important in the history of Hennepin County, but it is full of incredible stories nonetheless. Captain Scott brought their biscuits along on his voyage to the South Pole. In 1904 the first Europeans to visit the holy city of Lhasa in Tibet were welcomed with Huntley & Palmers biscuits.

 

About the Author: Evan Walker is an intern at HHM. He enjoys walks on the beach and sharing stories about people and events from the past. Evan will be going into his sophomore year at Luther College in the fall, studying History. His main project is running the Facebook group for external research, so if you’re interested in seeing and researching some cool artifacts to help out the museum, talk to Heather Hoagland, the Collections Manager, about joining us to have fun researching and finding out all the secrets most people don’t know about Hennepin County. Contact Heather at heather.hoagland (at) hennepinhistory.org or 612-870-1329.

This item has recently been photographed and documented as part of a complete and comprehensive cataloging project. Eventually, all items will searchable online! Thank you to our volunteers for their hard work, and to our financial donors for supporting this project. To make a contribution to support local history, please click here.

Sources 

Vanishing Twin Cities: The End of Burch Pharmacy