We publish few obituaries here at FoodProcessing.com, so why mark the passing of Dorcas Reilly, 92, of Haddonfield, N.J.? She died Oct. 15 in Camden, N.J. – that’s your first clue.
In 1955, Ms. Reilly, a supervisor for the “home economics department” at Campbell Soup Co., was charged with coming up with a Thanksgiving side dish that combined vegetables with a Campbell product. The result, which still graces many Thanksgiving tables 63 years later, was the green bean casserole.
“It started with a call from the Associated Press and a question: What’s a good recipe for a vegetable side dish that features common pantry products,” read the Washington Post story, one of many media that mourned her passing this week.
“As one of the first full-time members of Campbell’s Home Economics department, Dorcas created ‘the mother of all comfort foods’ by simply combining two things most Americans had on hand in 1955: green beans and Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup,” Campbell’s website noted. “Originally called ‘Green Bean Bake,’ [it] requires only a short list of ingredients, doesn’t take much time to prepare and can be customized to please many different taste preferences.”
The Campbell test kitchen concocted and tested several recipes before settling on the gold standard. Easy, inexpensive and consisting of just six ingredients, which are probably in every pantry, Green Bean Bake calls for green beans (canned or fresh), cream of mushroom soup (Campbell’s, of course) milk, soy sauce, black pepper and french-fried onions. It takes 10 minutes to prepare and 30 minutes to bake.
The Washington Post notes Campbell began putting the recipe on cans of cream of mushroom soup in 1960, and use, well, mushroomed. Campbell estimates 40 percent of its cream of mushroom soup sold in the U.S. goes toward making Reilly’s green bean casserole, especially at Thanksgiving.
“Dorcas left Campbell in 1961 to be a full-time mom but returned in 1981 to serve as manager of the Campbell’s Kitchen, a position she held until her retirement in 1988,” Campbell says.
In 2002, Campbell donated the original recipe card written by Dorcas to the National Inventors Hall of Fame — “securing the iconic dish and Dorcas’ place in food history.”
Remember her this Nov. 22.