Did you know that Duncan Hines is not just a brand name? There actually was a man behind the name. He was a traveling salesman, and loved to eat good food that came from a clean kitchen. Being on the road so much he wrote a book of restaurant reviews for his friends and family that ultimately became very popular and requests poured in.
The man behind the cake mix was quite the celebrity in his day, people trusted his name and looked for it in terms of quality food. His name became synonymous with good taste. The timing was impeccable – the late 40’s and early 50’s in America – when families were buying cars and taking road trips. He was a pioneer restaurant critic and was known as the roadside gourmet, a place with his name on it guaranteed good quality food from a clean and friendly establishment.
I’m reading Duncan Hines’ Food Odyssey. I have an autographed copy that belonged to my grandfather when he was in the radio business. This book has been on my shelf for years and a few days ago I took it out and read the first chapter. It was intriguing enough to keep up my interest and am now half-way through it. Mr. Hines was interesting man, in this day and age he would have some new research to do for his fans, as he preferred corn-fed beef and turtle soup was considered something a true gourmet would have at the start of a menu. Times were different then. A different world. The picture he paints of Market Street in New York – he was so intrigued with those in the business of feeding people – that I could feel the pressure from the produce buyers office and practically hear the phones ringing all at once. Mr. Hines was curious and he liked to visit and see for himself and ask questions. As in the case of his Market Street visit, his observation was all that he came away with and it was enough for him.
Considered not only a trusted traveling gourmet by his fans, he was a true epicure and was invited to be a member of the Lucullus Circle. Mr. Hines considered this invitation one of the greatest honors of his life. Members of the Lucullus Circle, by invitation only (no women), were distinguished epicures that met five times a year to enjoy gourmet food and the conversation of food. Dining rooms decorated with fine art and at times eating with solid gold knives and forks. If there were such a thing as a Time Machine I would have chosen to go right there at that time to be there and see just that: An experience of a different world, with really good food, right!
He was meticulous and knew his readers counted on his opinion. After he ate his meal and was satisfied he would ask to see the kitchen and there his final decision would be made for his rating. His story is a classic case of Turn Your Hobby Into A Career, for he started thinking only of himself, his family and friends. He was all about the food as so many of us are today. Of all the so-called original foodies, Mr. Hines’ first book published in 1935, Adventures in Good Eating – he was at the forefront of it all. Let us be reminded that there was a man behind the cake mix.