The University Press of Kentucky Releases Three Duncan Hines Books
Mention the name "Duncan Hines" to most Americans today and they will undoubtedly conjure the image of a cake mix package. With fictitious advertising characters like Betty Crocker and Otis Spunkmeyer, no one can blame them if they fail to recognize the significance of the man for whom the cake mix is named. In Duncan Hines: How a Traveling Salesman Became the Most Trusted Name in Food, author Louis Hatchett delves into the life of the food pioneer, from his upbringing in Bowling Green, Kentucky, where his Grandma Duncan taught him to appreciate the art of good cooking, to his lucrative licensing deal with Proctor & Gamble.
The forerunner of American restaurant critics, Hines realized his passion while working as a traveling salesman in the 1920s and 1930s. There were no chain restaurants and finding a quality place to eat on the road was often difficult and posed serious hazards that we rarely concern ourselves with today. Hatchett follows Hines's culinary road trips across twentieth-century America as he discovered restaurants, sampling everything from fine wine in the St. Regis Hotel in New York to tamale pie at the Melody Lane restaurant in Los Angeles. Hines offered his recommendations to readers in the best-selling Adventures in Good Eating (1935). He went on to compile classic cookbooks, including Adventures in Good Cooking and The Dessert Book, both of which have been rereleased to coincide with the biography. He included recipes from some of his favorite restaurants, dishes collected from his family, and his own creations which often used innovative ingredients he encountered in his journeys. Several even served as the basis for many of the mixes that later bore his name on grocery store shelves across the country.
Not only did Hines write about where and what to eat, he wrote about how to eat as well. He transformed the act of eating into an art form, asking people to taste their food instead of gulping it down "like an old hound dog in Kentucky." Hatchett also chronicles Hines's crusade to keep Americans who enjoyed the adventure of eating at restaurants safe and healthy. Hines lobbied for better-educated restaurant employees, and in 1943, the Duncan Hines Foundation was founded. It offered scholarships to students in hotel and restaurant management programs and was one of numerous projects he developed to promote restaurant sanitation across the country.
Duncan Hines is more than just a brand name-he was a fiercely independent businessman who could not be bought at any price. Hines was determined at all costs to protect the integrity of his reputation because he recognized its value and what it meant to the millions who placed their faith in him. Hatchett tells the story of an average man who came to America's attention, gained their trust, and because of it, became an American icon. Hines paved the way for today's celebrity foodies such as Guy Fieri and Anthony Bourdain and inspired Americans to fall in love with food from across the nation and recreate it in their own kitchens at home.
Louis Hatchett is the editor of Mencken's Americana and The Continuing Crisis: As Chronicled for Four Decades by R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.