Give Thanks for Dorcas Reilly, An American Inventor

What are the things you associate with Thanksgiving dinner? Turkey, stuffing, salads, pumpkin pie, and green bean casserole? What would Thanksgiving dinner be without green beans, Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup and fried onions?

According to Campbell’s an estimated 20 million-plus American households will be serving it this year.

Did you ever wonder who created such culinary comfort food? Clearly someone so well named she ended up here on the Blog of Funny Names.

Dorcas Reilly worked as a supervisor of Campbell’s home economics department. A photo of her is not available in the public domain, but you can see her here.

When a call came from the Associated Press back in 1955 asking, “What’s a good recipe for a vegetable side dish that features common pantry products?” The only restrictions: it needed to have green beans and Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup. Apparently in 1955 almost every household had those two items in their kitchen.

Look out home economists, Dorcas Reilly and her team delivered. The group tested and graded each recipe variation until one received a perfect score. In November of that year, “the Green Bean Bake” was born. Just in time for, you guessed it, Thanksgiving.

In 1960 Campbell’s printed the recipe on the labels of its cream of mushroom soup. The recipe hit new heights of popularity and 60 years later it is still going strong, becoming an iconic comfort food. Hmm hmm good.

We’re lucky that Reilly was a culinary trailblazer in an era where women were usually sidelined in corporate America. She was the first person in her family to attend college earning a bachelor’s degree in home economics from Drexel Institute of Technology, better known today as Drexel University. She graduated in 1947.

In 1949 she joined Campbell’s as one of two full time employees of the home economics department developing recipes. When the economy began to boom in the 1950’s the country developed an appetite for easy-to-make meals that were delicious and most of all cheap. Reilly hit the spot with tuna noodle casserole, tomato soup cake and a Sloppy Joe recipe made with tomato soup.

She always credited her team with their successes. But the green bean casserole, according to Campbell’s, constitutes 40 percent of its cream of mushroom soup sales using Reilly’s recipe.

Reilly’s recipe hit new heights in 2002, when Campbell’s donated her original hand-written recipe card to the National Inventors Hall of Fame—securing her recipe and her place in food history. It resides in the same place as Edison’s lightbulb and phonograph, and Enrico Fermi’s first controlled nuclear reactor. Now that’s some street cred.

Dorcas Reilly passed away on October 15, 2018 at the age of 92 from Alzheimer’s Disease.

So when you dive into that dish of green bean casserole, raise a glass for Dorcas.

Tracy – Fannie Cranium’s Guide to Irreverent Wisdom

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About Fannie Cranium

Writing since she could first hold a pen, Tracy Perkins formed her alter ego, "Fannie Cranium" at the suggestion of her husband. Tracy understands smiling makes people wonder what she’s been up to.
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9 Responses to Give Thanks for Dorcas Reilly, An American Inventor

  1. Reblogged this on Fannie Cranium's and commented:

    Ever wondered who invented green bean casserole? Meet Dorcas Reilly over at the BoFN.

  2. ksbeth says:

    dorcas is truly a goddess for having created this iconic dish. here’s to dorcas. and here’s to dave.

  3. wdydfae says:

    “. . . Fannie serves up one heaping helping of Thanksgiving goodness in this latest post . . .”

    “. . . There’s nothing ‘dorky’ about this spunky and informative post! . . .”

    “. . . As usual, Fannie both entertains and instructs, especially those of us who thought Andy Warhol invented Campbell’s soup . . .”

  4. kerbey says:

    This post is timely, as ’twas only yesterday when my husband made his trip to the grocery store to procure not only an 18 lb turkey, but both the french cut Dole green beans, as well as the cream of mushroom soup. We’ll be hosting in a week, so we have to make the green bean casserole. We’re not communists. I was so hoping you’d be able to share that Dorcas was a nickname for something fanciful like Dorchestra, but such is not the case. “Dorkus” is what we called each other in middle school, and others–such as Dork and Dip and Dipwad. I imagine in her era, those thankfully were not used.

    On an aside, I saw a meme a few days ago, referring to the Sloppy Joe as an “Untidy Joseph,” so I as I was reading your post, that thought came into my mind. I shall forever think of it as so.

    • I am so glad you are joining the masses in celebrating Thanksgiving with a green bean casserole. I cannot imaging Thanksgiving without it.

      During my junior high years, we too used Dork and Dip and Dipwad. I’m grateful no one named Dorcas attended our school. It would have been a tough road.

      I’ve never heard of an “Untidy Joseph” but now it will be forever planted in my brain the next time I make one. 🙂

      Have a great Thanksgiving!

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