Television Review: The Food That Built America

This three part series currently airing on The History Channel is must see TV for all foodies!

The current food industry is a five billion dollar a day enterprise, accounting for one fifth of the United States economy, and supplies one out of four American jobs.

This is a tale of several early visionary’s and pioneers of the food industry and their fascinating stories. 150 years ago, none of these products even existed. Without giving too much away, here are some examples:

  • Milton Hershey – Hershey’s now sells over 250 million bars per year, but he built his factory and town to house his workers before he even perfected his recipe for his chocolate bar. After perfecting his recipe for a chocolate bar, he became very successful, and one of his biggest customers was a man named…
  • Frank Mars – the founder of Mars Company. He, along with his son, Forrest Mars, invented the Milky Way bar and bought the chocolate for the coating from the Hershey Company. Hershey’s did not realize at the time that they were suppling chocolate to what would eventually become one of its biggest competitors. His son,
  • Forrest Mars – had a bitter split with his father and he started his own food business, Food Products Manufacturing. In partnership with a former assistant to Milton Hershey, they invented the Mars bar and M & M’s, the latter which became a phenomenal success. After the death of his father, he merged his company with his fathers, Mars. Inc.
  • Henry Heinz – There are 650 million bottles of his ketchup sold per year, but he went bankrupt before he tried again and perfected his product.
  • John Pemberton – He was an opium addict that was trying to perfect a tonic made from coca leaves and cola nuts that might wean him off of opium. That tonic would eventually become Coca Cola, which currently accounts for 1.9 billion servings per day. Due to his ongoing illness, he sold his formula for next to nothing to…
  • Asa Chandler – He took the product to the next level with mass distribution and is considered the founder of Coke.
  • Dick and Mac McDonald – The brothers that founded the first McDonalds restaurant and came up with the assembly line model of fast food service used by many fast foods restaurants today. They eventually sold the franchise for next to nothing to a milkshake mixer salesman named…
  • Ray Kroc – He was so impressed with the McDonalds brothers operation, that he envisioned the restaurants being world wide. He eventually raised enough money to buy them out, and he is credited with taking them to the next level.
  • John H. Kellogg – a brilliant physician, he over saw a health club / sanitarium in Battle Creek Michigan and was looking for a way to serve a healthier breakfast to his patients. He came up with and idea to make a dough from wheat, oats and corn and bake it, dry it and smash it into pieces. This became a very early version of breakfast cereal.
  • Will K. Kellogg – John Kellogg’s younger brother that was not as educated as his brother and considered somewhat dim-witted by many, quit his job as a broom salesman and joined his brother at the sanitarium as a helper and accountant. One day while making the dough, someone left the cereal dough out overnight but not wanting to waste it, the brothers rolled it out and the result was corn flakes. Will wanted to mass produce the cereals, but his brother John did not, and was willing to show all patients the process. One such patient,
  • C.W. Post – saw the process and left the sanitarium as a patient and copied the process to start his own company, Post Cereals, which later became General Foods. He sold a cereal that was very successful, Grape – Nuts. This infuriated Will Kellogg, and he split with his brother to start the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company, which later became the Kellogg Company, and the rest is history. Meanwhile, after becoming very successful, years later, despondent over his ongoing stomach illness, he took his own life with a gunshot wound and left his fortune to his young, enterprising 27 year old daughter that grew up in the business. The name of this young lady was….
  • Marjorie Merriweather Post – she took the reigns of the company and ran with it. She was ahead of her time for that era, becoming the head of a company as a young woman, but she was very successful and became a very wealthy socialite. She built a mansion in Palm Beach Florida and named it Mar-a-lago. This is currently home to our now President Donald Trump. She had heard about a young man that was working on frozen food processes and was interested to learn more about it. The young man’s name was ….
  • Clarence Birdseye – while working in Canada for the U.S. Agricultural Department, he learned from an intuit how to ice fish under very thick ice in minus 40 degree temperatures and discovered that when it was thawed a few days later, it tasted fresh and he became fascinated with creating a fast frozen process. He began fast freezing fish and started his own company. Not having the financial means to continue experimenting, he sold his company to the Post Company and signed on as president.
  • Harland Sanders – as a filling station operator, he was selling fried chicken to travelers along the highway and became frustrated at how long it took to fry his chicken because the travelers were not willing to wait along time. He came up with a process using a modified pressure cooker, and came up with a seasoned flour with secret herbs and spices. Having some success, he eventually opened his own restaurant in Corbin, Ky. Business started of well, but at that time, the interstate highway system was building interstates, which killed a lot of businesses, including his, when the main highways started seeing a lot less traffic. He then had to close what would be the only restaurant he ever owned. He went on the road and started selling his process and formula and franchising to other restaurants and gas stations. He sold his company in 1964 at 72 years old, and signed on to remain on as the company spokesman.

While I have provided a lot of information here, I have not really even scratched the surface of the information that this series provides. The characters are played by actors and the scenes are very well done. In this day and age of “fluff” T.V. Such as “The Bacherlorette” it is very refreshing to see that there is still some quality, informative programming on the air! This gets a definite “Two thumbs up” from me!

Cast Iron Skillet Fried Corn

Being Iowa born and bred, I have always had a love for fresh sweet corn. This year we planted the White Shoepeg variety, which is one of the sweetest varieties out there. Although we did not have a great crop due to late planting and an extremely hot and dry summer, we still will be able to harvest enough to have this yummy dishes a few times.

Our homegrown white shoepeg corn.

Cook / Prep Time – About an hour

Servings – 2


  • 3 ears of fresh corn
  • 1 strip of bacon
  • 1 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • Salt
  • Black pepper

Clean corn by removing husks and silks. Using a sharp knife, strip the tender kernels off of the cobs.

Dice the bacon and fry it in a cast iron skillet. When the bacon is crisp, add the butter and melt. Add the corn, salt and pepper to the skillet. If you corn is not real sweet, you can add a teaspoon of sugar to it. Cook on medium heat while stirring, for about 10 – 15 minutes. Add the milk and stir in well.

Turn to low heat and stir until thickened. The natural starch in the corn will serve as the thickening agent. Serve immediately with you favorite entree! That’s it!


A few songs by Woody Gruthrie to jam to while fixing the corn….

“‘This Land is Your Land” and “The Corn Song”

Fresh Basil Pesto (Pistou)

It’s that time of year when our herb garden starts to get a little overgrown, so it’s time to make some Basil Pesto!

Pesto generally has pine nuts in the recipe, so this recipe is technically Pistou, which is a French version of Italian Pesto. I did actually price pine nuts at our local Kroger, and they were $4.49 for 2 1/2 ounces, which comes to around $28.00 per pound. Yikes! Who needs pine nuts in their Pesto? Not me!

Prep Time – about 30 minutes

Yield: About 2 cups


  • 2 cups fresh basil (I used half green and half purple basil)
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 cup grated Romano cheese
  • 1 1/3 cup Extra Virgin olive oil
  • 4 fresh garlic cloves
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg*

*Why Nutmeg? Nutmeg is optional, but I find that nutmeg (especially fresh grated nutmeg) sweetens, enhances and improves certain dishes and sauces, especially cream sauces.

Wash and sort the fresh basil and parsley, and let them dry out. Slice the garlic cloves. Place all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend until well mixed.

And Presto! You now have Pistou!

Store in jars, freeze in freezer bags, or portion out by the tablespoon in ice cube trays and re- bag into freezer bags when frozen to use in your favorite soups or sauces or make some Pesto Parmesan Air Fries using my recipe from a previous post on this blog.

Suggested songs for your listening pleasure while preparing the Pistou

“The Pesto Song” by Tom Torriglia from his 2017 album “Antipasto Rock”

“Mama Mia” by ABBA from their album “ABBA” released in September 1975.

Swiss Steak

Gravy! How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…..

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of being and ideal grace.

I love the to the level of every day’s

Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.

I love thee freely, as men strive for right.

I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.

I love thee with the passion put to use.

In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.

I love thee with a love I seemed to lose

With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,

Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,

I shall but love thee better after death.

And I’ve missed you so much!

Compliments to Elizabeth Barrett Browning for the poem. I just added that last line.

The Swiss Steak recipe was requested by our daughter Leslie. These were also a very popular item at my former restaurant. I hadn’t prepared these for awhile because my wife Susan has been on Weight Watchers for a good while and has lost several pounds and gravy is not exactly weight watcher friendly. I had also shedded a few pounds myself by avoiding gravies for several months, but enough is enough! I had a temporary lapse in judgement and prepared these again a few days ago to get my fix. Now I vow to eliminate gravies from our lives for at least for a couple of weeks again!

Servings – 2

Cook / Prep Time –

  • 1 lb beef cube steaks (about 3 or 4)
  • 1 large shallot
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1 celery rib
  • 1 clove fresh garlic
  • 1 plum tomato
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 14.5 oz can beef broth
  • 4 oz flour
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

Clean and peel the shallot, garlic, celery and carrot and place in food chopper or processor and chop them fine. Add the salt and pepper to the flour and set on a plate. Place the beef cubes one at a time between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound them out with a meat mallet. Heat the olive oil on medium low heat in a skillet. Dredge the steaks in the seasoned flour and reserve the leftover flour. Place the dredged steaks in an ovenproof skillet and cook them until well browned.After browning the steaks, remove them from the skillet and set them aside. Add the butter to the drippings in the skillet and melt on medium heat. Add the chopped vegetables and saute them while stirring often. Add the rest of the seasoned flour to the vegetables and continue stirring to make a roux.

Add the beef broth and soy sauce to the roux and continue stirring until thickened. Add the tomato paste. Chop the plum tomato and add to the gravy.Stir the fresh tomatoes in and add the steaks to the gravy. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place the skillet with the steaks in the oven and cook for 30 minutes. That’s it! Serve with mashed potatoes.


Suggested songs to listen to while preparing the Swiss Steaks….

Since the art of yodeling had its roots in the Swiss Alps, how about a few yodeling songs?

Lovesick Blues” the Hank Williams version released in February 1949.

“Dreams” by the Cranberries from their album “Everyone Else is Doing it, So Why Can’t We? Released in September 1992.

“Hocus Pocus” by the Dutch band Focus from their album “Moving Waves” released in 1971.