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Milestone in American Culinary History: Green beans and Campbell’s Mushroom Soup – its strange beginnings

Brad Smithfield

Ever since the 1950s, the green bean casserole has been a Thanksgiving standard, exciting the palates of many Americans throughout the ages. The casserole has its culinary roots which date back to the olden days of Campbell’s Soup Company.

The inventor was the economist for Campbell’s, Dorcas Reilly, which developed it as a simple marketing tool in 1955.  Little did she know, this breakthrough would become a milestone in American culinary history.

The rising popularity of the green bean casserole was due to the fact that it was very easy to prepare. There was not a household in America that didn’t include the dish on Thanksgivings. Photo Credit

The rising popularity of the green bean casserole was due to the fact that it was very easy to prepare. There was not a household in America that didn’t include the dish on Thanksgivings. Photo Credit

The quick ‘n’ easy preparation behind the traditional culinary staple is what made it so popular. Not only that, the ingredients were affordable for every hardworking American family.

Reilly knew this very well. In order to sell the new products, promoting “new recipes” that include the canned foods were the company’s best bet. Requiring few ingredients and little time to prepare, the casserole was almost an instant classic.

The almighty Campbell’s canned beans advertisement in the Saturday Evening Post. June 18, 1921. The canned beans were an absolute trademark and a top-priority product in Campbell’s “arsenal” of foods.

The almighty Campbell’s canned beans advertisement in the Saturday Evening Post. June 18, 1921. The canned beans were an absolute trademark and a top-priority product in Campbell’s “arsenal” of foods.

 

The Campbell Soup Company headquarters in Camden. It was founded in 1869 by a fruit merchant, Joseph Campbell. Photo Credit

The Campbell Soup Company headquarters in Camden. It was founded in 1869 by a fruit merchant, Joseph Campbell. Photo Credit

Reilly’s original recipe used peas, corn, soy sauce, lima beans, and fried onions. The onions gave the greenish texture some diversity, while the canned mushroom soup cream and green beans did the rest. The recipes varied, but the canned mushroom soup and green beans were obligatory.

Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup was popular during the 1930s, but the casserole recipe skyrocketed Campbell’s market 20 years after. The casserole was popular throughout the Midwest as well.

Reilly’s casserole recipe was the perfect recipe for Thanksgiving. The few ingredients which were used were easily accessible to every American, rich or poor. It was also re-heatable and tasty, above all.

An advertisement for Campbell’s canned soup, circa 1913. The company’s success owes to the heavy advertising and marketing tactics. Children’s books illustrator, Grace Drayton, drew the so-called “Campbell’s kids” which were used in the advertisements.

An advertisement for Campbell’s canned soup, circa 1913. The company’s success owes to the heavy advertising and marketing tactics. Children’s books illustrator, Grace Drayton, drew the so-called “Campbell’s kids” which were used in the advertisements.

The tasty meal has been enjoyed by Americans to this day. Sources claim that Cambell’s estimates approximately 40% of the sold Mushroom soup throughout the US. It’s used for the casserole, of course.

Read another story from us: The Cockentrice: an extravagant dish served at Medieval feasts

Dorcas Reilly’s outstanding culinary breakthrough will be forever a standard on the Thanksgiving table. She now resides in New Jersey and is a retired economist.