Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Chicago Native Reviews Fritos Pie: Stories, Recipes, and More

Gina Marie Wadas is the publishing intern for Texas A&M University Press.  She is a native of Chicago and has lived in Texas for a year while working on her masters of science degree in science and technology journalism at Texas A&M University.  Her previous publications have appeared in Science Editor and CVM Today magazines, and Women's Art: Women's Vision: Women's Voices Journal. She engages in all forms of writing and editing in both fiction and non-fiction literature. Writing this blog has reminded her of how much she dearly misses her hometown foods of deep-dish pizzas, Italian beef sammiches (or sandwich), and Chicago-style hot dogs.   

With the 2014 State Fair of Texas now underway in Dallas, anxious concessionaries are ready for their chance to fry up their unique and tastiest treats in hopes of winning the Big Tex Choice Award and exclusive membership into this deep frying community of winners.

Past winners satisfied hungry Texans with deep fried bubble gum, beer, banana splits, jambalaya, and butter. However, one past winner has had its food roots in Texas since the 1930s; Fritos® Pie: won the Best Taste category in 2010.

While this comfort food is a well-known Texas favorite, this Chicago-native had to pick several jaws off the floor when I asked, “What is a Fritos® Pie?” In order to learn more about what this treat had to offer me besides a delighted palate, I was encouraged to read the book Fritos® Pie: Stories, Recipes, and More (Texas A&M UniversityPress, 2011).

Fritos® Pie was published in 2011 by Kaleta Doolin, daughter of the Fritos Company founder Charles Elmer Doolin. This written-from-the-heart book highlights Kaleta’s family stories, recipes, and how marketing of the Fritos® Pie recipe, among other recipes developed by her family and company employees, made the company such a success. I enjoyed the author’s nostalgic collage of black and white photos of her family and hard-working company members in action, the vintage and modern recipes, and the patent drawings of the early machinery that made the delicious fried corn chips.

But the book is not all about fried corn chips and business strategies. It is also about the author and her journey to discover the father she lost at the young age of nine. She spent hours interviewing family members and former business associates of her father as well as researching the archive collection at the Frito-Lay Corporation. She discovered that C. E. Doolin was not just a savvy food marketer, but an inventor, agriculturist, and entrepreneur.
According to the book, Fritos Chili Pie was one of the first recipes given away at conventions as part of the Cooking with Fritos promotional campaign.

From the book:
It was chosen for this purpose because it used (and therefore sold) two Fritos products: Fritos corn chips and Fritos Brand Chili. The chili was produced by the company’s Champion Foods division. . .
While not a pie per se, variations in the recipe usually involve the placement and texture of the Fritos and even the vessel in which the “pie” is made. Sometimes it’s prepared as a casserole or started in a Crockpot, but sometimes it’s prepared directly in a cardboard boat, or, famously, in the past, when the bags were sturdier, in the Fritos bags themselves.

With my new Fritos® knowledge under my belt and several Fritos® Pies in my belly, I no longer feel like a castaway in the Fritos® Pie community. Perhaps now that Texas has deep fried one of their favorite goodies, I wonder if they will consider deep frying a long-time Chicago treat at the next State Fair: a pizza pie.

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