Any of us born after 1960 have seen the world grow more accessible with each passing decade. By this I mean we have a much wider scope of cultural awareness; we come into contact with more people who hail from someplace other than our neighborhood. We are all more mobile. Maybe we went away to school or moved to a new city for love or work. New immigrants moved into our towns and they weren’t afraid to share their cuisine or to open up a business that reflected the tastes of their old home. I joke that my kids’ palates were more diverse by the age of 10 than mine was at 21, only because they came into contact with far more home-town diversity in their 10 years than I did.
But the 60’s & 70’s were a magical time: we had better living through chemistry and the co-opting of other cultures into weird ideas that could only take hold in the marketing paradise that is America. There is a group of us out there who remember snacking on something called a “pizza roll,” the melding of pizza slice and egg roll. You may have been lounging on the shag carpet in a friend’s TV room watching “The Match Game” after school, and some nice Mom would come in with a tray of pizza rolls hot from the toaster oven. Although in my heart I always wished for some home-made rice Krispy treats, but I’m more of sweet than savory snacker. Please pass the Tang….
You faithful “Take-A-Napsters”(thanks MJB for the moniker) may recall this blog’s farewell to Arch West, Father of Doritos. Well, another snack giant has passed. Jeno Paulucci, the founder of Jeno’s Inc. and the pizza roll, died at the age of 93 on November 24, 2011. Before the creation of the seminal pizza roll, Mr. Paulucci was the founder of Chun King prepared foods. Some of us may remember how the crispy noodles were kept in a package separate from the chow mein, a breakthrough technology for the prepared food market. I admit that my introduction to Chinese cuisine came via Chun King, and it is only in hindsight that I realize how big a role convenience and marketing played in limiting my palate for a goodly number of years…..until I met my husband and the Jewish tradition of going out for Chinese food on Christmas. Wow! I wept when I saw all that I had missed!
Yet, I salute Mr. Paulucci and his ingenuity. The pizza roll still exists today although the name was changed to Totino’s Pizza Rolls in 1986 after Pillsbury purchased Jeno’s for $135M. He lived the quintessential American Dream with an idea, hard work, and some really good timing.