11 Freshly Baked Facts About Pepperidge Farm

Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

No matter how many Goldfish and Milanos you’ve eaten, you may not know how tasty Pepperidge Farm’s history has been. 

1. A Devoted Mom and a Son With Allergies Started It All. 

The Pepperidge Farm story starts in Fairfield, Conn. in 1937. When Margaret Rudkin’s youngest son, John, developed asthma and allergies that made it impossible for him to eat commercially produced breads, the family doctor recommended that the boy switch to freshly baked whole wheat bread with no preservatives. Rudkin had never baked a loaf of bread in her life, but she did what any mom would do and gave it a shot. 

Rudkin’s early returns weren’t promising—she would later joke, “My first loaf should have been sent to the Smithsonian Institution as a sample of Stone Age bread, for it was hard as a rock and about one inch high." Gradually, Rudkin got the hang of baking, and before long, she was cranking out delicious breads. 

2. It Was a Premium Brand Right From the Start. 

Rudkin’s loaves were both tasty and effective—her son showed such improvement from eating the wholesome bread that his doctor recommended Rudkin’s handiwork to other parents of sick children. Before long, Rudkin was selling her bread to Mercurio’s Market in Fairfield. Each of Rudkin’s loaves sold for 25 cents at a time when most bread retailed for a dime, but shoppers were willing to pay a premium for the upstart baker’s wares. 

3. The Pepperidge Farm Name Was an Easy Choice. 

The brand takes its name from the 320-acre Connecticut estate the Rudkins began calling home in 1929. The farm itself was named for an enormous pepperidge tree that stood in the front yard of the home. If you’re not familiar with the pepperidge tree, it’s better known as the black tupelo and also goes by the names “sour gum” and “black gum.” 

4. Pepperidge Farm Was a Real Mom-and-Pop Operation. 

Margaret Rudkin was the baking muscle of the brand, but her husband, Henry, also played a role in the company’s growth. As demand for the bread grew, he converted the family’s garage into a bakery. When a specialty shop in New York City learned of Margaret’s breads and began placing orders, Henry began ferrying 24 loaves of bread with him on his commute to his job at a Wall Street brokerage, stopping in Grand Central Station to hand off the goods. As the company grew, Henry Rudkin left finance to become chairman of Pepperidge Farm’s board. 

5. The Cookies Have a Belgian Flair.

gothopotam, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

After Margaret Rudkin became a bread mogul, she began looking for new opportunities for the company in the early 1950s. Cookies seemed like a logical place to start, and to crack that market, Rudkin had to forge an international alliance. She had tasted a line of sophisticated cookies on a visit to Belgium, and rather than creating new sweet recipes from scratch, Rudkin agreed to license the cookies from Brussels bakery Delacre, and Pepperidge Farm’s Distinctive cookies rolled out in 1955 with longtime favorites like the Brussels and the Geneva

6. Milanos Were Originally Created to Solve a Shipping Problem. 

Not all of the cookies were European creations. In fact, the company’s most famous cookie is all American. As Leon Neyfakh notes in a 2012 Slate piece, the Milano can trace its heritage back to a similarly Italian-themed cookie of the 1950s, the Naples. The open-faced chocolate cookie sounds tasty enough, but when Pepperidge Farm started shipping its cookies nationwide, hot temperatures would soften the chocolate during transit, which mean customers were treated to a brick of melted-together cookies. The solution? Slapping a top on the cookie, rebranding the resulting sandwich as the Milano, and creating a sweet juggernaut.

7. Goldfish Are a Swiss Snack. 

Mike MozartFlickr // CC BY 2.0

Margaret Rudkin’s eye for licensing went beyond cookies. When she encountered a delightful fish-shaped cracker on a trip to Switzerland in the early 1960s, she brought the recipe home with her. In 1962—one year after the Campbell Soup Company acquired Pepperidge Farm—American snackers began munching on Goldfish crackers. The introduction went pretty well—by one estimate, Pepperidge Farm now makes 3,000 Goldfish per second.

8. Pepperidge Farm Played a Key Role in the Apollo 13 Mission. 

Dehydrated ice cream and Tang get all the publicity as astronaut delicacies, but Pepperidge Farm bread came through in the clutch during the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission. The flight crew took loaves of Pepperidge Farm white, rye, and a special astronauts-only cheese bread into orbit with them. When things went awry, the more complicated space foods that required water to prepare were no longer feasible, so the three-man crew largely survived on sandwiches made using peanut butter, cheese, and various salad spreads. As a contemporary news report noted, “Every slice of bread that went up on Apollo 13 was eaten...Bread was truly an important part of their life support system.” 

NASA must have agreed, because the subsequent Apollo 14, 15, 16, and 17 missions also took Pepperidge Farm bread into orbit. 

9. The Logo Wasn’t Inspired By the Pepperidge Farm. 

The picturesque grist mill in the company’s logo is real, but it’s not a part of the Pepperidge Farm. In fact, it’s not even in the same state. The Wayside Inn Grist Mill in Sudbury, Mass. is a quirky project commissioned by Henry Ford in the 1920s that painstakingly repurposed antique French millstones to create “the first working mill to be built as a museum.” The mill’s association with Pepperidge Farm began in 1952. The company leased the mill, hired a miller, and began using the antiquated equipment to produce some of its flour. The arrangement lasted until 1967, with the mill providing Pepperidge Farm with more than 9000 tons of flour over 15 years and inspiring the company’s logo. 

10. Home Cooks Were Desperate to Get Rudkin’s Secrets. 

Mike MozartFlickr // CC BY 2.0

When the baking mogul released The Margaret Rudkin Pepperidge Farm Cookbook in 1963, she admitted, “Two years ago when some of my friends suggested I write a cookbook, I didn’t give it a serious thought at first.” Listening to her pals paid off in a big way, though. Pepperidge Farm devotees were happy to shell out the cover price to learn Rudkin’s culinary tricks, and Rudkin’s work sold so well that it cracked the New York Times bestseller list, a first for a cookbook. 

11. The Company Tried to Launch Its Own Cookie-Themed Social Network. 

Mike MozartFlickr // CC BY 2.0

In 2007, social media and social networking were still relatively new concepts. Pepperidge Farm wanted in, so the brand took a crack at connecting with women by starting its own social network. As a New York Times story noted, “The centerpiece of the campaign is the Web site, artofthecookie.com, which is meant to help women — the target audience for Pepperidge Farm — improve their social lives.” The network was meant to give women a place to talk about both cookies and their thoughts, but it never took off. Unlike the proprietors of countless other failed social networks, at least Pepperidge Farm had selling Milanos as a fallback plan.

The $13,000 Epiphany That Made Orville Redenbacher a National Popcorn King

iStock.com/NoDerog
iStock.com/NoDerog

Happy National Popcorn Day! While you’re no doubt celebrating with a bowl of freshly popped, liberally buttered popcorn, here’s something else to digest: Orville Redenbacher originally called his product Red-Bow.

In 1951, Redenbacher and his partner, a fellow Purdue grad named Charlie Bowman, purchased the George F. Chester and Son seed corn plant in Boone Township, Indiana. Though Redenbacher’s background was in agronomy and plant genetics, he had dabbled in popcorn, and was friendly with the Chester family.

Eventually, Carl Hartman was brought in to experiment. In 1969, when the trio had developed a seed they felt really confident in, they went to market. They dubbed the product “Red-Bow,” a nod to “Redenbacher” and “Bowman.”

The product was a hit regionally, but by 1970, Bowman and Redenbacher were ready for a national audience and hired a Chicago advertising agency to advise them on branding strategy. At their first meeting, Redenbacher talked about popcorn for three hours. “Come back next week and we’ll have something for you,” he was told afterward.

The following week, he turned to the agency and was told that “Orville Redenbacher’s” was the perfect name for the fledgling popcorn brand. “Golly, no,” he said. “Redenbacher is such a ... funny name.” That was the point, they told him, and they must have made a convincing case for it, because Orville Redenbacher is the brand we know today—and the man himself is still a well-known spokesman more than 20 years after his death.

Still, Redenbacher wasn’t sure that the $13,000 fee the agency had charged was money well spent. “I drove back to Indiana wryly thinking we had paid $13,000 for someone to come up with the same name my mother had come up with when I was born,” Redenbacher later wrote.

Hungry for more Redenbacher? Take a look at the inventor at work in the vintage commercial below.

11 Secrets of Restaurant Servers

iStock.com/andresr
iStock.com/andresr

If you enjoy eating at restaurants, it's worth getting to know the waitstaff. Servers are the face of the establishments where they work, and often the last people to handle your food before it reaches your table.

"People think it’s an easy job, and it’s really not," Alexis, a server who’s worked in the business for 30 years, tells Mental Floss. She says, jokingly, "You want a professional handling your food, because we have your life in our hands."

Even if they don't spit on your plate (which thankfully they almost never will), a waiter can shape your dining experience. We spoke with some seasoned professionals about how they deal with rude customers, what they wish more customers would do, and other secrets of the job.

1. Server pay varies greatly.

The minimum wage changes from state to state, but for tipped workers like servers, the difference in pay can be even more drastic depending on where you work. In over a dozen states, if a worker typically makes a certain amount per month in tips (often $20-$30), their employers are only required to pay them a minimum of $2.13 an hour. That’s how much Jeff, a video producer who’s held various jobs in the restaurant industry, made when serving tables in New Jersey. “Usually, if I had a full paycheck of serving I could just put a little bit of gas into the tank,” he tells Mental Floss.

Waiters and waitresses in many states rely almost entirely on tips to make a living—but that’s not the case everywhere. California, Oregon, and Washington each pay tipped employees minimum hourly wages over $10. Jon, who currently works at a casual fine dining restaurant in Portland, Oregon, gets $12 an hour from his employer. Including tips, he typically earns $230 a day before taxes, and brings home about $34,000 a year on a 25-hour work week.

2. They split up tips among the restaurant staff.

Here’s another reason to be generous with your tips: Whatever extra money you leave on the table may be going to more than one person. If you ordered a drink from the bar, or if there was anyone other than your server bringing your food and clearing it from the table, that tip will likely be split up. At one restaurant job, Jeff says he paid food expeditors (workers who run food from the kitchen to tables) 10 percent of whatever tips he earned.

3. Waiters and waitresses know how to handle rude customers.

In addition to taking orders and serving food, servers are often forced to de-escalate conflicts. For many people waiting tables, this means acting sweet and professional no matter how angry customers get. Jon’s strategy is to “treat them like a child, smile, tell them everything they want to hear and remind yourself that it’ll be over soon.” Similarly, Mike (not his real name), a server at a farm-to-table restaurant in Texas, likes to “kill them with kindness." He tells Mental Floss he tries to “be the bigger man and [not] return sour attitudes back to people who don’t treat me with respect. If nothing else I can hold my head high knowing I did my job to the best of my ability and didn’t let their negativity affect my day with other, more pleasant patrons.”

Alexis, who currently waits tables at a family-owned restaurant in California, goes beyond faking a smile and makes a point to practice empathy when serving rude guests. “There’s a hospital near my restaurant, and people come there for comfort food with hospital visitor stickers on their clothes all the time. And I know then that they’re going through something traumatic usually. So when people are acting badly, I put imaginary hospital stickers on their clothes and try to remove my ego.”

4. Your waiter (probably) won’t spit in your food.

While most servers have had to deal with a customer who treats them poorly, they rarely retaliate. On the old urban legend of servers spitting in their customer’s food, Alexis says, “Never seen anybody mess with anybody’s food out of spite or malicious intent. I’ve never seen it happen and I’ve never actually done it. I don’t need to get back at people like that.”

5. Servers do more than wait tables.

Most customers just see one aspect of a server's jobs. When they’re not refilling your drinks and bringing you condiments, they're doing side work—either before the restaurant opens, after the last guest leaves, or in between waiting tables. “It could be rolling silverware, filling sauces, cutting lemons, rotating salad bars, stuff like that,” Jeff says. “It’s not just serving and you leave; there’s usually something else behind the scenes that the server has to do.”

Alexis says that in addition to hosting and serving, she has to prep to-go orders, bus tables, and wash dishes. "We’re expected to be working every moment,” she says.

6. Waiters have some wild stories.

Though parts of the job are tedious, servers are bound to see interesting things. Alexis recalls a husband and wife who were regulars at the restaurant where she worked in the 1990s; the man was later arrested for murder. “I found out when a newspaper reporter started asking me questions about them,” she says. “I’m quoted on the front page of the LA Times as saying ‘A waitress in a local coffee shop said they were a nightmare!’”

Other stories are lighter. “When I worked at Red Robin there was a lady that came in every morning and would ask to sit in the same booth," Jon says. "She carried a bag [of] stuffed animals (mostly dragons) and situated them around the booth, always in the same spots, she’d talk to them throughout her dining experience.”

7. Waiters hate it when you don't know what you want.

The simplest way to get on your server’s good side is to know exactly what you want when you tell them you're ready to order. That means not wasting their time stalling as you speed-read the menu. If you haven't decided on a dish, let your server know and trust that they'll return to your table in a few minutes. “Don’t tell your server you’re ready to order if you’re not ready to order,” Alexis says. “I’m like ‘Come on, I know you’re not ready. I’m going someplace else and I’ll be back.’”

It also means not asking your server to make several trips to your table in the span of a few minutes. Mike says that customers asking for items one at a time is one of his biggest pet peeves. “[Customers will say] ‘I need salt. I need hot sauce. I need another [...] drink.’ I was away from the table for 30 seconds each time. Those requests could easily be fulfilled in one trip to the kitchen.”

8. Waiters hate when you ask to move tables.

Next time you get seated in a restaurant, think twice before asking your server to switch tables. Restaurants divide their floor plan into sections, and each server is responsible for a different group of tables. The hosts in charge of seating rotate these sections to distribute guests evenly to servers; by asking to move, you may be depriving one server of an hour’s worth of tips while creating extra work for a server who’s already swamped. According Jon, the worst time to complain about where you were seated is when a restaurant is busy: “Sometimes this isn’t a problem if we’re slow, but if it’s a Friday/Saturday chances are you were put there for a reason.”

9. Servers work when everyone else gets the day off.

Servers have to be prepared to work a different schedule every week, work late into the night, and work on weekends. This can make maintaining a normal social life challenging. “My schedule can be troublesome, my girlfriend/friends have the opposite schedule as me so I’m never able to make it out on weekends or holidays,” Jon says.

And on the days many 9-to-5 workers go out to celebrate, servers have to wait on them. “Where I currently work I have worked Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Years Eve, New Years Day, and I will have to work on Mardi Gras (in the South),” Mike says. “I was leaving for work as my family arrived at my house for Christmas. I missed a New Years party in my house. If I hadn’t requested if off as soon as I began working there I’m almost certain I’d have to work 15 [hours] on my birthday.”

10. Your server might give you a free drink if you order it at the right time.

Asking your server for a free stuff likely won’t get you anywhere, but there is one thing you can do to possibly have a drink taken off your bill. If you wait until after your meal is served to order something cheap like a soft drink, Alexis says there’s a chance you won’t get charged for it all. “Not alcoholic drinks, but I’m talking about a cup of coffee or a soda or something like that, especially if you’re already paying for other beverages,” she says. “The server might get too busy or might not be inclined to go back to the POS [point of sale] system and add them on to your bill. It’s more trouble than it’s worth sometimes.”

11. Waiters want you to learn their names.

There’s a reason most servers introduce themselves before taking your order: They’d much rather you use their real names than a demeaning nickname. “Don’t call me sweetheart! I’m wearing a damn name tag,” Alexis says. “Sometimes I respond well, and other times no.”

And if your server doesn’t introduce themselves and isn’t wearing a name tag, Jon says it doesn’t hurt to ask. “Ask what the servers name is and refer them by name when you’re talking to them.” He says it’s “refreshing when a guest does this.”

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