History of Cheese Curls

They change the color of our skin. They get stuck in our teeth. But for some reason, we can’t stop eating cheese curls, the puffiest snack food ever created. But these corn-and-powder snacks didn’t just fall like manna from the sky into our bowls. The story of the cheese curl is one of the more unusual creation stories in snack-food history. Let’s talk about it. It’s weirder than you’d think.

Who invented cheese curls? One story involves a piece of agricultural equipment

Wisconsin, the agricultural hub that it is, has given us a lot of food innovations over the years. (Three words: fried cheese curds.)

But some of those innovations, like the process that gave us the modern cheese curl, were complete accidents. The accident proved fruitful for Flakall Corporation, a Beloit, Wisconsin animal feed manufacturer whose owners later switched gears to producing snack foods, all thanks to the way the company cleaned its machines. The company’s approach to producing animal feed was to put the material through a grinder, effectively flaking out the corn so more of it could be used to get as much usable material as possible from the grain, as well as to ensure cows weren’t chewing any sharp kernels.

A Feed Grinder (patent filing)

“This flaking of the feed is of advantage because it avoids loss of a good percentage of material which otherwise is thrown off as dust, and gives a material which keeps better in storage by reason of the voids left between the flakes, such that there can be proper aeration, not to mention the important fact that flaked feed is more palatable and easily digested by the animal,” the firm stated in a 1932 patent filing.

The grinder did its job, but it wasn’t perfect, and periodically required cleaning to ensure it wouldn’t clog. One strategy that Flakall workers used was to put moistened corn into the grinder. During this process, however, something unusual happened: the moist corn ran directly into the heat of the machine, and when it exited the grinder, it didn’t flake out anymore—it puffed up, like popcorn, except without the annoying kernels, in a long string.

By complete accident, Flakall had invented the world’s first corn snack extruder.

Edward Wilson, an observant Flakall employee, saw these puffs come out of the machine, and decided to take those puffs home, season them up, and turn them into an edible snack for humans—a snack he called Korn Kurls. Another way to put this is that when you’re eating a cheese curl, you’re noshing on repurposed animal feed.

How a cheese curl is made (patent filing)

This state of affairs led to the second patent in Flakall’s history, a 1939 filing titled “Process for preparing food products.” A key line from the patent:

“The device preferably is designed so as to be self-heated by friction between the particles of the material and between the particles and the surfaces of contacting metal and to progressively build up pressure during the heating period. Thus the uncooked raw material, having a predetermined moisture content is processed into a somewhat viscous liquid having a temperature high enough to cook the mass and heat the water particles to a temperature high enough for evaporation at atmospheric pressure but being under sufficient pressure to prevent it.”

If that’s a little complicated to understand, a 2012 clip from BBC’s Food Factory does the trick.

In the video, host Stefan Gates takes an extruder and connects it to a tractor, making the extruder move so fast that it puffs the corn out in an extremely fast, dramatic way.

Clearly, Flakall had something big. The firm eventually changed it’s name to Adams Corporation, which helped to take some attention off the fact that it was selling a food product to humans that was originally intended for animals.

While Flakall has the more interesting tale on this front, it’s not the only one. Another early claimant to the cheese curl is a Louisiana firm called the Elmer Candy Corporation, which developed a product eventually called Chee Wees.

Chee Wees

The Big Cheese of New Orleans, as it’s nicknamed, became a local institution. Elmer’s Fine Foods—no longer a candy company—is a family-owned business that’s produced cheese curls almost continuously for roughly 80 years.

I say “almost” because the firm had to deal with the impact of Hurricane Katrina. As the company explains on its website, Elmer’s entire facility was flooded out by the deadly storm, and the company had to stop operation for 16 months while it recovered from the hurricane and completely replaced the machines that produced the snacks.

A challenge like that might have been enough to kill a lot of companies. But Elmer’s bounced back—and it’s still active to this day.

(Another notable cheese curl firm, Old London Foods,came out with its variation, the Cheese Doodle, in the late 1950s.)

Five interesting facts about Cheetos, the brand that took cheese curls mainstream

While Cheetos came along later than its competitors, first being invented in 1948, it quickly overtook the market, in part because it had gained national distribution due to the prior success of Fritos. That company’s founder, Elmer Doolan, worked out a deal with H.W. Lay and Company to market Cheetos to the broader market. It quickly became a massive hit.


Cheetos are by far the most popular brand of cheese curls in the United States. According to Statista, the Cheetos brand had an estimated $969.5 million in sales in 2016, with the next most popular brand being Frito-Lay’s more-upscale Chester’s brand, which garnered up just 7 percent of Cheetos’ total sales.

The success of Cheetos was so impressive that it played a large role in the merger of Frito with Lay in 1961, as well as the company’s later merger with PepsiCo just four years later.

There are two main varieties of Cheetos—crunchy, the most common kind, and puffed, which only came about in 1971 or so. Each is made through different variations on the corn snack extruder process. Dozens of other flavors exist, however, both inside and outside of the U.S.

The reason that Flamin’ Hot Cheetos have such a prominent color that sticks to everything (and turns your fingers red), according to Wired, has a lot to do with the product’s use of food dyes that have an added chemical to make the seasoning oil-dispersible. That’s because the powder won’t stick to the Cheetos without vegetable oils.

Cheese curl cartoons: Why we never got a Chester Cheetah Saturday morning cartoon, despite multiple attempts

These days, Chester Cheetah is trying to goad Beyoncé on Twitter just like every other advertising mascot worth its weight in salt, but there was a time that the cheetah was seen as so impressive that there was chatter it could become a cartoon lynchpin. In fact, Frito-Lay got pretty far down the road with Fox in turning the mascot, launched in 1986, into a cartoon. Yo! It’s the Chester Cheetah Show, as the toon would have been called, was developed as a potential part of Fox’s Saturday morning cartoon slate. (CBS also considered making the show, but rejected it.)

Chester Cheetah

Source: https://tedium.co/2016/11/10/cheese-curls-creation-story

The REAL Tom Sawyer!

The real Tom Sawyer has been revealed, with new research detailing his life as a hard-drinking and heroic firefighter who once saved 90 people from a steamship fire.

Samuel L. Clemens, better known as Mark Twain

Known to generations as one of the most beloved characters in American literature, an extensive feature in Smithsonian Magazine details the life of the man who inspired the fictional child and title character of Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.”

Twain and Sawyer first met in San Francisco in 1863, quickly becoming firm friends who seemingly drank in every saloon the city had to offer, according to the article.

Firefighter Tom Sawyer

On a rainy afternoon in June 1863, Mark Twain was nursing a bad hangover inside Ed Stahle’s fashionable Montgomery Street steam rooms, halfway through a two-month visit to San Francisco that would ultimately stretch to three years. At the baths he played penny ante with Stahle, the proprietor, and Tom Sawyer, the recently appointed customs inspector, volunteer fireman, special policeman and bona fide local hero.

Montgomery Street in the 1860’s

In contrast to the lanky Twain, Sawyer, three years older, was stocky and round-faced. Just returned from firefighting duties, he was covered in soot. Twain slumped as he played poker, studying his cards, hefting a bottle of dark beer and chain-smoking cigars, to which he had become addicted during his stint as a pilot for steamboats on the Mississippi River from 1859 until the Civil War disrupted river traffic in April 1861. It was his career on the Mississippi, of course, that led Samuel Clemens to his pen name, “mark twain” being the minimum river depth of two fathoms, or roughly 12 feet, that a steamboat needed under its keel.

Mid-1800’s Steamboat

After Twain’s first usage of the “character” in a book three years later, Sawyer is said to have told a reporter at the time, “He (Twain) walks up to me and puts both hands on my shoulders. ‘Tom,’ he says, ‘I’m going to write a book about a boy and the kind I have in mind was just about the toughest boy in the world. Tom, he was just such a boy as you must have been.'”

Smithsonian magazine details how Sawyer was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. where he was a torch boy for Columbia Hook and Ladder Company Number 14. In San Francisco, he worked for Broderick 1, the city’s first volunteer fire company.

1850’s Hook & Ladder Company

Sawyer had proved his heroism February 16, 1853, while serving as the fire engineer aboard the steamer Independence. Heading to San Francisco via San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua and Acapulco, with 359 passengers aboard, the ship struck a reef off Baja, shuddered like a leaf and caught against jagged rocks.

Sawyer raced below deck and dropped into two feet of water. Through a huge rent, the sea was filling up overheated boilers below the waterline, cooling them rapidly. Chief Engineer Jason Collins and his men were fighting to keep steam up to reach shore. After the coal bunkers flooded, the men began tossing slats from stateroom berths into the furnaces. Sawyer heard Collins cry, “The blowers are useless!”

From Smithsonian Magazine

Loss of the blowers drove the flames out the furnace doors and ignited woodwork in the fire room and around the smokestack. Steam and flames blasted up from the hatch and ventilators. “The scene was perfectly horrible,” Sampson recalled later. “Men, women and children, screeching, crying and drowning.”

Collins and James L. Freeborn, the purser, jumped overboard, lost consciousness and sank. Sawyer, a powerful swimmer, dove into the water, caught both men by their hair and pulled them to the surface. As they clung to his back, he swam for the shore a hundred yards away, a feat of amazing strength and stamina.

Depositing Collins and Freeborn on the beach, Sawyer swam back to the burning steamer. He made a number of round trips, swimming to shore with a passenger or two on his back each time. Finally, a lifeboat was lowered, and women, children and many men, including the ship’s surgeon, who would be needed on land, packed in and were rowed to shore. Two broken lifeboats were repaired and launched. Sawyer returned to the flaming vessel in a long boat, rowing hard despite burned forearms to reach more passengers. He got a group into life preservers, then towed them ashore and went back for more. An hour later, the ship was a perfect sheet of flame.

The Smithsonian article quotes a 1898 newspaper article in which Sawyer told a reporter about the influence he had had on Twain’s most famous novel. “You want to know how I came to figure in his books, do you?” Sawyer asked in the interview, cited by the article. “Well, as I said, we both was fond of telling stories and spinning yarns.”

“Sam (Clemens, Twain’s real name), he was mighty fond of children’s doings and whenever he’d see any little fellers a-fighting on the street, he’d always stop and watch ’em and then he’d come up to the Blue Wing [saloon] and describe the whole doings and then I’d try and beat his yarn by telling him of the antics I used to play when I was a kid and say, ‘I don’t believe there ever was such another little devil ever lived as I was.’

“Sam, he would listen to these pranks of mine with great interest and he’d occasionally take ’em down in his notebook. One day he says to me: ‘I am going to put you between the covers of a book some of these days, Tom.’

‘Go ahead, Sam,’ I said, ‘but don’t disgrace my name.'”

“But [Twain’s] coming out here some day,” Sawyer added, “and I am saving up for him. When he does come there’ll be some fun, for if he gives a lecture I intend coming right in on the platform and have a few old time sallies with him.”

The nonfictional character died in the autumn of 1906, three and a half years before Twain. “Tom Sawyer, Whose Name Inspired Twain, Dies at Great Age,” the newspaper headline announced. The obituary said, “A man whose name is to be found in every worthy library in America died in this city on Friday….So highly did the author appreciate Sawyer that he gave the man’s name to his famous boy character. In that way the man who died Friday is godfather, so to speak, of one of the most enjoyable books ever written.”


Reconstruction of the Peoples’ House

The 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, was unlikely to find the White House in anything other than tip-top condition. [NF: Which we now know was untrue!] However, things weren’t quite the same when the 33rd President of the United States, Harry S. Truman, moved into the residence in 1945. To his surprise and dismay, it had serious problems. Not only was it drafty and creaky – it was downright unsafe. Chandeliers in the house were observed swaying for no apparent reason, and floors moved underneath people’s feet when stepped on.

All of the above resulted in a structural investigation being conducted on the building, revealing haphazard retrofitting, fire hazards and a second floor that was on the verge of collapsing. What’s more, the White House’s foundations were sinking, walls were peeling away, and disused water and gas pipes were weighing down the building and making it unsustainable. The situation was so bad that, in June 1948, one of the legs of First Daughter Margaret Truman’s piano fell right through a floorboard of her second-floor sitting room. This event, along with others, made the Presidential family and its aides realize that serious measures were required to save the historic building.

January 19, 1950: The East Room

In 1949, Congress approved a $5.4 million project to gut the building in its entirety, replacing its interior while retaining its historic facade. Architects, engineers, and workers toiled for the next 22 months, trying to figure out how to remove unstable structural elements while somehow ensuring the exterior of the building remained intact. All of the construction equipment used on the site had to be carried inside in pieces, then re-assembled before being used in order to prevent exterior damage. The first and second floors were replaced, while several expansions and basement levels were added, including a bomb shelter that was capable of withstanding a nuclear attack. President Truman and his family returned to reside in the White House in 1952, with a small ceremony marking the occasion. The First Family received a gold key to its newly-refurbished residence.

January 3, 1950: A second floor corridor.
November 6, 1950: Workers lay concrete ceilings for basement rooms below the northeast corner of the White House.
February 6, 1950: View from the servants’ dining room.
February 10, 1950: Workers dismantle a bathtub.
February 14, 1950: Workers gut a lower corridor.
February 20, 1950: The Blue Room.

February 23, 1950: Workers remove the main staircase.

February 27, 1950: A crane lifts a 40-foot beam towards a second-floor window while workers load debris onto a truck.
March 1, 1950: The east wall of the state dining room.
March 9, 1950: Men stand in the second floor Oval Study above the Blue Room.
May 17, 1950: Bulldozers move earth around inside the gutted shell of the White House.
Unknown date in 1950.
January 23, 1952: The Lincoln Room
June 21, 1951: The East Room
November 21, 1951: The state dining room.
December 4, 1951: A third floor corridor.
January 4, 1952: Workers install new steps on the South Portico.
January 23, 1952: The state dining room.
February 16, 1952: The South Portico with scaffolding removed.
March 24, 1952: Library of Congress employees place books on the shelves of the West Sitting Room.
March 27, 1952: President Harry S. Truman and First Lady Bess Truman return to the White House after the renovation.

Source: https://www.ba-bamail.com/design-and-photography/the-white-house-renovation-of-the-1950s/