Ed was born in Bowling Green, Kentucky. His mother died of pneumonia when he was four years old. His father, a lawyer, sent him to spend most of his childhood with his grandmother. It was with his grandmother that he learned to appreciate the value of good cooking.
Food was a passion for Ed, but he did not pursue a career in it. Instead he spent three decades as a traveling salesman for a Chicago printer. And by age 55 in 1935, he had eaten a lot of good and bad meals on the road all across the US. At this time in the United States, there was no interstate highway system and only a few chain restaurants, except for those in large, populated areas. Therefore, travelers depended on getting a good meal at local restaurants along the way.
Ed and his wife, Florence, began assembling a list for friends of several hundred good restaurants around the country. The list became so popular that he began selling a paperback book, Adventures in Good Eating (1935), which highlighted restaurants and their featured dishes that Ed had personally enjoyed in locations across America. He wrote about all sorts of places including one in Kentucky: a little café a half a mile from Corbin. “You could get fried chicken, potatoes, biscuits, vegetables, a drink. All that for a buck tops.” That restaurant near Corbin, KY turned out to be the very first Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Ed’s review was one factor in Col. Sanders’ deciding to franchise the restaurant.
The book proved so successful that Ed added another which recommended lodging. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, he wrote a newspaper food column, Adventures in Good Eating at Home, which appeared in newspapers across the US three times a week (on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday). The column featured restaurant recipes that he had collected during his nationwide travels.
In 1952 he introduced his own bread to the world. A year later he sold the rights to this bread. He made a fortune. And then he licensed his name to other food products because the country had grown to trust the man with the name that symbolized good food.
He was renowned food critic and author. He found a niche in America, a need that wasn’t being fulfilled and he filled it. And in doing so, in finding that on his own, he built something. He became wealthy through his own hard work and his dedication, and his ingenuity.
Today in our country Ed’s story is forgotten one, but his name lives on for Ed is Duncan Edward Hines from Duncan Hines cake mix fame.
Many of the stories I share in this column I try to keep the past and the present interlaced together. I am fascinated with history because I always learn so much from it. I truly believe without being well versed in the past, we are doomed to certain mistakes in the future. In just a few days we’re going to decide whether or not Duncan Hines built his business or not. I believe he did.