Dorcas Reilly, the creator of the green bean casserole, has died at the age of 92. The Associated Press reports that Reilly, who was one of the first full-time members of the Home Economics department at Campbell’s, died on October 15 of Alzheimer’s disease.
In 1955, Reilly created what Campbell’s calls “the mother of all comfort foods” by combining two pantry staples. Back then, it was called “Green Bean Bake;” last year, the digital version of the recipe got 2.7 million visits during the holidays, per the AP.
In a tribute shared on October 19, the company called Reilly “an incredible woman, whose legacy will live on in more than 20 million American households this Thanksgiving.”
Reilly left the company in 1961 to parent full-time, but returned to Campbell’s in 1981, serving as the manager of the Campbell’s Kitchen until she retired in 1988. In 2002, the company donated her original “Green Bean Bake” recipe card to the National Inventors Hall of Fame, “securing the iconic dish and Dorcas’ place in food history,” per Campbell.
That’s a wonderful tribute to a dish that, love it or hate it, can be instantly called to mind by countless Americans. Campbell’s credits the recipe’s longevity and popularity to its simplicity and speed, as well as the ease with which it can be customized.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t an immediate hit in the company’s kitchen: “Dorcas would often share that the first time she made her famous recipe, it did not receive the highest rating in Campbell’s internal testing. Yet, it was her persistence and creativity that led to an enduring recipe that will live on for decades to come.”
The recipe can still be found on labels—for Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom, as well as on packages of crispy onions—and television commercials throughout the holidays. The Associated Press notes that Reilly was well aware of its ubiquity, and “always kept the ingredients for the casserole on hand in her home—just in case someone asked her to whip one up.”
Reilly, a New Jersey resident, is survived by her husband Tom, her daughter Dorcas, her son Tom, and their spouses, as well as four grandchildren and one great-grandchild.