“For all of the sophisticated methodologies in science, we have not moved beyond the story as the primary way that we make sense of our lives,” wrote Robert A. Burton for Nautilus magazine. Crafting a narrative allows us to infer meaning and better understand the world around us. So it makes sense that modern food marketing attempts to seize on that human tendency and spin wild tales about how various products made their way into our kitchens.
Betty Crocker, I recently discovered, was not a real person but rather a mascot created by a corporation to answer questions from home cooks. I was sad to learn about Betty’s provenance, and it led me on a search through newspaper archives to determine which products really have the origin stories they claim to, and which are simply great stories intended to move product. Here are five of the most questionable origin stories I found.