27 December, 2009

Vintage Sunday: Yesterday's Products Today

With all the hundreds of new products released every year - and hundreds of others that are discontinued - I find it curiously reassuring to know that some of the brands I use regularly in my kitchen are a hundred or more years old.

Bell's Seasoning is a great example. Growing up in New England, I didn't know of any other poultry seasoning - every kitchen I was ever in had a box of Bell's seasoning on hand. A local New England product since its introduction in 1867, I'd be willing to bet that more holiday turkey stuffing in the Northeast has been flavored with Bell's Seasoning than any half-dozen other seasoning blends combined. Their oldest ads don't feature a picture of the actual product, but rather the elaborate scrollwork and engraving details common to advertising of the era:

Other Bell's print ads through the years:




As much as a continual stream of print advertising through the years has kept Bell's in supermarkets (and in kitchens) for over 140 years, the seasoning has one other huge advantage over many other blends: Familiarity. Not only has the recipe for the seasoning been unchanged for generations, the box has received only minor design updates through the years. The black-and-white cut below is a scan from the 1896 edition of the Boston Cooking School Cook Book by Fannie Merritt Farmer:

Compare that to this c.1955 box of Bell's (which I found in the pantry of my house when we were moving in):

And to this 2009 box I photographed in the supermarket recently:

My great-great-grandmother would be baffled by some of the stuff in my pantry - Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, Cup Noodles, concentrated soup base, aerosol cheese - but she would recognize that little one-ounce box of Bell's Seasoning in a heartbeat.


Bell's Seasonings Website


Michele said...

No respectable kitchen is complete without a box of Bell's. (at least in our neck of the woods) There is a local family restaurant that makes the most addictive home fries I have ever tasted. After talking with the cook I found out that all they used for seasoning was a little salt and a healthy dose of Bell's. Amazing stuff!

auntjone said...

Neat! I've never heard of it since I'm in the middle of the country but I'm glad they're still around and haven't 'upgraded' just because marketing wizards say they should.