NPR recently ran a story on “The Birth of the Frito,” and it’s a surprisingly engaging tale. Charles Elmer Doolin perfected and popularized the salty corn treat during the Depression, using his kids as taste testers, and hybridizing a special strain of corn to get the flavor he was looking for. In 1955, Doolin opened Casa de Fritos in Disneyland to showcase his invention. Doolin was quite an individualist: He was a vegetarian, and a follower of Dr. Herbert Shelton’s fasting techniques. He envisioned the Frito as a side dish—although his wife, Katherine, invented the Frito Pie.
The NPR story is from the inimitable Kitchen Sisters, and the website version includes some archival photos, recipes (including one for Fritos Chocolate Crunchies), a link to a classic Frito commercial, and a ’50s-era lecture by Dr. Shelton on “How to Dissipate Your Energy.”
Fritos turned 75 this year, and the company issued a commemorative bag featuring an old mascot, the Frito Kid. Not surprisingly, the company did not choose to revive its old corn-chip revolutionary, the Frito Bandito.