Monday, May 26, 2008

This spud's for you, Jack.

J.R. Simplot passed away yesterday evening at 99. He has a fascinating life story that I first read about in a Rolling Stone article by Eric Schlosser 10 years ago, before Schlosser finished Fast Food Nation. He started out at 14 and made money from the minute he left home. He eventually learned how to freeze dry onions and potatoes for WWII and then when a food scientist figured out how to freeze potatoes without turning them into mountains of mush, Simplot figured out what to do with them: sell them to McDonald's. His company has been supplying them ever since, and as I've probably written, today's french fry is a complicated little thing, covered with a spray of maltodextrin and this and that for flavor and texture, etc. Simplot and Lamb Weston pretty much have the fry market sealed. But Simplot is a HUGE company and he owned something like a million acres of land and had investments everywhere. Anyway, you might want to read up on him since he's been a big part of your food landscape whether you knew it or not, and his is an interesting story. The poor guy fell on his head a year or so ago and I thought he was a goner, but he recovered and was calling friends over for a game of cards when he suddenly passed from a bout of pneumonia. What a life.