Awesome Men Throughout History: Sam Porcello
I recently had a conversation about junk food with a friend of mine, who proclaimed that whoever invented the Oreo cookie was “a [expletive deleted] genius” because they are basically the perfect food. I’m pretty sure he punctuated that statement with a loud burp.
I have classy friends.
Who did invent the Oreo, though? It feels weird even imagining a time when they didn’t exist. I always figured that Prometheus stole them from the gods and delivered them to man like he did with fire and bridled oxen. As it turns out, Oreos were invented by a single man, who is this week’s Awesome Man Throughout History: food scientist Sam Porcello.
Well, to be technical, Sam just invented the Oreo’s cream filling, but that’s what makes Oreos worth eating, so it’s still a big accomplishment.
Sam was born in New Jersey in the mid-1930s, and spent his entire life there for some reason. He worked as a teacher for a while, then moved on to a position at the Charms candy company. After being denied a better position at a cosmetics company because he was color-blind—a considerable handicap in that industry—Sam got a job with Nabisco, where he was promised a whopping $12,000/year salary if he put his nose to the grindstone and applied himself.
Laugh if you want to, but $12k wasn’t bad money in 1959, the year Sam was hired. Not to mention that there are kids literally paying for the chance to work unpaid internships now, so let’s not be so quick to chuckle at the past.
Anyway, Sam ended up in Nabisco’s R&D department, where he came up with the lard-based cream filling that made Oreos what they are today (although I think they use vegetable oil as a cream base now). Sam’s innovation got him the nickname “Mr. Oreo” around the Nabisco offices, and he became one of his industry’s leading experts on cocoa, as he demonstrated when he came up with the chocolate-coated Oreo and, God help us all, the Double Stuf Oreo, which weighed in at over 300 calories per cookie.
And just in case you’re curious, Sam ate his Oreos straight, with no milk. The man who revolutionized Oreos didn’t even dunk them. What a world.
Sam Porcello died last year at the age of 76, and the only appropriate way to both mourn his passing and celebrate his delicious legacy is with Lonnie Mack’s “Oreo Cookie Blues.”
About Dave Kiefaber Dave Kiefaber is a Baltimore-based writer who regularly contributes to Adfreak and the Gettysburg Times. His personal website is at www.beeohdee.blogspot.com.