Was Marie Callender A Real Person?

Walk down your grocery store aisle or look through your cabinets and refrigerator and you'll find a wide variety of names and faces. You'll find Mrs. Butterworth, Uncle Ben, the Quaker Oats guy, Chef Boyardee, and the Red Baron — it's a whole gathering of famous icons in your kitchen! But who exactly are these characters you see in the back of your fridge or adorning your dinner table? Are some of these folks even real?

According to HITC, Mrs. Butterworth is based on the late actress Thelma "Butterfly" McQueen, who is most known for her work in "Gone with the Wind." Ettore "Hector" Boiardi, better known to us as Chef Boyardee, was an Italian immigrant who began his career selling his family's sauces from their Cleveland business, per NPR. Strangely enough, Quaker Oats claims that their mascot isn't based on famous Quaker leader William Penn nor a "real person," but a character based on the image of a traditional Quaker. PBS Food reports that even kitchen cabinet celebrity Betty Crocker isn't so much a real person as she is the "brainchild" of an ad campaign back in the late nineteenth century. It seems that we can't assume that all famed food icons are real, no matter how convincing they may be.

But is this also the case for Marie Callender, the lady behind the popular brand of frozen TV dinners?

Marie Callender is a real person

Unlike Betty Crocker, Miss Callender was, fortunately, a real flesh-and-blood person. As Biography reports, Marie Callender was born in South Dakota in 1907, before passing away at the age of 88 in California in 1995. 

According to the New York Times, Callender first started work in the restaurant industry as a delicatessen assistant, making pies for the deli at home. After a bit of time working herself to exhaustion making so many pies, the deli owner convinced her to start her own business and sell the pies to him. In 1948, Marie, her husband, and her son opened their first shop in Long Beach, California.

As Callender would tell the Los Angeles Times in the later years of her life, the three members of the Callender family found themselves working around the clock at the restaurant. Marie's husband, Cal, not only helped bake the pies all night but sold them during the day. Their son, Don, who was naturally gifted with the skill and drive to make money, was the one who convinced his parents to open their first restaurant and shop in 1962. It was also Don Callender who sold the family business into the major food business that it is today.

If you want to show your gratitude to Marie Callender, you can try some of her famous pot pie, after you read some of the secrets about it first.