Dorcas Bates Reilly, inventor of the green bean casserole, has died at the age of 92. The former Campbell’s test kitchen supervisor created hundreds of recipes throughout her career, but none was as beloved as this Thanksgiving staple, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
Reilly didn’t know her green bean casserole would become an overnight sensation when she and her colleagues whipped it up in 1955 at Campbell's test kitchen in Camden, New Jersey. In fact, when reporters later asked what she remembered about inventing The Green Bean Bake, as it was initially called, she couldn’t think of anything. After all, her team invented thousands of recipes each year using Campbell’s products (only 10 percent of which were deemed fit for soup can labels). Some of her past recipes included a tuna noodle casserole, tomato soup meatloaf, and “Souperburger” sandwiches—a variation on the Sloppy Joe, made from condensed tomato soup.
Details aside, she has said in past interviews that the main idea behind the green bean casserole was to be quick and easy. Although many cooks customize the dish to their liking, the classic Campbell's recipe takes just 10 minutes to prepare and calls for six ingredients: Campbell’s condensed cream of mushroom soup, green beans, milk, a bit of soy sauce, black pepper, and French’s French Fried onions.
“When we created Green Bean Casserole, our goal was to develop an easy recipe featuring a few simple ingredients,” Reilly said in 2002. “And most home cooks typically had green beans and cream of mushroom soup on hand at all times.”
That same year, she donated her recipe to the National Inventors Hall of Fame, which also happens to be home to Thomas Edison’s light bulb. By that point, she had been retired for 14 years, but her recipe continued—and continues—to live on in homes across America.
Reilly, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, passed away at the Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center in Camden, New Jersey, where she grew up. "We are deeply saddened by the passing of Dorcas Reilly, the creator of one of the most beloved American recipes, the Green Bean Casserole," Campbell’s said in a statement. "Dorcas was an incredible woman whose legacy will live on for years to come. She will be missed by her Campbell colleagues and all those who were impacted by her creativity and generous spirit."