Before we left the house to drive around and look at the Christmas lights last night, I had a dinner snack of Totino's Pizza Rolls, which my college roommate and I used to heat up in a toaster oven in our dorm room. My Mom picked them up, prepared them for me, and took the photo (1st image) at my request for today's post. The sad news is that the man responsible for such a happy treat died last month. Minnesota businessman Luigino "Jeno" Paulucci (1918-2011) started over 70 companies, but was best known for his frozen foods, pizza rolls and Chun King eggrolls. As I learned from reading his obituaries (New York Times, Washington Post, KARE11-Minneapolis, and Duluth News Tribune), Jeno was not only charitable, but had both a sharp wit and a sharp business sense. Here's a sampling:
- When he was selling fruit at the age of 16, a refrigerator unit malfunctioned, discoloring the skins of 18 crates of bananas. Jeno disagreed with the store owner that the fruit was ruined. He raised the price, hawked them as rare Argentine bananas, and sold out in 3 hours.
- As the top buyer for a grocery chain prepared to sample Chun King’s products in 1948, Jeno opened a can of Chun King Chinese vegetables and was horrified to find a dead grasshopper. He quickly popped the insect into his mouth with some vegetables and swallowed. The buyer was none the wiser and the chain became one of Chun King’s biggest customers, prompting Jeno to title his autobiography Sometimes You Have to Eat the Grasshopper.
- After paying for new bells to be installed in a church in the northern Italian village of his ancestors: “They’re the biggest damn things in the world. The people there are still mad at me. It’s impossible to sleep very late in the morning.”