Foodie Friday: Fruit Pellets, Peanut Cheese, and Sweet Potato Fries

Dr. Maurice W. Hoover with his freeze-dried fruit pellets, 1966.

Dr. Maurice W. Hoover with his freeze-dried fruit pellets, 1966.

NC State Food Science professor Maurice W. Hoover had a mission in the 1960s and 1970s; he was "a man who is keenly interested in developing North Carolina's food processing industry" according to a university press release.  In a "vast laboratory that lies beneath the Schaub Food Science Building . . . surrounded by machinery that would puzzle even Julia Childs" he developed new food products, an activity he compared to "opening Christmas packages."  An article about Hoover can be found in the 12 Oct. 1979 Technician student newspaper.  

Hoover concentrated on sweet potatoes at various points in his career and developed dehydration processes for creating sweet potato flakes (as well as pumpkin flakes).  Other work involved pureeing, sweetening, and preventing discoloration of the root vegetable, as well as developing methods for producing sweet potato chips and sweet potato fries.  The last was once marketed as "sweet fries," as indicated in an article in the 29 January 1979 Technician.   

Hoover also explored freeze-drying.  He developed "fruit pellets" made from peaches, strawberries, or blueberries, which the food industry could include in cake, pancake and muffin mixes.  He even tried the process on seafood, resulting in freeze-dried clams, shrimp, and even African lobster tail.

Peanuts were "his all-around favorite."  Through "the wizardry of Food Science" (according to one press release), he created peanut pie shells, peanut pie filling, peanut cake icings (one was apparently pink), peanut soup, and even peanut "ice cream."  There was a chocolate milk-like peanut beverage and a chocolate flavored peanut pudding.  Perhaps the most unexpected was "peanut cheese velvet" (the press release said "It looks like cheese.  It's yummy like cheese. It even has the texture of cheese.  But it's not cheese.")

Hoover also worked with corn, apples, and soybeans.  One of his soybean products "spread like butter and taste[d] like bacon or blue cheese, green onion or peanut butter."  He foresaw a "day when a housewife can buy a slab of soybean 'meat antilog' [analog?], grind it up, flavor it with hamburger flavoring and make a 'meat' loaf."

In addition to the above-linked Technician articles, more information about Maurice W. Hoover can be found in undigitized press releases that are part of the University Archives.  To see them, please use the Special Collections online form and ask for the University Archives Reference Collection Biographical Files (UA 050.003), Box 28.