You may not know her name. But you’ve certainly enjoyed delicious breads and snacks inspired by her idyllic Connecticut estate.
Yes, it’s a real place. The Pepperidge Farm brand today is a powerhouse of the American food industry. It produces many of the nation’s most beloved products, from breads and layer cakes to Milano cookies and Goldfish crackers — the latter of which Americans consume by the billions every year.
Pretty remarkable for a city girl who, when she started cooking at her farmstead, couldn’t even bake bread.
“My first loaf should have been sent to the Smithsonian Institution as a sample of Stone Age bread, for it was hard as a rock and about one-inch-high,” Rudkin wrote about her miserable first efforts to bake.
She soon got the hang of it.
Rudkin and Pepperidge Farm battled through the Great Depression and World War II and emerged as a dynamo of the American food industry. Her company was baking up to 50,000 loaves of bread each week at her giant Norwalk, Conn., kitchen by the end of the 1940s.
She became an early national TV star as Pepperidge Farm pitchwoman in the 1950s. Then, in the 1960s, she hit The New York Times best-seller list with her autobiographical cookbook, while selling her Pepperidge Farm brand for a cool $ 28 million to Campbell Soup Co. — where she became the first woman on its board of directors. The deal was worth about $ 237 million in today’s dollars.