Web Extra: More Fritos Pie Letters
Boy, do we love our Fritos Pie! We’ve received more feedback on this crunchy comfort food (covered in June “TH Taste”) than on just about any topic we’ve covered in TH’s 37 years. We share some of those reader memories below; find more in “Talk to TH” in the August issue.
When I was in my early teens, my brother and I would caddy for my two older brothers at Riverside Golf Course on Roosevelt Ave. in San Antonio. Our payment was to go across the street to the Frito Factory in this old house and be treated to a large, hot bag of Fritos for 50 cents. I have never forgotten the wonderful taste and I’m now 81-plus years. My 16 grandchildren and I also eat Frito pie.
BARBARA GARRETT, San Antonio
We love Frito Pie but when we fix it at home, we definitely have to compromise. Bill likes his chili heated, mix in the Fritos, then top with cheese, onions, and jalapeños.
I grew up having it hot from the oven. My mom mixed it all together and baked it in the oven until the cheese was bubbling on top. That’s the way I fixed it for my kids, too.
But now it is do-it-yourself at our house. You want it? Come fix it the way you want it.
Love your magazine; my boss subscribes and I open mail, so I can scan it first! Keep up the great work.
Anyone know what ever happened to the Frito Bandito?
RUTH MILLER, Mesquite
I would like to tell you my story about Fritos and chili. During WWII, I lived in Alpine, Texas, and down the street from our house was a little neighborhood grocery store run by a very nice man, Mr. Frye. Rationing was in full swing and you had to use your imagination to give meals some appeal at times, and Mr. Frye was helpful with ideas for the table. One day he told my mother “We came up with something new and my family really likes it and maybe yours will, too. Put Fritos on a plate and pour heated Wolf Brand Chili over them and then chopped onions.” He didn’t mention cheese I guess because it was a rationed item to them. My family really liked it and told our friends. I got married about a year before the war was over and did a lot of traveling and using a hot plate often, and when I could get Fritos and chili my husband and I had Frito Pie. But in those days you had to come to Texas to get Fritos and chili too. I like to think Mr. Frye invented the Frito Pie back around 1942.
PAULINE DUSEK, San Marcos
As we pass through life, there are some things we never forget, like your first love, first bicycle, first car, and your first bite of Frito Pie. My first bite was in September of 1957 at W.C. Warren Elementary School Garland, Texas. I was in line with my first-grade class in the school cafeteria. The food server spooned a big, melted-cheese-stringing serving on my plate. I asked her what it was called. She replied it was Frito Pie. The aroma teased me to walk faster to my table. It was love at first bite. I thought it couldn’t get better until I learned I could get two servings of Frito Pie in place of a vegetable. Hello Frito Pie, so long veggies. To this day, it is still my favorite food, and I serve it to my children and grandkids. Thank you for reminding me, that as we go through life, some things never change.
JOHN TURLINGTON, Fort Worth
I’m responding to your request to tell of my experience with being introduced to Frito Chili Pie. I’m a 40-year-plus career firefighter with Wichita Falls, now retired 12 years.
I first became acquainted with this dish back in 1960 by being assigned with Don Hart, a fellow firefighter at Wichita Falls Central Fire Station. He had seen this recipe on a Fritos package and suggested it for one of our meals at the fire house. He prepared the dish, put it on the BIG long table serving 15 hungry firemen and the rest is history. We had Frito Chili pie from time to time for the rest of my career with the department. GOOD EATING! Thank God for Fritos, chili, diced onion, and cheese. Yes, it is a favorite dish at high school football games on a COOL evening in Texas or anywhere else. I’m 71 years young and can still tolerate this fine dish from time to time. Frito Chili Pie is absolutely a good Texas dish. It brings back good memories of over 50 years. Thanks for letting me write about it.
LARRY HARDIN, Wichita Falls
Sometime around 1946-'47, Dee Laws and his brother opened Laws Brothers Drug Store on Cherry Lane in White Settlement. Their store was located across the street from the elementary and junior high schools. With a soda fountain and grill, the drug store was a popular place.
One day Dee planned to serve chili dogs and put on a big pot of chili. Just before the lunch rush, he went to the pantry only to discover that they were out of buns. When lunch hour came, the kids from school came in and wanted the chili dogs. Mr. Laws had a brilliant idea. He slit open a bag of Fritos and poured in some chili and announced that they were serving a brand new item, Fritos and Chili. It was a big hit and Mr. Laws had to double his order for Fritos. Then in a short time he had to double it again. A few weeks after that, the sales manager for Frito Lay noticed that Laws Brothers Drug Store was selling five times as many Fritos as any other outlet. He immediately drove to the drug store to see why Fritos were suddenly a hot item. Frito-Lay was interested and the two men came up with "Frito Pie" and the name for the new dish.
In order to increase sales, Frito-Lay began promoting Frito Pie throughout their marketing area. It became a standard menu item in many places in a very short time.
Note: My family lived in White Settlement from 1943 until 1952; I visited that drug store many times. Dee Laws passed away in 2008 at age 95. This history is accurate, as far as I know. It can be verified by contacting the White Settlement Historical Museum.
I loved your story on Fritos Pie. It brought back the times in high school in the ’60s in Grand Prairie, when we would go to the Dairy Queen and order Fritos Pie. My favorite was with onions, chili, mustard, and hamburger dill slices. Yum! Yum!
JOAN BRONSTAD, Dallas
Bert’s BBQ has been serving “Frito-Pie” and “Turbo” since 1970. They are located at 3563 Far West Blvd, Austin, TX 78731 (512) 345-2378. The ”Frito-Pie” is their second best selling dish.
Recipe for Frito-Pie served in a boat: Fritos, chopped beef, beans and BBQ sauce.
Recipe for the “Turbo” also served in a boat is the same as the “Frito-pie” plus brisket and sausage.
These Frito concoctions have been a staple for the business for over 40 years. Their BBQ (brisket, beef sausage, pork and beef ribs and chicken) is considered the best in Austin. It is always cut when ordered and has a wonderful oak smoked taste.
LARRY SCHROEDER, Austin
My dad worked for the Frito company, so yes, we had Frito Pie out of the bag. When I was young that was fun and a treat, same as pouring milk into a split open cereal box to eat the cereal.
Seeing the picture of C.E. Doolin, my heart was touched. My dad always said he was a fine man and he looked up to him. Daddy was so loyal to the Frito company that if my mother brought home Dentler’s potato chips, he’d jump on her about it. Support Frito products, he instructed. Guess he was right.
I am amazed that Frito Pie is still around, but it is. I see it on drugstore menus, James Coney Island, and other places. Yes, it’s Texas comfort food, and nowyou’ve gone and made me want a Frito Pie.
Somewhere my dad is smiling.
DIANE LOWREY, Houston
As a young U.S. Army captain in the fall of 1966, I was assigned duty in Vietnam with the 41st Civil Affairs Company as a team chief of a civil affairs team attached to the 3d Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, operating out of a firebase near Pleiku in the central highlands. I hand-carried 6 cans of Wolf Chili in my duffle bag with me from my home in Texas but needless to say the chili did not last me very long. My father-in-law knew of my predicament and he told someone who worked at Wolf Chili in Corsicana that I still had over 6 months of duty remaining on my Vietnam tour and was out of Wolf Chili. It wasn't long before I received a package of cans of Wolf Chili in the mail.
About this time my duties changed and I was assigned to the headquarters of the civil affairs unit in Nha Trang where I shared quarters with three other young officers. One was a Lieutenant from New Jersey, one was a captain from Michigan, and one was a captain from Ohio. The Post Exchange began selling bags of Fritos about the time my chili arrived, and I obtained an onion and some cheddar cheese from the rations distribution point and told the other three officers I was going to make Fritos Chili Pie.
They were all skeptical when I told them what it was, but after tasting it they were convinced that it was truly special. They wanted Fritos Chili Pie so often that we had to ration out when I would make it. I am still in contact with the officers from New Jersey and Ohio, and to this day they make Fritos Chili Pie themselves and have introduced it to their families and friends over the past 40 plus years. Fritos Chili Pie will always be special to me.
JOHN SCHMIDT III, Martindale
Dear Texas Highways:
Thanks for the article about Fritos. They are just so good, no one has ever been able to duplicate them!
Now about the Frito Pie – “a quality pleasure?” No, no, no – you just sit back and enjoy every bite! My favorite place to eat it is in my own kitchen, using my own recipe, which I’ve fed to my husband for almost 65 years and raised four kids on it. They all still love it!
This is how it goes. Take a can of chili (I use “Wolf Brand”), a can of Ranch Style Beans (the real ones, not the generic ones), chopped onion (you can’t get too much), grated sharp cheddar cheese (again you can’t get too much), and lots of Fritos – then layer these ingredients in a casserole dish (deep one) ending with lots of Fritos on top. Bake at 350° to 375° until bubbly around edges – just before removing from oven, add layer of cheese on top and enjoy – also the ingredients are easier to layer if you can pre-heat the chili and beans. I also serve a bowl of Pace’s Salsa with it. And again, generic salsa just won’t do!
This is “Good, Good, Good” and my mouth waters just writing about it! Definitely a real comfort food!
Other wonderful uses for Fritos is to sprinkle on top of ice cream—talk about comfort foods, this is heavenly! And instead of rice noodles, sprinkle Fritos over stir fry vegetable with rice—a real treat.
We always have a couple packs of Fritos on hand. Another use we really like is a handful of Fritos with a glass of wine (red or white).
Actually the ways for using Fritos are endless and I can’t imagine a world without them! And I do not believe that anyone will ever be able to duplicate them.
HELEN WEDDLE, Weatherford
In 1946 – 1949 as WWII veterans were returning to resume their education via the GI Bill, Frito Pie was always on hand for get-togethers. For one thing, even the guys could turn this dish, perhaps accompanied by a bowl of mashed potatoes into an economical meal.
At Hardin College, now Midwestern State University, in Wichita Falls, the college had solved housing the many married veterans by setting aside a back section of the campus for a group of mobile homes, and this dish became a necessity at those little kitchen gatherings.
As “My Oh My! Fritos Pie!” indicated, this favorite consisted of Fritos, chopped onions, canned chili, and grated cheese. These were layered in a casserole or pan and baked in an oven at moderate temperature until the onions were tender. I’ve never known anyone to turn down this dish. Over the years I have served it to rave reviews from my family of eight children.
BETTYE (HANEY SMITH) HUMPHRIES, San Antonio