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Evva Hanes, who made Moravian biscuits world famous, dies at the age of 90

    Evva Hanes, a North Carolina farmer who turned an age-old Moravian cookie tradition, learned by watching her mother bake on a wood-burning stove, into a family business, one that now produces millions of fragile, crunchy Moravian cookies every year, died at 22 June at her home in Clemmons, NC. She was 90.

    The cause was complications from brain cancer, said her grandson Jedidiah Hanes Templin, who is president of the Moravian Sugar Crisp Company, known as Mrs. Hanes’ Hand-Made Moravian Cookies.

    The Moravians were pre-Reformation Eastern European Protestants who sought refuge from persecution in Germany. Before the American Revolutionary War, some left for Pennsylvania, taking with them a recipe for a spicy ginger biscuit called Lebkuchen.

    They continued to move, and in the mid-18th century a religious community began on a large tract of land in North Carolina that would become the town of Winston-Salem. Southern food scientist John Egerton wrote that the North Carolina Moravians, like the Pennsylvania Dutch—whom he called “their theological and gastronomic kin”—have maintained a strong baking tradition that dates back hundreds of years.

    Debbie Moose, a North Carolina cookbook author who has written about Mrs. Hanes and other Moravian cookie bakers, recalled a time when you could only find the cookie in the Winston-Salem area.

    “It’s so unique,” she said in an interview. “You didn’t even see it in other parts of the state.”

    Mrs. Hanes, the youngest of seven, grew up watching her mother, Bertha Foltz, make and sell hundreds of the thin biscuits to supplement what little money the family’s small dairy farm brought in. Other Moravian women also sold biscuits, made with molasses and warm winter spices such as cloves and ginger that were popular around Christmas.

    Mrs. Foltz started baking a crunchy vanilla-scented version as a way to differentiate herself and extend the sales season. By 8 o’clock Evva was able to bake them herself. By the age of 20, she had taken over her mother’s business and slowly began to expand it, selling both the original sugar chips and the traditional ginger version, but eventually adding other flavors, such as lemon and black walnut.

    In 2010, the cookies were so popular that Oprah Winfrey added them to her list of favorite things. “It wouldn’t be Christmas if Quincy Jones didn’t send me Mrs. Hanes’ cookies,” she wrote in her magazine.

    The biscuits are still rolled, cut and packaged by hand, with around 10 million sold each year to the local population – who pass by the company’s small factory, next to the family’s home, to pick up a few cans – and a solid list of national and international customers.

    “I could make 100 pounds of cookies in eight hours if someone did the baking, and I stopped at nothing,” Ms. Hanes said in a recent oral history produced by the Southern Foodways Alliance. “I’m a time-and-motion expert, I guess, because I didn’t make any moves that weren’t necessary.”

    Evva Caroline Foltz was born on November 7, 1932, in Clemmons, a suburb of Winston-Salem, to Alva and Bertha (Crouch) Foltz, descendants of Pennsylvania Moravian settlers. A shy, freckled redhead with a strong work ethic and natural athleticism, Evva was a high school basketball star who was recruited to inspect nylons at the Hanes Hosiery Mill (no relation), in part so she could be on the company’s basketball team. to play. .

    “I’m still good at basketball,” she wrote in a 2017 vacation letter to clients. She wrote the letters every year through 2022, when she completed her autobiography, “What More Could I Ask For,” which she self-published this year.

    In 1998, she self-published a 600-recipe cookbook, “Dinner’s at Six and We’re Not Waiting,” based on the dishes she would make for the large dinner parties she cooked almost weekly.

    The family cookie business was still a small kitchen business when, on June 13, 1952, she married Travis Hanes, a gum and candy company salesman. The two had met in eighth grade and he was the only friend she ever had.

    “I knew she was looking for a husband,” Mr. Hanes said in a 2019 video for Our State magazine. “I didn’t know she was looking for a future employee. She has both.”

    Together they grew the business and appeared at trade shows, the state fair and everywhere they thought they could find customers. In 1970 the company had grown so big that they built a bakery next to the parental home.

    “We got tired of waking up to the smell of cookies every morning,” Ms. Hanes said in Oral History. They’ve since added to it seven times, relying on an old baking crew of mostly women who’ve learned the craft from the master.

    In addition to her grandson Jedidiah, Mrs. Hanes is survived by her husband; their four children, Ramona Hanes Templin, Caroline Hanes Fordham, and Michael and Jonathan Hanes; six other grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

    Mrs. Hanes was active in the 250-year-old Friedberg Moravian Church. It is on the same road as the house her great-grandfather built in 1842, where she was born and where she died. All of her children and grandchildren live nearby. Many work or have worked for the family business, continuing a philosophy Ms. Hanes often repeated:

    “We made everything we could make and sold everything we could make and every year we would make a few more.”