Category: Food history

Let’s Have an Iowa Potluck with a Side of History!

Dubuque is home to some of Iowa’s most distinctive culinary traditions, from turkey dressing sandwiches to the memorable meals served at the iconic Hotel Julien Dubuque. We’re going to be eating up all this local flavor at a potluck on Sept. 7 at the Carnegie-Stout Public Library in Dubuque, starting at 5:30 p.m., followed by my “Culinary History of Iowa” program—and you’re invited!

Click here for all the details.

In meantime, here’s a sample of some classic Dubuque recipes to tempt you.  These recipes come from a variety of sources, including two cookbooks (including The Flavor of Dubuque and Another Flavor of Dubuque) compiled by The Women’s Auxiliary of the Dubuque Symphony Orchestra. Not only do those cookbooks include tried-and-true local recipes, but they feature many photos of local landmarks. The third cookbook (Cedar Ridge Farm Recipes) appears to have been a collection of family recipes, and librarian Sarah Smith isn’t sure how it came to be in the Carnegie-Stout’s collection, but it’s charming.

Thanks, Sarah, for sharing these recipes and offering us a true taste of Dubuque!

One more thing–if you’re in Dubuque, stop by Cremer’s Grocery, a Dubuque classic since 1948, for their famous turkey dressing sandwiches and other goodies! Also, here are some fun facts about Dubuque, an All-American City that’s truly a “Masterpiece on the Mississippi:”

Dubuque Iowa

Source: American Realty

The Flavor of Dubuque (published 1971)

Page 26
Derby Grange Steak. The present owners of what was the main farmstead in the area west of Dubuque long known as Derby Grange found this recipe behind an old picture of President Harding left by the previous owners. Cut 1 thick round steak into 1-inch pieces. Pound very thin and sprinkle with flour, salt, pepper, a little cumin and dill. Poud again and brown pieces on both sides in a little butter or other fat. Place in baking dish and pour over 1 cup tomato sauce. Bake, covered, at 300 degrees for 1 hour. Serves 7. Can be frozen. -Joan Mulgrew

A Dubuque original –24-Hour Cabbage Salad

Page 74
Dubuque 24-Hour Cabbage Salad. Dubuque was given credit for this recipe in a statewide newspaper story which featured foods enjoyed by Dubuque boaters who spend as much time as possible on “the best part of the Mississippi” in the golden days of summer. The salad should be refrigerated at least 24 hours before using. It will stay crisp for a long time. For the dressing combine 1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin and 1/4 cup cold water; let stand to soften. Heat together 1 cup vinegar and 1 1/2 cups sugar until sugar is dissolved. Add 1 teaspoon celery seed, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and 1 cup salad oil. Combine 6 to 8 cups shredded cabbage, 2 shredded carrots, 1 grated onion and 2 green peppers, grated. Toss with enough dressing to moisten and refrigerate 24 hours. Remainder of dressing will keep in refrigerator for weeks. -Mrs. Joseph S. Mattes

More recipes from Dubuque, Iowa

Another Flavor of Dubuque (published 1983)
Page 70
Welsh Rarebit. Shred 1/2 pound Cheddar cheese, put in double boiler and let melt slowly over hot water. Keep water below boiling point. Add 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard, paprika, salt and a few dashes cayenne pepper. Stir in 1 cup milk or cream and 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce. Mixture should be smooth and velvety. Serve on hot buttered toast. Strips of bacon are especially good over this.

Welsh Rarebit became a traditional Sunday night supper in the girls’ boarding school at Sinsinawa Mound (this is technically across the river in Wisconsin, but many of the students would have been from Dubuque.) The recipe’s simplicity and flexibility accommodated the varying number of returning students each Sunday night. It was sometimes served over tomatoes or ham. -Bette F. Schmid

Page 156
Dubuque Symphony Orchestra Auxiliary English Toffee. This delicious toffee was sold at the 1981 Designer Showcase, and the Auxillary has had many, many requests for the recipe. Line cookie sheet with foil. In heavy pan mix 1 cup sugar, 1/2 pound butter, 1/4 cup water, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and 1 cup chopped pecans. Cook quickly over medium high heat, stirring constantly, to a rolling boil. Cook to hard crack stage, 300 degrees on candy thermometer. Pour on cookie sheet. Cool and break into pieces. Store in air tight container. Do not freeze, refrigerate or make substitutions in recipe. -Mary Stauffer

Cedar Ridge Farm Recipes by Rita Tarnutzer Montgomery (published 1999)

Page 69
Chocolate Chip Cookies (Monster Cookies)
1/2 cup margarine
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 cup oatmeal
1 cup corn flakes
2+ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
12 ounces chocolate chips

Bake for 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees.

NOTE from Rita: For Monster Cookies, form into 5 oz. balls and flatten into 7-inch diameter circles, two to a cookie sheet. Bake for about 14 minutes at 350 degrees. Makes 8 cookies.

In 1976, when Al had his first antique shop, on 16th and Central Ave., he had a huge glass cookie jar. His idea was to display a couple of really big cookies in it. Everyone wanted to buy them! So, I began baking these monster cookies, 32 at a time and selling them for twenty-five cents each. (They cost twelve cents each to make.) I couldn’t keep up with the demand, so he raised the price to thirty-five cents and still they sold. School kids stopped on their way home from school and bought a cookie to share!

Page 159
Turkey & Dressing Sandwiches
from Janet Duscher, 12/88

Bake in a covered roaster until meat falls from bones: 1 – 12 lb. turkey
Remove meat from bones and chop.
Cook together:
1 1/2 cups cooking juices
3/4 cup margarine
2 1/2 cups chopped celery
3 medium onions, chopped
2 tablespoons sage
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
1 – 1 ½-ounce package dry onion soup mix
1 – 10 3/4 ounces cream of chicken soup

Cube: 2 loaves of day-old bread (about 6 quarts)

Stir together bread cubes, juices with vegetables and seasonings and turkey.
Bake in a greased pan at 350 degrees until heated thoroughly, about one hour.
Serve hot in buns.

Want more?
Thanks for stopping by.  I invite you to read more of my blog posts if you want more more intriguing Iowa stories and history, along with Iowa food, recipes and tips to make you a better communicator. If you like what you see and want to be notified when I post new stories, be sure to click on the “subscribe to blog updates/newsletter” button at the top of this page. Feel free to share this information with friends and colleagues who might be interested, too.

If you’re hungry for more stories of Iowa history, check out my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More” book from The History Press, as well as my Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing, which showcases the history of small-town and rural Iowa. Order your signed copies today! Iowa postcards are available in my online store, too.

Let’s stay in touch. I’m at darcy@darcymaulsby.com, and yettergirl@yahoo.com.

P.S. Thanks for joining me. I’m glad you’re here. 

@Copyright 2017 Darcy Maulsby & Co. 

About me:
Some people know me as Darcy Dougherty Maulsby, while others call me Yettergirl. I grew up on a Century Farm between Lake City and Yetter and am proud to call Calhoun County, Iowa, home. I’m an author, writer, marketer, business owner and entrepreneur who specializes in agriculture.  Learn more at www.darcymaulsby.com. 

Busting the Iowa Butter Gang

“Hey, did you ever hear of the Iowa Butter Gang?” It’s the last question I expected to hear during my recent “Culinary History of Iowa” book signing in West Des Moines, and it definitely caught my attention.

It came from Jan Kaiser, a former Des Moines librarian who had first “encountered” the nefarious gang a few years ago through research into 70+-year old newspaper archives.

Turns out that crime came in many forms during the Great Depression. Back then, butter was big business in rural Iowa. Not only was Iowa a leading dairy state, but hundreds of Iowa creameries produced high-quality butter that helped make Iowa a top shipper of butter into the New York City area, I learned recently from Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey.

While some Depression-era criminals robbed banks, some thieves in rural Iowa opted to rob creameries. A headline in the Aug. 6, 1936, edition of the Adams County Free Press newspaper announced, “Hunt for Iowa Gang in 17 Iowa Creamery Butter Robberies: Officers Believe Larceny Work of Organized Gang.”

The article noted that during the spring and summer of 1936, a new “racket” had sprung up in Iowa in the form of an organized gang that preyed on creameries throughout the state. By early August 1936, more than 20 tons of butter had been stolen from 17 Iowa creameries since early April 1936. “The loot taken so far is estimated to total more than 20 tons and is valued at $15,000,” noted the news article.

In most cases, the creameries that were broken into were located on the edge of town or in isolated spots. The gang’s targets in 1936 included:

• April 3, Palmer, 2,172 pounds
• April 8, Fenton, 3,440 pounds
• May 15, Fenton, 2,080 pounds
• May 28, Edgewood, 630 pounds
• June 4, Britt, 5,184 pounds
• June 12, Kimballton, 4,000 pounds
• June 20, Coulter, 4,095 pounds
• June 30, Afton, 2,200 pounds
• July 1, Hampton, 2,209 pounds
• July 3, Hubbard, 7,488 pounds
• July 8, Palmer, 3,553 pounds
• July 11, Randall, 2,304 pounds
• July 22, Afton, 2,764 pounds
• July 30, Nashua, 1,500 pounds
• July 31, Masonville, 2,228 pounds
• August 3, Dumont, 1,100 pounds
• August 3, Oran, 1,000 pounds

“It is believed that before each burglary, the creamery is selected by the gang and careful plans made,” stated the Adams County Free Press. “The robbers are evidently expert burglars and experience little difficulty in breaking into creameries. They use a truck and are gone with their loot before local officials know there has been a burglary.”

Butter making was big business in small-town creameries across Iowa in the 1930s, including this creamery in Somers (featured in my Calhoun County book). George Smith built Somers’ first creamery was built in 1900. In 1913 S. P. Petersen purchased and updated the creamery, which became a major business in town for many years. The round tubs in this photo each held 65 pounds of butter. This butter was sold to area stores. In Fort Dodge alone, about 2 tons of butter was sold each week. Butter from Somers was also sent to New York.

Peddling “hot butter”
The writer speculated that the gang must have a central warehouse, since butter is highly perishable. The apparent racket reached such epic proportions that Iowa Department of Justice officials concentrated their efforts to apprehend the gang. “Officers believe this ‘hot butter’ is peddled through a ‘fence’ in some large city, possibly Chicago or Omaha,” the writer noted.
(A fence is someone who knowingly buys stolen property for later resale, sometimes in a legitimate market. The fence acts as a middleman between thieves and the eventual buyers of stolen goods who may not be aware that the goods are stolen.)

The article continued, “The Farmers Co-operative Creamery here [in Corning] so far has escaped the attention of the organized gang, but a close watch is being kept on the creamery during periods when an excessive amount of butter is in cold storage.”

It’s no wonder locals were keeping a close watch. The Farmers Co-op Creamery shipped thousands of dollars of butter each year to the New York market. The Adams County Free Press reported that two local truck drivers would each take eight-hour driving shifts and drive straight through from Iowa to New York. The best time they made from Iowa to New York was 64 hours, although the trip usually took 65 to 70 hours.

About 200 pounds of dry ice were used for refrigeration during the trip. On the return trip, the drivers hauled any kind of freight they were able to pick up. In 1935, the Corning creamery shipped 985,000 pounds of butter, noted the newspaper article. Due to the harsh winter and summer drought of 1936, however, that year’s production was expected to fall far below average—a fact that made the butter robberies of 1936 even more devastating in rural Iowa.

Finally—a big break in the case
By August 1936, officers with the Iowa State Patrol (formed just a year earlier in 1935) and a group of northern Iowa vigilantes and deputy sheriffs had been driving the secondary and dirt roads nightly for the last two months, trying to catch the butter gang, according to the Des Moines Tribune (the capital city’s afternoon newspaper that ended in 1982).

Some promising leads ended in disappointment. In the summer of 1936, officers arrested Harvey Mighell of Holstein on suspicion that he was connected with the butter gang. He was taken to Audubon, where he was questioned and later released under $2,000 bond. Mighell denied having anything to do with the Iowa butter thefts.

Law enforcement officials got a big break, however, by late August 1936. A headline in the Aug. 29, 1936, edition of the Des Moines Tribune proclaimed “Iowa Butter Gang Crushed.”
Turns out an Omaha gang of six men and one woman stole some $30,000 worth of butter, cheese and eggs in a string of more than 30 robberies across Iowa in 1936. (The pilfered dairy products were worth nearly $525,000 in today’s money.) The butter was trucked to Omaha and was sold through a fence.

“Virtually every sheriff in northern Iowa has been on the case as well as several detectives of the Omaha police department and other Iowa town police departments,” the reporter noted.
Iowa prosecutors charged the gang with 32 robberies. Detectives recovered 70 tubs of butter, the Tribune reported, 66 of which had been stolen from a creamery in Wesley. All the cheese was lifted from Ionia, the story reported. Law enforcement officials took the dairy products and sold them through legitimate channels to packers in Omaha.

“Capture of the Butter Gang was the climax of one of the greatest Iowa manhunts in recent years,” officials told the newspaper.

One more try?
The story wasn’t over, though. Less than five years later, one of the original butter gang members tried to revive the scheme. Under the headline “Butter Theft Gang Thwarted,” the Jan. 15, 1941, issue of the Mason City Globe-Gazette reported the arrest of Bryon Green, 32, of Sioux City. “R.W. Nebergall, chief of the Iowa Bureau of Investigation, believed that Green was attempting to set up a new ‘butter theft gang’ in Iowa,” stated the article.

On Dec. 13, 1940, Green had been released from prison in Stillwater, Minnesota, after serving three and a half years for burglary. Within a few weeks of his release from prison, Green was arrested by Chicago police, who accused him of entering the Masonville, Iowa, creamery on January 9, 1941, and shipping 1,230 pounds of stolen butter to a Chicago firm.

Thus ended the saga of the infamous butter gangs that terrorized rural Iowa in the 1930s. Their nearly forgotten story faded into history, along with the small-town creameries that once inspired their notorious crime spree.

Want more?
Thanks for stopping by. I invite you to read more of my blog posts if you want more more intriguing Iowa stories and history, along with Iowa food, recipes and tips to make you a better communicator. If you like what you see and want to be notified when I post new stories, be sure to click on the “subscribe to blog updates/newsletter” button at the top of this page. Feel free to share this information with friends and colleagues who might be interested, too.

If you’re hungry for more stories of Iowa history, check out my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More” book from The History Press, as well as my Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing, which showcases the history of small-town and rural Iowa. Order your signed copies today! Iowa postcards are available in my online store, too.

Let’s stay in touch. I’m at darcy@darcymaulsby.com.

P.S. Thanks for joining me. I’m glad you’re here. 

@Copyright 2017 Darcy Maulsby & Co. 

About me:
Some people know me as Darcy Dougherty Maulsby, while others call me Yettergirl. I grew up on a Century Farm between Lake City and Yetter and am proud to call Calhoun County, Iowa, home. I’m an author, writer, marketer, business owner and entrepreneur who specializes in agriculture.  Learn more at www.darcymaulsby.com. 

The Lytton Cooperative Creamery Association (featured in my Calhoun County book) was organized in June 1933. Capital for the new venture came from local farmers, who subscribed for shares on a basis of $5 per cow. In 1936, the creamery produced 110,000 pounds of butter. Grade A milk was processed, bottled, and distributed under the name “Lytton Maid” until this was discontinued in 1963. The plant closed in August 1979.

Get Your Grill On: How to Build a Better Burger

Love the thrill of the grill? I sure do, especially when I’m crafting a thick, juicy burger I can sink my teeth into. While we talk a lot about burgers during May Beef Month, how much do you really know about this American icon?

The classic hamburger we know and love today is very much an American invention. Stemming from German culinary roots, the burger-on-a-bun phenomenon gained widespread fame at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.

Disaster struck two years later, however, when Upton Sinclair’s novel “The Jungle” (remember the book’s lurid details from high school literature class?) detailed the unsavory side of the American meatpacking industry. Ground beef became a prime suspect, since it could easily be adulterated with questionable additives.

The hamburger might have faded away as a long-forgotten fad were it not for Edgar Ingram and Walter Anderson. When they opened their first White Castle restaurant in Kansas in 1921, White Castle countered the hamburger’s unsavory reputation by becoming bastions of cleanliness, health and hygiene. This paved the way for national hamburger chains founded in the post-World War II boom years, including McDonald’s.

Best burgers, Iowa style
Iowa has made its own distinctive contributions to America’s burger history. Consider the wildly popular Iowa’s Best Burger contest, sponsored by the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association (ICA) and the Iowa Beef Industry Council (IBIC). Iowans submitted more than 9,200 nominations for this year’s contest. Nearly 500 Iowa restaurants were represented in 2017 in the total nominations, setting a new record for the contest.

As a former judge of Iowa’s Best Burger contest, I can tell you how tough it is to pick a winner. Iowans know how to make bodacious burgers, a story I made sure to include in my “Culinary History of Iowa” book.

Size matters when it comes to the Gunderburger at the Irish Shanti, which made the 2017 Top 10 list. The famous Gunderburger started in the late 1970s to put the tiny northeast Iowa community of Gunder on the map. The first Gunderburgers were a smaller version of the one served today. As the Gunderburger started growing in size in the 1990s, its notoriety also grew.

Another 2017 Top 10 Best Burger in Iowa contender is the Ankeny Diner, which offers Maytag Burgers, featuring Iowa’s famous Maytag blue cheese, sautéed onion and Monterey jack cheese. Don’t care for blue cheese? Maybe you’d prefer the Rarebit Burger, served open-faced and topped with spicy Cheddar cheese sauce.

Rarebits were legendary at the iconic Younkers Tea Room in downtown Des Moines for decades. An Iowa-style rarebit burger elevates the traditional Welsh rarebit, which incorporates leftover bits of cheese and the end-of-the-loaf slices of stale bread for a quick supper.

Speaking of Des Moines, the historic East Village is the home of the incomparable Zombie Burger. A previous Top 10 Best Burger in Iowa contender, Zombie Burger serves “gore-met” creations made from the shop’s own custom three-cut beef burger blend. With locations in downtown Des Moines, Ankeny, West Des Moines and the Iowa City area, Zombie Burger is distinguished by classics from the Undead Elvis (a burger paired with peanut butter, fried bananas, bacon, American cheese and mayo) to the Walking Ched (a burger featuring bacon, Cheddar cheese, caramelized onions and mayo on a deep-fried macaroni-and-cheese bun).

Hungry yet?
If all this inspiration has you craving top-quality, Iowa beef, here are my top tips to make your best burgers ever:

• Choose fresh 80/20 ground beef, which provides enough fat to keep your burgers juicy and flavorful.

• Worcestershire sauce adds a whole new depth of flavor to burgers. Add in a healthy dollop and mix it into the meat before forming the patties.

• Use your thumb to create a dimple or well in the center of each patty on the bottom. This helps ensure that the burgers cook evenly. Don’t worry—the indentation will hardly be noticeable by the time the burgers are ready.

• Cook your burgers over medium heat.

• As the patties cook, sprinkle them liberally on both sides with a mixture of salt, fresh-ground pepper, Lawry’s seasoning salt, garlic powder and onion powder.

• Avoid using your spatula to press down on your burgers while cooking. Don’t let all those flavorful juices escape.

• Allow your burgers to rest for a few minutes before serving. This will ensure that the juices redistribute into the meat. Enjoy!

Have any favorite burger recipes or cooking tips? I’d love to hear them. Now go get your grill on!

Hungry for more?
Want more burger inspiration? Check out my blog post on the Lake City Drive-In, where owner Larry Irwin is not only a beef booster, but someone who sees burgers as the perfect palette for culinary creativity with his Burger of the Month flavors. (Don’t miss my recipe for Meatloaf Burgers!)

Larry Irwin shows off some tasty burgers from the Lake City Drive-In.

If you’re hungry for more stories of Iowa history, Larry is kind enough to carry my books at the Lake City Drive-In. Not close to Lake City? I invite you to visit my online store, where you can purchase my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More” book from The History Press, as well as my “Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing, which showcases the history of small-town and rural Iowa. Order your signed copies today! Iowa postcards are available in my online store, too.

One more thing–check out more of my blog posts if you want more Iowa stories, history and recipes, as well as tips to make you a better communicator. If you like what you see and want to be notified when I post new stories, be sure to click on the “subscribe to blog updates/newsletter” button at the top of this page. Let’s stay in touch!

This originally appeared as one of my weekly columns in Farm News. 

P.S. Thanks for joining me. I’m glad you’re here. 

@Copyright 2017 Darcy Maulsby & Co. 

Iowa’s Lost History from the Titanic

I perished on the Titanic, yet I’ve lived to tell the forgotten stories of Iowa’s ties to one of the most famous luxury liners in history. It all started when I attended the Johnson County Historical Society’s “Afternoon Tea on the Titanic” in April 2, 2017, and my boarding pass said I was third-class passenger Frances Lefebvre, 40, of Lievin, France.

As Lefebvre, my four youngest children and I were traveling to Mystic, Iowa, to join my husband, Franck, and our for older children who had moved to Iowa a year prior. I died, along with my four youngest kids, during the sinking of Titanic in the early-morning hours of April 15, 1912.

I was not alone. Of the approximately 2,207 passengers who boarded the Titanic, only an estimated 705 survived. Like Frances Lefebvre, a number of Titanic’s passengers had ties to Iowa. Here are their stories.

Titanic survivor, Orphan Train rider kept low profile in Council Bluffs
One of Titanic’s last living survivors lived in Council Bluffs for decades and rarely spoke of the maritime tragedy or her connection to the Orphan Train Movement.

Helen Delaney’s remarkable story began when she was thrown overboard as Titanic sank. Someone caught the 4-year-old, and she survived the night, although her parents perished. While the family had boarded the ship in England, the names of Delaney’s birth parents are unknown, and Delaney’s didn’t know her exact birth date, according to a 2012 news report in the Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil.

With the other Titanic survivors, Delaney arrived in New York on April 18, 1912, where she was placed in an orphanage. James P. Delaney, a Council Bluffs locomotive engineer for the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Rail Company (now BNSF), and his wife adopted the girl after she arrived in Council Bluffs via an orphan train sometime in the mid to late 1910s.

Orphan trains brought thousands of children to Iowa and beyond
Children on these orphan trains ranged in age from about six to 18, and they shared a common grim existence. There was little hope of a successful future for these kids if they stayed in the streets, slums and orphanages of New York City.

Their numbers were staggering. An estimated 30,000 children were homeless in New York City as early as the 1850s. The plight of these abandoned, neglected children commanded the attention of a young minister named Charles Loring Brace. He believed that by removing youngsters from the poverty of the city and placing them with Christian farm families, these children could have a chance of escaping a lifetime of suffering.

Brace, who founded the Children’s Aid Society, proposed that these children be sent by train to live and work on farms out west. They would be placed in homes for free but they wouldn’t be indentured.

Children like Helen Delaney boarded westbound trains in groups of up to 40, accompanied by two agents from the Children’s Aid Society. Advertisements appeared in local newspapers along the route in advance of each orphan train’s arrival. When the trains stopped, the children were paraded in front of the crowd and took turns giving their names, singing a song or “saying a piece,” according to “Lost Children: Riders on the Orphan Train,” an article that appeared in HUMANITIES magazine in November/December 2007.

Although the strong demand for the orphans was often motivated by a need for labor, the Children’s Aid Society took pains to ensure the children were well cared for. Families applying to take children had to be endorsed by a committee of local business owners, doctors and other respected community members. Representatives from the society would visit each family once a year to check on conditions, and children were expected to write letters back to the society twice a year, noted the “Lost Children” article.

The Orphan Train Movement, which lasted from 1853 to 1929, placed nearly a quarter of a million children in new homes across the country. This ambitious, unusual social experiment is now recognized as the beginning of the foster care concept in the United States. While some of the children struggled in their newfound surroundings, many others like Helen Delaney went on to lead successful, normal lives as they worked towards the American dream.

Delaney attended school in Council Bluffs, including Mount Loretto Catholic High School. She remained in Council Bluffs, never married and never had children. She lived in anonymity in an apartment at Regal Towers on South Sixth Street, according to the Council Bluffs Nonpareil.

For much of her adult life, Delaney worked as a sales clerk at the Kresge’s five-and-dime store. Only a few people in town knew that this petite, shy, nice clerk had survived Titanic. “She rarely talked about her Titanic legacy,” Dick Warner of the Historical Society of Pottawattamie County told the Council Bluffs Nonpareil in 2012. “Most people who knew her weren’t even aware of it.”

Delaney died on January 26, 1982, at age 74 and was buried at St. Joseph Cemetery off McPherson Avenue in Council Bluffs. She was the only known passenger on Titanic to live in Council Bluffs.

Picture from the book “Not My Time to Die” by Lilly Setterdahl

“Life no longer has any value for me”
Like Delaney, many of Titanic’s survivors and victims were immigrants headed to America to begin a new life. In other cases, the travelers were only planning to visit before returning to Europe. Such was the story of second-class passenger Dagmar Lustig Bryhl, 20, who looked forward to attending a wedding in Red Oak, Iowa, and visiting her uncle Oscar Lustig in Rockford, Illinois, before returning to Sweden.

Author Lilly Setterdahl of East Moline, Illinois, has captured the often heartbreaking—and sometimes heroic—stories of Bryhl and the 122 other Swedes on board Titanic in her fascinating 2012 book, Not My Time to Die. I listened for any tidbits connected to Iowa as Setterdahl related many of these stories during the “Afternoon Tea on the Titanic” in Iowa City.

Consider the letter Bryhl wrote to her uncle while she recuperated in New York following the Titanic disaster (as documented in Not My Time to Die, page 119). Bryhl became so distraught that she wished she had been permitted to die on Titanic with her fiancé, Ingvar Enander, and brother, Kurt.

Dear Uncle,
Titanic has gone down. I don’t know whether my fiancé and my brother Kurt are saved. Evidently, they are not, for most of the men went under. I am at a hospital but am not sick, although very feeble. I have lost everything. I have no clothes, and so cannot get up, so must lie in bed for present.

I would have been glad if I had been permitted to die, because life no longer has any value for me since I lost my beloved. I feel myself so dreadfully alone in this land. These people are certainly good, but nevertheless do not understand me.”

Bryhl asked her uncle to come find her, which he did. Bryhl required bed rest after the long, tiresome journey to Rockford, and she refused to talk to reporters. Her uncle related bits and pieces of her story to local newspapers.

“I was in my berth when the Titanic hit the berg. I noticed the jar and soon I heard Ingvar [her fiancé] knocking on the door of my cabin.“Get up, Dagmar,” he said. “The ship has hit something.” I put on a skirt and coat as quickly as possible and hurried up to the deck. But the officers said, “Go back, there is no danger, you go to your cabins.”

Bryhl returned to her berth and went back to bed. Soon there was more knocking on her door.

“Get up, Dagmar, we are in danger!” Ingvar yelled. “I don’t care what the ship’s officers say. The boat is sinking.”

After pulling on her skirt and coat and running from her berth, Bryhl heard awful screaming and yelling. Women and children were being loaded into lifeboats. Men and women were kissing each other farewell. Ingvar and Kurt led Bryhl to a lifeboat, and Ingvar lifted his fiancé into the boat. She seized his hands and wouldn’t let go. “Come with me!” Bryhl screamed as loud as she could, still holding Ingvar’s hands tight. There was room in the lifeboat, which was only half full. Suddenly an officer ran forward and clubbed back Ingvar.

“This officer tore our hands apart, and the lifeboat was let down. As it went down, I looked up. There, leaning over the rail stood Kurt and Ingvar side by side. I screamed to them again, but it was no use. They waved their hands and smiled. That was the last glimpse I had of them.”

As the men in the lifeboat rowed the boat away from Titanic, the passengers shivered in the frigid night air as they watched the great ship sink.

“Then more dreadful screams,” said Bryhl, who recalled that the sea was so still it was clear as a mirror beneath the cloudless sky. “The water filled with crying people. Some of them climbed in our boat and so saved their lives.”

The small group of survivors huddled in the lifeboat until 6 a.m. on Monday, April 15, when the Carpathia arrived. Hours in the freezing air without adequate clothing to protect against the stinging cold numbed Bryhl’s body.

According to her uncle, Bryhl declared repeatedly between hysterical sobs that she never would have allowed her brother and fiancé to put her in the lifeboat if she thought the two men would be lost. She said she would rather have died with them when the great ship settled into the depths than to live with the memory of all that took place.

Bryhl returned home to Sweden in May 1912 after only a short time in Rockford. She later married a teacher named Eric Holmberg. She died in August 1969, Setterdahl noted.

“Not my time to die”
During “Afternoon Tea on the Titanic,” Setterdahl (a native Swede herself) also detailed the life of 22-year-old Anna Nysten, the woman whose story provided the title for Setterdahl’s book.

Nysten had planned to leave Sweden in the summer of 1912 to visit her sister Klara in Passaic, New Jersey. However, some of Nysten’s friends who were headed to America that spring persuaded her to go with them. Nysten traveled with the Andersson family from Kisa, Sweden, and the Danbom family from Stanton, Iowa. Nysten would be the lone survivor of the 11-member group.

“I can hardly describe how it happened,” Nysten wrote to her parents in the wake of the Titanic disaster. “There was terrible screaming and groaning, but you and I ought to thank God that I am alive. I managed to get into a lifeboat because I don’t think it was my time to die. I’m supposed to experience more of the world.”

Nysten offered more details of the disaster after Titanic struck the iceberg (as documented in Not My Time to Die, pages 167-169).

“There was a terrible jolt, so we nearly fell out of bed. But then they said it was not serious, so the passengers calmed down until the ship began to sink and the deck was full of people.”

After someone took Nysten’s lifebelt and she began crying, a sailor gave her his life jacket. While her traveling companions proclaimed they would all go down together with the ship, a sailor pushed Nysten into a lifeboat.

“Oh, how terrible it was when everything went dark,” said Nysten, who recalled that her lifeboat could have held 63 people but only had about 40 passengers when it was lowered into the sea. “When the ship went down we were not far away and were almost sucked under.”

Nysten and the others in the lifeboat heard an awful rumbling noise as the great ship sank. They sat in the lifeboat from 1:30 a.m. to 6:30 a.m., but “fortunately the sea was calm,” she recalled.

“You can imagine how happy we were to see the steamer Carpathia close in on us and we could come aboard. They were so good to us.”

The survivors were given blankets, coffee and brandy (“as much as we wanted,” Nysten noted).

“But there was still much groaning and crying because most of us had lost a dear relative,” Nysten recalled. “Many became hysterical.”

In New York, Nysten was taken to the Swedish Immigrant Home, where she received $25 from the Women’s Relief Committee. Nysten spent three years in New York with friends and intended to return to Sweden, but when the Lusitania was torpedoed in 1915, she changed her mind. She came to Boone, Iowa, and moved to Des Moines in 1916, where she married Arvid Gustafson in 1917. The couple had three sons and were members of the First Lutheran Church in Des Moines.

Nysten was one of the few Titanic survivors who married, had children and was not reluctant to talk about her Titanic experience, although it took several years after the sinking before she was willing to share many of those haunting memories, Setterdahl noted. In 1937 on the 25th anniversary of the tragedy, Nysten said in a newspaper interview that she no longer dreamed about the disaster.

Nysten passed away March 28, 1977, and is buried in Resthaven Cemetery in West Des Moines.

“The lifeboats were all gone”

Some Swedes on the Titanic like Gunnar Tenglin were returning to their adopted home in Iowa. Tenglin, 25, had grown up in Sweden and emigrated to America around 1903 at age 16. He settled in Burlington, Iowa. Until he learned to speak English he worked with crews cutting ice on the Mississippi River. He learned English while working at the Horace Patterson farm.

Tenglin returned to Sweden in 1908 where he married his wife, Anna. A year after the couple’s son, Gunnar, was born in Stockholm in 1911, Tenglin made plans to return to Burlington. He acquired a third-class ticket to travel on Titanic. Tenglin considered third class on Titanic equal to first class on most other steamers, noted Setterdahl, who documents his story in Not My Time to Die, pages 191-194.

Late in the evening of April 14, 1912, Tenglin and his traveling companion, August Wennerstrom (a fellow Swede who would also survive the sinking) had come back from a party on board Titanic. Tenglin had just taken off his shoes and was preparing for bed when he felt a thud. He put his jacket on but left his shoes in his bunk and his lifejacket under his pillow. He never returned for them.

When he came up on deck, all the lifeboats were gone. An officer on deck engaged Tenglin as an interpreter since the Swede knew English. Tenglin thought that saved him, as noted in a 2012 Burlington Hawk Eye article, because he was still on deck translating the officer’s commands to other Swedes. Otherwise, he may have been below deck when the ship when down.

Tenglin, a tall man of medium build with light blue eyes and brown hair, provided specific details of that unforgettable night to the Burlington Daily Gazette in 1912:

“It looked to us as if we were doomed to perish with the ship when a collapsible lifeboat was discovered. This boat would hold about 50 people, and we had considerable trouble getting it loose from its fastenings. The boat was on the second deck, and the ship settled the question of its launching, as the water suddenly came up over the deck and the boat floated.”

The terror was far from over, though.

“There must have been 150 people swimming around or clinging to the boat, and we feared it would collapse or sink,” Tenglin said. “We had no oars or anything else to handle the boat and were at the mercy of the waves, but the sea was calm.”

There was no way to sit down, so the boats passengers stood up in knee-deep, ice-cold water. Basic survival instincts dominated the horrific scene.

“Those on the edges pushed the frantic people in the water back to their fates, it being feared they would doom us all,” Tenglin said.

A big Swede named Johnson was kept busy throwing corpses overboard, Tenglin added, since the survivors wanted to make the boat as light as possible to increase its buoyancy.

Tenglin and other passengers in Collapsible A were rescued by the Carpathia. When the ship arrived in New York, the American Red Cross and the Swedish American Society took pictures of the surviving immigrants and printed the images as picture postcards. Tenglin sent one of those postcards to his mother in Sweden, mailing it from Burlington on April 29, 1912.

Tenglin lived the rest of his life in Iowa, where he was joined by his wife and son who arrived from Sweden in 1913. Tenglin worked various jobs during his career, from the railroad to the local utility plant that supplied Burlington with gas. Tenglin passed away in 1974 at age 86 in Burlington and is buried in Aspen Grove Cemetery.

Immigrant recruiter buried in Stanton, Iowa
Other Swedes on board Titanic did not have the opportunity to live a long, full life. On pages 231-233 of Not My Time to Die, Setterdahl relates the sad fate of Ernest Danbom, a 34-year-old farmer and immigrant recruiter who was born and raised in Montgomery County, Iowa.

The son of two Swedish immigrants who farmed in southwest Iowa, Danbom married his wife, Anna, in 1910. The newlyweds traveled to Sweden for their honeymoon and remained with Anna’s family for a number of months. During this time, Anna gave birth to the couple’s son, Gilbert, in Kisa, Sweden, on November 16, 1911.

By April 1912, the young family prepared to return to America. Danbom also assumed the role of tour conductor for a group of 11 Swedes (including Anna Nysten and the Andersson family) who were traveling on Titanic.

As an immigrant recruiter, Danbom received a commission from each person he encouraged to come to America. Even after paying approximately $68 for a family cabin on Titanic, Danbom was carrying a substantial amount of money (including $276 in cash and $30 in gold) when he left Sweden, according to Not My Time to Die. He hoped that the money would help his family acquire a fruit farm in Turlock, California.

Tragically, none of the young family would survive the sinking of Titanic. Danbom’s wife and young son were lost at sea. Danbom’s body was recovered and brought to Halifax in Canada before being sent to Stanton, Iowa, for burial.

The Halifax coroner listed among his personal effects a black overcoat, dark suit, white pleated shirt, black boots, wedding ring marked “S.B.T.E.G.D., June 6, ’10,” gold watch and chain, knife, keys, opal and ruby ring, fountain pen, bracelet, ladies watch and chain, 3 memo books, solitaire diamond ring, scissors, U.S. naturalization papers, pocketbook, jewel case, and a check for $1,315.79, Security Bank, Sioux City.

Danbom is buried in the cemetery in Stanton. The inscription on his tombstone reads, “Ernest Danbom, 26 Oct 1877, died 15 April 1912, in Titanic disaster, his remains were recovered from the ocean. “Nearer My God to Thee.”

“No, I must be a gentleman”
In Cedar Rapids, attention focused on the well-known Douglas family, who endured an excruciating wait to learn the fate of Walter Douglas, 50, and his second wife, Mahala, first-class passengers on Titanic.

Walter Douglas was son of the founding partner of The Quaker Oats Company in Cedar Rapids. In 1903, Douglas and his brother George, founded the Douglas Starch Works, which produced cooking starch and oil, laundry starch, animal feed, soap stock and industrial starches.

After celebrating Christmas 1911 with the Douglas family at the Brucemore mansion in Cedar Rapids, Walter and Mahala traveled to Europe for a three-month vacation to celebrate Walter’s retirement, according to Brucemore historic site and community cultural center, which has preserved this history. While in Europe, the couple also purchased furnishings for their mansion on a bluff overlooking Lake Minnetonka near Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The couple bought first-class tickets for themselves and their French maid, Berthe Leroy, to return home aboard Titanic in time to celebrate Walter’s birthday on April 21 with family. First-class tickets on Titanic ranged from roughly $150 for a simple berth–about $3,600 today, based on current inflation tables, to $4,350 (more than $100,000) for one of the two Parlour suites.

On the night Titanic struck the iceberg, Walter and Mahala had just returned to their suite from the first-class dining room when they heard the engines stop. After Mahala asked Walter to find out what was going on, she donned her fur coat and boots to wait in the hallway. Seeing no officers and receiving no orders, Mahala grew concerned and returned to her cabin for a life preserver. Walter returned and teased her about the preserver, but agreed they should go on deck together. The couple watched as the distress rockets shot high into the air and burst into a shower of light.

Passengers on deck remained calm as they boarded the lifeboats. As Mahala climbed into a lifeboat, she requested that Walter join her. “No, I must be a gentleman,” he said before joining a group of men waiting for another lifeboat.  Dressed in his tuxedo, Walter was last seen helping women and children into the final lifeboats.

After Titanic sank, initial reports of the disaster were sparse and contradictory. The limits of wireless communication and the isolation of the disaster limited accurate information. When news of the tragedy reached Cedar Rapids, the magnitude of the disaster and the fate of Walter and Mahala were unknown.

“The news of Titanic’s disaster came at noon while we were at luncheon,” noted an April 15 diary entry written by Irene Douglas, Walter’s sister-in-law who lived at Brucemore. “Did not seem serious until evening about 7:30 – spent the evening at the [Cedar Rapids] Republican [newspaper] office.”

Hearing no news, Irene and her husband, George, left Cedar Rapids on April 16 to meet the Carpathia, which was carrying Titanic survivors to New York. On April 17, the Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette reported:

“Up to 1 o’clock today no definite news had been received in Cedar Rapids concerning the fate of Mr. Walter D. Douglas…. The wireless telegraph companies having great trouble in effecting communication with the Carpathia…. It appears that a considerable number of the first and second cabin passengers, especially the men, must have perished, but it is still hoped that Mr. Douglas was among the ones rescued. Mrs. Douglas is on the Carpathia, but whether Mr. Douglas went down with the boat, as did many others of the male passengers, remains to be determined.”

On April 18, thousands of people waited in the rain in New York as the ship bearing approximately 700 Titanic survivors slowly approached the dock.

“Carpathia landed 7 in the eve.,” Irene noted in her diary. “Walter not with Mahala.”

Eight days after the sinking, the Douglas family received word on April 23 that Walter’s body had been recovered by the cable ship MacKay Bennett, the same ship that recovered the body of Wallace Hartley, whose seven-member band played as Titanic sank.

The Mackay-Bennett recovered 306 bodies near the scene of the sinking, including the body of Walter Douglas, who was identified by his monogrammed shirt and cigarette case. The ship’s crew recorded the following information:

• No. 62 – MALE – Estimated age, 55 – Hair grey
• Clothing – Evening dress, with “W.D.D.” on shirt.
• Effects – Gold watch; chain; gold cigarette case “W.D.D.”; five gold studs; wedding ring on finger engraved “May 19th ’84”; pocket letter case with $551

 

(Interesting side note: The Mackay-Bennett was at sea working on a French trans-Atlantic cable when it got the charter from Titanic’s owners, White Star Line, to join the recovery efforts. After returning to Halifax, Nova Scotia, in Canada to pick up a hold full of ice to refrigerate bodies, 100 coffins, canvas sacks, an undertaker, and embalming fluids and equipment, the Mackay-Bennett headed out to sea to search for Titanic victims in a mission continually hampered by fog, heavy waves and wind. With its supply of coffins quickly filled and a steady stream of bodies being brought aboard by crewmen who went out in lifeboats, the Mackay-Bennett had to borrow canvas sacks and more embalming supplies from other recovery ships. The Mackay-Bennett buried at sea 116 of the 306 bodies it recovered, likely because they were not in good enough shape to be taken to Halifax. The ship took 190 victims to Halifax, where unclaimed bodies were buried in various cemeteries.)

Walter Douglas’ remains were taken first to his home in Minneapolis, then via a special train to Cedar Rapids for entombment in the Douglas family vault at Oak Hill Cemetery.

Mahala returned to her home on Lake Minnetonka, accompanied only by her maid, Berthe Leroy. An advocate of arts and culture, Mahala supported many local charities and made a donation in Walter’s name to Coe College in Cedar Rapids.  A talented writer, Mahala published a collection of stories and poems in 1932. One copy, inscribed to George and Irene Douglas, is stored in the Brucemore archives. The last poem in the book is a haunting account of Titanic’s demise.

Titanic
The sea velvet smooth, blue-black,
The sky set thick with stars unbelievably brilliant.
The horizon a clean-cut circle.
The air motionless, cold – cold as death.
Boundless space.
A small boat waiting, waiting in this vast stillness,
Waiting heart-breakingly.
In the offing a vast ship, light streaming from her portholes.

Her prow on an incline.

Darkness comes to her suddenly.
The huge black hulk stands out in silhouette against the star-lit sky.

Silently the prow sinks deeper,

As if some Titan’s hand,
Inexorable as Fate,
Were drawing the great ship down to her death.

Slowly, slowly, with hardly a ripple

Of that velvet sea,
She sinks out of sight.

Then that vast emptiness

Was suddenly rent
With a terrifying sound.

It rose like a column of heavy smoke.

It was so strong, so imploring, so insistent
One thought it would even reach
The throne of grace on high.

Slowly it lost its force,

Thinned to a tiny wisp of sound,
Then to a pitiful whisper….
Silence.


Food for thought as Titanic’s legacy lives on

While more than 100 years have passed since Titanic plunged to the bottom of the sea, interest in the magnificent ship never wanes. In fact, Titanic II, a faithful replica of the doomed ship, is preparing for passengers by 2018.

The brainchild of Australian billionaire Clive Palmer, Titanic II will have practically the same dimensions of the original Titanic, which would be on the smaller side of modern cruise ships. (Shrewdly, the Titanic II will have more lifeboat capacity than the original ship.)

When Titanic II makes its maiden voyage from Jiangsu, China, to Dubai, no doubt it will offer exceptional meals, just as its predecessor did. The original Titanic’s provisions included 75,000 pounds of fresh meat, 11,000 pounds of fresh fish, 4,000 pounds of salted and dried fish, 7,500 pounds of bacon and ham, 40,000 fresh eggs, 40 tons of potatoes, 2,200 pounds of coffee, 10,000 pounds of sugar and 250 barrels of flour.

When I sampled an unforgettable taste of Titanic in Iowa City during the Johnson County Historical Society’s “Afternoon Tea on the Titanic,” one of my favorite menu items was the Victoria Sponge Cake.

“This cake is everyone’s favorite,” declares Penelope Carlevato in her book Tea on the Titanic: 100 Years Later. “No leftovers when you serve this cake.” I can see why, especially with this cake’s light texture and sweet filling that’s perfect with homemade jam (my favorite) or your best store-brought preserves.

Victoria Sponge Cake served at the Johnson County Historical Society’s “Afternoon Tea on the Titanic” in Iowa City on April 2, 2017

Victoria Sponge Cake
Cake:
1 cup unsalted butter (at room temperature)
1 cup granulated sugar
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups self-rising flour, sifted flour

Filling:
1 cup jam, preserves or lemon curd (or whipping cream, if you desire)
Powdered sugar

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and mix well. Grease and line two 8-inch round cake pans with parchment paper. Divide batter between the pans and smooth the tops for evenness.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Cool for 10 to 15 minutes in pans; then turn cakes out onto wire racks to continue cooling.
Place a paper doily on a footed cake plate. Sandwich bottoms of cake together with jam or preserves (strawberry preserves, raspberry preserves or apricot jam work well). Whipping cream could be substituted for the jam, if desired. Sprinkle top of cake with powdered sugar.

Decorate cake plate with chemical-free flowers such as violets or nasturtiums, if desired. (Wash the flowers well before use.)

Want more Iowa culture and history?
Read more of my blog posts if you want more Iowa stories, history and recipes, as well as tips to make you a better communicator.

If you’re hungry for more stories of Iowa history, check out my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More” book from The History Press, as well as my Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing, which showcases the history of small-town and rural Iowa. Order your signed copies today! Iowa postcards are available in my online store, too. Coming soon in September 2017–my third Iowa history book! Watch for more details on “Dallas County” from Arcadia Publishing.

P.S. Thanks for joining me. I’m glad you’re here. 

@Copyright 2017 Darcy Maulsby & Co. 

Leftover Ham? Make This Amazing Crustless Spinach and Ham Quiche

A ham for Easter dinner has been a tradition in my family for as long as I can remember.  It’s no wonder, since I grew up on a farrow-to-finish hog farm in Calhoun County, Iowa. Ever wonder why ham became an Easter tradition?

In the days before refrigeration, hogs were harvested in the fall. The hams were preserved by curing (salting and/or smoking). This process took a long time, and the first hams were ready to eat in the spring. Ham, then, was a natural choice for the Easter celebration.

The National Pork Board recently conducted a Ham Research Study (wouldn’t you love that job?) and found that that 69 percent of Americans served ham for Easter dinner in 2016. Also, 55 percent of consumers enjoy ham as an everyday meal. I’m certainly one of them.

If you have leftover ham this Easter, why not power up your next meal with my Crustless Quiche? This recipe is incredibly simple, flavorful and packed with veggies and protein. What more could you ask for?

Crustless Spinach and Ham Quiche
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms (or 2 cans sliced mushrooms)
Diced red and orange peppers, if desired
1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 cup chopped, fully cooked ham
5 large eggs
3 cups shredded Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
1/8 teaspoon fresh-ground pepper

In a large skillet, saute onion and mushrooms in oil until tender. Add spinach and ham; cook and stir until the excess moisture is evaporated. Cool slightly. Beat eggs; add cheese and mix well. Stir in spinach mixture and pepper; blend well. Spread evenly into a greased 9-in. pie plate or quiche dish. Bake at 350° for 40-45 minutes or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Yield: 8 servings. Enjoy!

Want more Iowa culture and history?
Read more of my blog posts if you want more Iowa stories, history and recipes, as well as tips to make you a better communicator.

If you’re hungry for more stories of Iowa history, check out my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More” book from The History Press, as well as my Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing, which showcases the history of small-town and rural Iowa. Order your signed copies today! Iowa postcards are available in my online store, too.

P.S. Thanks for joining me. I’m glad you’re here. 

@Copyright 2017 Darcy Maulsby & Co. 

Cooking with Iowa’s Radio Homemakers

Long before there was Martha Stewart, there were KMA’s radio homemakers. These creative, talented ladies from southwest Iowa revolutionized women’s roles far beyond their humble farm kitchens starting in the 1920s. As they delighted Midwestern audiences by sharing their favorite recipes and providing down-home, daily visits with their radio friends, some of the women also became successful entrepreneurs along the way.

Their story begins in the early 1920s with the debut of a fabulous new invention called radio. In 1925, when a local businessman named Earl May began broadcasting KMA Radio-960 from Shenandoah, Iowa, to promote his seed and garden business. The station gained a following by airing practical information designed to help with the day-to-day life in Midwestern farm kitchens.

Before long, KMA was a trusted friend throughout the wide listening area, offering inspiration, companionship, and all manners of domestic counsel. The power of this connection can’t be understated when you consider the era—a time when farm wives were much more isolated than today due to poor roads, limited social opportunities and long days filled with endless chores.

A roster of personable, lively women who quickly became known as the KMA Radio Homemakers hosted KMA’s daily radio programs, including the Home Hour, the Stitch and Chat Club, and the KMA Party Line, while live cooking demonstrations drew thousands to the KMA auditorium in Shenandoah.

Evelyn Birkby was one of the beloved radio homemakers from southwest Iowa.

Broadcasts reached across the Midwest
The radio homemakers’ history is also linked to Earl May’s local competitor, Henry Field, another nursery and garden entrepreneur who seized on the power of radio to help expand his business. Field recruited family members to go on the air, including his sister, Leanna Field Driftmier, who began broadcasting “The Mother’s Hour,” which became “Kitchen Klatter.” Without any training, Leanna sat down at the microphone and just started talking about her home, family, recipes, household tips, advice for child- rearing and whatever news seemed worth sharing during the afternoon show.

In 1930, Leanna broke her back in a car accident but wanted to continue her show, despite her injuries. The radio equipment was brought to her home, and she broadcast from her bed and later from her kitchen table. The show became so popular amongst listeners that it was eventually was broadcast in six Midwestern states.
Neighboring on the air

As the radio homemakers’ concept gained momentum, local farm women like Evelyn Birkby began broadcasting from their kitchens in the 1950s. In her show “Down a Country Lane” on KMA Radio, Birkby would discuss her family and share snippets from her daily life, as well as offer suggestions for making the home a more pleasant place to live. Birkby called this phenomenon “neighboring on the air,” and it met a vital need when farm life could often be isolating.

Fans would follow the doings of favorite homemakers for years, tuning in each day the same way they’d listen to episodes of radio soap operas. Of course, recipes figured prominently in the broadcasts, with old-fashioned, Midwestern fare focused on meat and potatoes, hearty casseroles, cakes, pies, cookies and more.
Kitchen Klatter became home-grown success

Through the years, a line of Kitchen Klatter products (including food flavorings, bleach and more) was developed and sold over the radio by broadcasters like Leanna Driftmier. In addition, a monthly Kitchen Klatter magazine was circulated to thousands of Midwestern readers who enjoyed the articles, letters and recipes like Company Ham and Potatoes, Emerald Mint Sauce (made from Kitchen Klatter Mint Flavoring), Mary’s Pineapple Pie and Grandma’s Oatmeal Cookies. The Kitchen Klatter enterprise and the radio homemakers endured for a number of years, with some of the broadcasts lasting until the 1990s.

Recipes preserve a taste of Iowa history

In 1991, Evelyn Birkby published the fascinating book “Neighboring on the Air,” where you can almost hear the voices of the KMA homemakers while you get a taste of their philosophy of life and sample their recipes. You can learn how to make hearty Midwestern fare ranging from Sour Cream Apple Pie from Florence Falk, “The Farmer’s Wife,” to Six-Layer Washday Dinner from Doris Murphy, who took to the air in 1949 with her “Party Line” broadcast.

You’ll get a sense what a grueling schedule the radio homemakers often endured as they broadcast radio shows out of their kitchen while their own family life went on about them. These ladies also knew the needs and interests of their audience, because they, too, were well acquainted with hard work, hard times and making do.

Through it all, the radio homemakers were Martha Stewart and Dear Abby all rolled into one as they shared news about their children, home beautification tips and their trusted recipes. Thousands of devoted listeners depended on them for weekly entertainment, information, humor and continuity. These listeners considered the radio homemakers a valued part of their lives, which is reflected in the longevity of the radio shows. The radio homemakers’ remarkable contributions are an enduring legacy to power of Iowa farm women and add unforgettable flavor to Iowa’s rich culinary heritage.

Six-Layer Washday Dinner
Like today’s busy working women, Iowa’s radio homemakers like Doris Murphy knew the value of being able to put a hearty, nutritious meal on the table without a lot of fuss. No doubt her recipe featured home-grown and home-canned vegetables.

2 cups hamburger
1 small onion, chopped
2 cups diced potatoes, raw
½ cup uncooked rice
1 cup sweet peppers, cut fine
1 cup diced carrots, raw
1 pint tomatoes

Brown hamburger and onion together. Combine meat, onion, potatoes, rice, peppers, carrots and tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Cover with water. Cook 2 hours in 350-degree oven.

 

Want more Iowa culture and history?
Read more of my blog posts if you want more Iowa stories, history and recipes, as well as tips to make you a better communicator.

If you’re hungry for more stories of Iowa history, check out my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More” book from The History Press, as well as my Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing, which showcases the history of small-town and rural Iowa. Order your signed copies today! Iowa postcards are available in my online store, too.

P.S. Thanks for joining me. I’m glad you’re here. 

@Copyright 2017 Darcy Maulsby & Co. 

Iowa’s Ice Queen: Entrepreneur Caroline Fischer’s Legacy Endures at Hotel Julien Dubuque  

Long before there was an International Women’s Day, there was Caroline (Rhomberg) Fischer, a savvy, spirited entrepreneur from Dubuque. After her husband died in 1875, the 31-year old widow and mother of five literally took the reins of her late husband’s ice delivery business—and you won’t believe what she did next.

You get a taste of Caroline’s remarkable story when you dine at Caroline’s Restaurant (named in her honor) in the historic Hotel Julien Dubuque. As you savor your banana bread French toast (yes, I recommend it!), it’s amazing to think a hotel or inn has occupied the present site of Hotel Julien Dubuque (at the corner of Second and Main Street) since 1839.

Caroline became part of the hotel’s storied history in the late 1800s. While Victorian-era ideals dictated that a woman’s place was in the home, sheer necessity—and a healthy dose of moxie—ensured that Caroline would break the mold.

Cutting ice, a common winter job in Iowa in the 1800s and early 1900s

Death, drinking and destiny
In the days before electric freezers and electric refrigeration, Caroline’s husband, Louis, was a partner in the Fischer ice business. After Louis contracted pneumonia and died in 1875 after falling into the Mississippi River while cutting ice, Caroline took over his ice business. The 31-year-old widow with five young children also took control of her family’s destiny.

Caroline is said to have followed her ice deliverymen around town in her own horse-drawn buggy to be sure her men were doing their work properly. The many taverns to which they delivered would offer drinks to the drivers in an effort to persuade them to leave a little extra ice. On occasion, upon finding the drivers passed out in the ice wagon, Caroline would drive their team of horses and wagon back to the ice storage warehouse herself with her own horse and buggy in tow.

In 1878, long before the Fischer Company owned the Hotel Julien, the Fischer Wheeler & Co. ice business had a contract with the Hotel Julien Dubuque to supply ice to the guesthouse, then under management of W.W. Woodworth. The three-year contract was for “all the ice necessary” for $25 a month or $300 for the entire year.

Leaving a legacy
Caroline eventually bought out her partners, invested in downtown and riverfront property, and brought her family into the business that still exists today. Located in view of the Ice Harbor, where the Fischer family business started, Caroline’s Restaurant at the Hotel Julien Dubuque today honors the family matriarch of the Fischer/Pfohl families.

The Pfohl connection goes back to 1962, when the hotel was purchased by Louis H. Pfohl. After extensive remodeling, many interesting and historic artifacts were incorporated into the décor, including the stunning stained glass that’s now displayed in Caroline’s Restaurant.

The menus at Caroline’s Restaurant are influenced by what’s grown locally and what’s readily available. The talented culinary team at the restaurant also focuses on making dishes as aesthetically pleasing as they are delicious. This attention to detail and commitment to excellence is a fitting tribute Caroline, the great-great-grandmother of the three cousins who today manage the Fischer Companies and the Hotel Julien Dubuque, a landmark of Iowa history.

Savor more Iowa food history
Want more great Iowa food stories, history and recipes? Check out my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa” book from The History Press, and order your signed copy today. 

P.S. Thanks for joining me. I’m glad you’re here. 

@Copyright 2017 Darcy Maulsby & Co. 

Hotel Julien Dubuque, circa 1915, Dubuque, Iowa

Shakespeare Club Maintains 123 Years of Good Taste in Small-Town Iowa

While one of Lake City’s oldest clubs likely wouldn’t have had any farm women for members when the group formed the 1890s, a farm wife (who is also my mom) is now the club’s president and has belonged to the group longer than any other member.

Jan Dougherty, Shakespeare Club president

“This was originally a very formal club where the ladies in town served white-tablecloth-style dinners and used their good china and silverware,” said Jan Dougherty of Lake City, president, who joined the Shakespeare Club in 1972. “Now we’re much more relaxed and just like to have fun.”

Part of the fun involves cooking classes, preparing homemade treats for the “lunch” following the meeting and sharing recipes. The group has visited Sweet Things Bakery in Lake City and recently enjoyed a cooking class taught by Robin Qualy of Lake City, who runs La Casa Cuisine and teaches people how to make homemade pasta and more.

“I like the camaraderie and enjoy getting to know people better through Shakespeare Club,” said Pam Feld of Lake City, who joined the group a few years ago.

Organized in 1894, the Shakespeare Club holds the honor of being the second oldest club in Lake City. It was organized by four young women interested in their social and intellectual advancement. Programs were arranged to study the lives and works of famous authors, although the greater part of each year was devoted to the works of Shakespeare. Later, the programs were diversified to include the study of music and the arts, as well as the cultures of Europe and South America.

During World War 1, Shakespeare Club members held benefit teas and auctions to raise money for the Red Cross. In the 1920s, a three-day celebration was held to commemorate the club’s silver anniversary. Parties, picnics, and a presentation of a picture to the library were part of the festivities. “The Shakespeare Club is famous for doing things right,” quoted the Lake City Graphic newspaper in 1923.

Through the years, club members have been instrumental in supporting the progress of schools and the local library, as well as civic improvements. As it has for years, the group continues to meet in members’ homes, and each meeting includes a program or special activity and ends with a luncheon.

“I like meeting in people’s homes,” said Pat Albright of Lake City. “It’s a comfortable feeling where we can be ourselves and enjoy each other’s company.”

Members of Lake City’s Shakespeare Club enjoy homemade food and lots of laughs during this holiday celebration at Jan McClue’s home.

This also appeals to Jan McClue, who hosted the group’s 2016 Christmas party at her home near Lanesboro. “I like that we’re a group for fun, and I enjoy the interesting outings we go on around the area.”

One of the group’s favorite destinations is Studio Fusion in Fort Dodge, where members design their own glass picture frames, dishes, jewelry and more.  No matter where they meet, however, snacks and homemade treats are always on the agenda. “Good food has always been part of Shakespeare Club, and I think it’s neat the club has lasted all these years,” Dougherty said. “Our motto could be, ‘We don’t meet if we don’t eat.’”

Darcy’s Corn Tortellini

Healthy Tortellini Corn Chowder

Smoky bacon combines with tender cheese tortellini for a creamy and comforting take on the usual corn chowder, which is one of my favorite soup recipes. I served it at the Shakespeare Club’s 2016 Christmas party at Jan McClue’s home near Lanesboro. 

5 slices bacon
1 large onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 cup red, orange, yellow peppers, diced
2 cups fresh, canned or frozen corn kernels (about one and a half cans of canned corn)
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup sliced carrots
⅓ c unbleached or all-purpose flour or Wondra flour
3 cups 1% milk
⅓ cup chopped fresh basil, or 1 teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
8 ounces low-fat fresh or frozen cheese tortellini, cooked and drained
1 cup frozen green beans
1 to 2 cups diced ham, optional

Set a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the bacon. Cook for 1 minute, or until it releases some of its moisture. Add the onion, celery, and bell peppers. Cook for 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft. Add the corn, broth and carrots. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium. Simmer for 15 minutes.

Place the flour in a medium bowl. Gradually add the milk, whisking until smooth. Pour mixture into the Dutch oven. Stir until well-blended. Add the basil, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes, or until the soup thickens. Add the tortellini, green beans and ham, if desired. Cook for 2 minutes, or until heated through.

Jan McClue’s Beef Dill Dip

Beef Dill Dip
This tasty dip from Jan McClue is simple to make and can be served with bagel wedges or crackers. 

1 16-ounce carton sour cream
2 tablespoons parsley
2 teaspoons Accent seasoning
2 packages dried beef, chopped
1 1 / 2 cup Miracle Whip
2 teaspoons dill weed
1 medium onion, finely chopped

Mix all ingredients together. Serve with crackers or bagel wedges.

 

 

Cheesy Artichoke Dip
This three-ingredient appetizer from Jan Dougherty of Lake City takes only minutes to make.

1 package cream cheese
1 can artichoke hearts, drained
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Combine all ingredients. Bake at 350 degrees, or until top of the dip lightly browns.

Celebration Slush is oh-so-tasty!

Celebration Slush
This simple slush from Jan McClue, a Shakespeare Club member who lives on a farm near Lanesboro, makes any party more festive.

12 ounces frozen lemonade
12 ounces frozen limeade
1 1 /2 quarts cranberry-apple juice
1 / 2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups strawberry schnapps
2 cups water

Combine all ingredients and freeze in a plastic container, like an ice cream bucket. To serve, add a splash of lemon-lime soda pop, raspberry vodka or strawberry daiquiri.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taco Soup
This flavorful soup from Marie Schwarm of Lake City is sure to please on a cold winter day.

1 pound of ground beef (cooked and drained)
1 can of corn 1 can great northern beans
1 can black beans
1 can red beans
1 medium size can of diced tomatoes
1 packet of Hidden Valley dressing mix
1 packet of taco seasoning
1 cup of water
Tortilla chips
Sour cream
Shredded cheese
Combine all ingredients in crockpot (do not drain the beans) except tortilla chips, sour cream and cheese.  Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. Serve with chips, sour cream and cheese. To spice up the soup, add a small can of diced green peppers.

Chili Bean Salad

This fresh, healthy recipe comes from Sharon Richardson of Lake City.

1 15-ounce can chili beans, heated Chopped tomatoes
Fresh spinach or lettuce, chopped
Corn chips

Make a bed of fresh spinach or chopped lettuce on plate. Top with chopped tomatoes and chili beans that have been heated. Top with crushed corn chips.

 

This luscious, rich dessert is a sweet symphony of creamy goodness.

Peanut Butter Dessert
This creamy, sweet Peanut Butter Dessert from Shakespeare Club member Pam Feld of Lake City offers an enticing ending for any meal. 

For the crust:

1 cup finely-chopped cashews
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 / 2 cup butter

Cream cashews, flour and butter together. Press mixture into baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 28 minutes.

First layer of filling:
8 ounces cream cheese
1 / 3 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup whipped cream topping

Combine cream cheese, peanut butter, powdered sugar and whipped cream topping. Spread over cooled crust.

Second layer of filling:
2 2 / 3 cups milk
1 package chocolate instant pudding
1 package vanilla instant pudding

Combine milk and the two pudding mixes. Chill in refrigerator. When set, layer mixture on top of peanut butter layer.

Top dessert with whipped cream topping and pieces of chopped candy bars. Butterfinger and Heath work well.

Savor more Iowa food history

Want more great recipes and Iowa food stories? Check out my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa” book from The History Press, and order your signed copy today. 

P.S. Thanks for joining me. I’m glad you’re here. 

@Copyright 2017 Darcy Maulsby & Co. 

Growing with Grow: Iowa 4-H Leader Guides 100-Year-Old 4-H Club for 50 Years

With more than 50 years of experience leading the century-old Sugar Grove Sunshine 4-H Club in Dallas County, Iowa, Lorna Grow knows what it takes to help kids succeed. It doesn’t mean giving everyone a participation ribbon.

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Lorna Grow has led the Sugar Grove Sunshine 4-H Club near Dallas Center, Iowa, since 1966.

“You gain confidence when you achieve,” said Grow, 84, a retired teacher who has guided Sugar Grove Sunshine 4-Hers since 1966 when her oldest daughter, Glenace, joined the club. “I expect high-quality work from my 4-H kids, and I coach them to help them learn.”

With her high-energy style, quick smile and lively personality, Grow is a hands-on instructor, whether she’s helping the kids refinish furniture, re-cane vintage chairs, bake a pie from scratch, sew on a button, hem pants, sew flannel-lined, zippered gun cases or complete basic home repairs like fixing a hole in the wall. While she coordinates 30- to 45-minute educational workshops that are held during the club’s meetings on the first Monday evening of the month, Grow doesn’t stop there.

“Because I’m retired, I can devote additional time for extra activities,” said Grow, a great-grandmother who marches in local parades with her 4-Hers, helps her club sponsor a county-wide cooking challenge for 4-Hers and their friends, inspires 4-Hers in design-a-room competitions, works with them throughout the Dallas County Fair and supports them at the Iowa State Fair.

Whenever there’s a local 4-H activity going on, Grow is there, said Aleta Cochran, county youth coordinator for Dallas County Extension. “The kids love Lorna. She always supports the kids, listens to them, encourages them and helps them grow.”

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Refinishing furniture and chair caning offer Sugar Grove Sunshine 4-H Club members like Isabel Simpson the chance to learn skills they may not learn anywhere else.

A century of believing, a future of achieving
Grow has been involved with 4-H since 1943, when she joined the Union Lassies 4-H Club in Indianola. The all-girls club followed the traditional three-year program rotation of food, clothing and home improvement.

The club that Grow would become most affiliated with, however, is the Sugar Grove Sunshine 4-H Club in Dallas County. This group dates back to 1917, when a 4-H club led by Mrs. A.J. (Mary) Hayes was founded at Sugar Grove No. 9, a one-room country school near Dallas Center. This 4-H sewing club had 10 members, met weekly and wore blue uniforms with white caps. The entire club traveled to the Iowa State Fair by car (quite an outing in those days) and marched in the state fair parade behind the 168th Infantry.

The club evolved in 1922 into the Oblegro (Observe, Learn, Grow) Club. After an A.B.C. Club was organized in 1929, the two clubs joined and eventually became the Sugar Grove Sunshine 4-H Club, named after the local township. From 1918 through about 1965, the Dallas County Farm Bureau sponsored local 4-H clubs, which were separated into girls’ clubs and boys’ clubs.

“We are the oldest documented 4-H club in Dallas County,” said Grow, who added that 4-H clubs began to integrate in the 1990s. “I think the club’s founders would be surprised their group is still going all these years later when so many other 4-H clubs have died out.”

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Sugar Grove Sunshine 4-H Club members, 1966-67

Today, the Sugar Grove Sunshine 4-H Club includes 42 boys and girls in grades 4 through 12 from Dallas Center, Adel, Van Meter, DeSoto, Perry, Grimes, Johnston and Urbandale. While it can be challenging for kids to find time for 4-H, due to busy schedules packed with sports, dance lessons and more, Grow refuses to schedule meetings on Sundays. “That’s family time,” she said.

Families are the key to success with any 4-H activity, she added. “I have wonderful 4-H kids because I have wonderful parents who care about their kids.”

Learning skills for life
These parents value the life lessons that 4-H teaches, including decision-making skills, goal setting, leadership and teamwork. To enhance the learning, Grow assigns older 4-Hers to help mentor younger club members.

 

 

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Members of the Sugar Grove Sunshine 4-H Club, along with club leader Lorna Grow, represented 4-H in this 2015 parade.

The Sugar Grove Sunshine 4-H members have also gained a new appreciation for history by helping plan the club’s 100-year-anniversary celebration, which was held Sept. 24, 2016, at the iconic Lake Robbins Ballroom near Woodward.

During the program, club members performed some of the songs that earlier generations of 4-Hers enjoyed from the 4-H Song Book. “The emphasis on music back then reflected people’s desire to get more culture into the rural areas,” said Grow, who added that the Adel Live Wires 4-H Club had an orchestra at one time.

Club members also researched local 4-H club record books dating back to the 1930s, when club projects included altering dress patterns and answering roll-call questions like “my favorite radio program.” Club members also scanned photos of previous generations of 4-Hers, including a group of girls showing off their baked goods for the 1934 Achievement Day. “Back then, you had to go through Achievement Day to have your project qualify for the Dallas County Fair,” Grow said.

While those early 4-H members used to meet in club members’ homes, today’s Sugar Grove Sunshine 4-H members meet in the basement of the Dallas Center Church of the Brethren. They also gather once a year at the Dallas Center-Grimes school to cook a meal and host an appreciation dinner for parents and guests. “We’ve served everything from Mexican to Chinese and prepare a four-course meal, including appetizers,” Grow said.

The learning opportunities that Grow offers 4-Hers are exceptional, emphasized Cochran with Dallas County Extension. “Lorna has done so much for 4-H. A volunteer like her is priceless.”
Grow said she’ll continue to serve as a club leader until she’s no longer effective. “Why do I keep doing this? Because I’m having fun. I love watching these kids grow and develop skills that will benefit them throughout their life.”

P.S. Thanks for joining me. I’m glad you’re here. 

@Copyright 2017 Darcy Maulsby & Co. 

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Members of the Sugar Grove Sunshine 4-H Club, like Jacob Storey, enjoy hands-on learning for pie baking and other skills.

Is This Iowa’s Favorite Appetizer?

Who would have thought pickle wraps (a.k.a. pickle roll-ups) would be the hot food topic this holiday season? Of course, you don’t need a holiday to celebrate if you want to enjoy some “Iowa sushi,” as I explained to Des Moines Register reporter Courtney Crowder recently.

Here’s the great article from Courtney, along with my take on why pickle wraps are so undeniably Iowan (along with recipes, of course!) 

Is This Iowa’s Favorite Appetizer?

Courtney Crowder , ccrowder@dmreg.com8:28 a.m. CST December 15, 2016

http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/entertainment/dining/2016/12/14/iowas-favorite-appetizer/94676550/

My obsession with “Holiday Pickle Wraps” — also known as “Iowa Sushi” or “Lutheran Sushi” — began with a Facebook post.

Just before Thanksgiving, fellow reporter John Naughton posted a picture of a Hy-Vee display replete with cream cheese, pickles, dried beef and a sign noting that it was time for “Holiday Pickle Wraps.” Above the photo he wrote, “Sure sign you’re in Iowa.”

To me, the sign and its gathered foodstuffs might as well have been in a foreign language. Pickle wraps? Naughton’s post should have read: “A sure sign you’re not from Iowa.”

After living in the Hawkeye State for two years, I like to think I have at least a passing grasp on what is Iowan, but here I was simply gobsmacked by pickle wraps. What exactly are pickle wraps? Are these truly Iowan or just a quick appetizer Iowans are co-opting? And, most importantly, aren’t they incredibly salty?

“No, they’re not overly salty,” I was assured by Darcy Maulsby, lifelong Iowan and author of “A Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites & More.

“Pickle wraps are very, very popular in Iowa,” Maulsby added. “So many friends say pickle wraps are the first thing on the appetizer tray to go at their parties.”

Traditionally, a pickle wrap begins with a pickle (obviously), which is then slathered in cream cheese, wrapped in ham and cut into bite-sized pieces. However, there are variations on the general pickle wrap theme, Maulsby said. Some people sheathe the ham with a tortilla and others don’t use ham at all, instead opting for a dried beef encasement. Others make pickle wrap dip, where all the indigents of a pickle wrap are blended together and served with crackers.

“This is definitely a Midwestern thing,” Maulsby said. “You go to Arizona, Oklahoma, California, Michigan, they’ve never heard of a pickle wrap. Some Wisconsin and Minnesota people do know about pickle wraps, but I think Iowans should embrace this as our own, for sure.”

The exact genesis of the pickle wrap — or pickle roll-up as it is also called — is unknown, but Maulsby said the appetizer most likely originated as a modification of an old-world German recipe.

“I think of this as being in the same category as the fried breaded pork tenderloin, as far as its German-ness goes,” she said. “Anytime you have a German community or a place with a strong German heritage, you got pickles and red meat and that is two-thirds of a pickle wrap right there.”

As with its origins, the enduring legacy of the pickle wrap is up for grabs as well. So what is it that keeps Iowans coming back to the simplest of hors d’oeuvres?

“It’s the pickle wrap’s flavor sensation, and it’s a texture thing, too,” Maulsby said. “It does everything a good food should do: It’s interesting to the palate. The tang of the pickle plays nicely off of the smooth cream cheese and salty meat. The crunch of the pickle is in contrast to the creaminess of the cream cheese. As a food, it does so many things well.”

The best thing about the pickle wrap is that it is soeasy to make that even I, a cooking novice, feel confident in my abilities to master the roll-up. Simply slather, wrap and cut. But Maulsby urges chefs not to rest on their pickle wrap laurels, but to attempt their own variation on the classic roll-up. Take something conventional and make it your own!

“There are a lot of fun things you could do with pickle wraps,” Maulsby said, “and no one is going to get too worked up if you tweak the classic roll-up — at least I don’t think they will.”

Pickle Roll-Ups Image 1

Pickle wrap recipes

Here are culinary historian Darcy Maulsby’s favorite pickle wrap and pickle wrap dip recipes. To learn more about her work and other classically Iowan foodstuffs, check out her website at Darcymaulsby.com.

Classic Iowa pickle wraps

1 jar dill pickles
Ham slices 
Cream cheese, softened

Lay the ham slices flat on a serving plate and pat dry. Spread with cream cheese. Place a pickle spear at one end of each slice and roll the slices into cylinders around the spears. Secure with toothpicks. Chill in refrigerator. Cut into bite-sized pieces.

Tortilla pickle-ham rolls

1 (32 ounce) jar dill pickles
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened and divided (make certain that the cream cheese is very soft for spreading)
1 pinch garlic powder, to taste (optional)
1 pound sliced cooked ham (I like to use honey ham)
6-inch flour tortillas

Mix the softened cream cheese with garlic powder (if using). Spread a thin layer of the cream cheese onto one side of a tortilla. Place 1 slice of ham over the cream cheese. Spread another layer of cream cheese over the ham. Roll a pickle up in the tortilla. Cover the roll with plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours (to make slicing easier). Remove the plastic wrap. Using a serrated knife, slice the roll into about 1-inch pieces or to desired size.

Dried beef pickle dip 

1 package (3 ounces) dried beef, finely chopped
1 package (8 ounces) regular or reduced fat cream cheese
1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream
2 tablespoons chopped green onion
1/2 to 1 cup coarsely chopped dill pickles (not dill relish)
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Soften cream cheese and combine with remaining ingredients. Chill until serving. Serve with crackers or fresh vegetables.

— Dip recipe from the Iowa Beef Industry Council. 

Savor more Iowa food history

Want more great recipes and Iowa food stories? Check out my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa” book from The History Press, and order your signed copy today. 


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