Category: Iowa history

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

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

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. 

All Aboard! Rockwell City’s “Depot People” Offer a Taste of Iowa History

Eating like a hobo never tasted so good, at least when the “Depot People” are cooking. The savory aromas that emanate from the historic railroad depot in Rockwell City for one afternoon each fall signal that something good is coming down the line.

“I love this little museum and enjoy giving people a taste of the past,” said Carol Hupton of Rockwell City, president of the board of “Depot People” who have transformed the 1899 depot and freight shed into a museum.


A train rolls into the Illinois Central Railroad depot in Rockwell City years ago.

During the annual fundraiser, which Hupton has helped with for the past six years, home cooking offers a feast at the Rockwell City depot a block north of the Calhoun County courthouse. Guests can dine on homemade hobo stew, hot dogs, homemade cookies, bars and more, with all proceeds going to restoration projects at the depot.
Saving the depot has been a labor of love for the Depot People, a group of about 25 people who want to preserve their community’s history. “There was a time when the depot was in danger of being torn down,” said Hupton, who has been volunteering with the depot museum for 10 years. “People don’t always realize the important role the railroad played to help Iowa and small towns like Rockwell City grow.”

The first railroad to arrive in Rockwell City was the Des Moines & Northern line, which was later taken over by the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway. The first passenger train rolled into town in 1881.

Rockwell City’s second railroad was the Illinois Central. Surveying the land between Fort Dodge and Rockwell City for this rail line began in 1899. Around 1903, the Newton and Northwestern Line, an interurban line, became the third rail line to Rockwell City. For decades, it brought passenger cars from Newton and Des Moines every two hours from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
During the heyday of the railroad, Rockwell City became a stop for multiple passenger trains and freight trains each day. Weary travelers could enjoy a meal at the nearby Hotel Brower or various restaurants in town.

In time, paved roads and interstate highways led to increased traffic from cars, pickup trucks and semi-trucks across Iowa and the nation, marking the end of an era for passenger trains. Railroad transportation itself changed as powerful diesel engines replaced the steam engines that once powered the many trains that rolled across the Iowa countryside. “Now the old depot here in town stands alone as a reminder of our history with the railroads,” Hupton said.

rc-depot-hobo-dinner-carol-hupton-oct-2016-lowresSharing this history is important to Hupton and her fellow volunteers. The depot’s fundraising meal offers another way to encourage people of all ages to visit the museum. “Many kids don’t know anything about the history of the railroad in Rockwell City or other small Iowa towns,” Hupton said.

That’s why the Depot People have created historical exhibits in the depot, including vintage photos of the depot, to show the important role it once played in the community. A recreated hobo camp east of the freight shed also helps visitors learn how the railroad influenced people’s daily life in various ways.

The Depot People continue to apply for grants and host fundraisers with meals to preserve local railroad history. A summer car show allows car, truck and motorcycle fans to display their prized vehicles, while guests can dine on pulled pork sandwiches, potato chips, homemade desserts.

In the fall, the depot becomes an informal dining room where guests can enjoy a hearty bowl of homemade hobo stew, sugar cookies, salted nut roll bars and other goodies prepared by some of Rockwell City’s best cooks and depot supporters, including Maurine Zuetlau.

“Rockwell City’s depot is a landmark,” Hupton said. “We’ll continue to do what we can to preserve this local history.”

Savor more Iowa food history

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


Hearty Hobo Stew from Iowa












Hearty Hobo Stew
4 pounds rump roast, cut up into cubes
Olive oil
2 cups diced celery
1 1 / 2 cups carrots, sliced
2 cups apple-cider vinegar
2 cups French onion condensed soup
3 to 4 cups potatoes, cubed and cooked
2 cans diced tomatoes
Beef stock (use as much as desired for the right consistency of stew)
Corn kernels, optional
Peas, optional

Brown the cubes of beef in olive oil. Combine beef with remaining ingredients. Place stew in roaster and cook until heated through.




Homemade Sugar Cookies












World’s Best Sugar Cookies
These Amish sugar cookies come from Maurine Zuetlau of Rockwell City.

1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup butter (can use half butter and half margarine)
1 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
5 cups flour

Mix all ingredients. Roll dough into balls to form each cookie. Roll each dough ball in granulated sugar. Press down each ball with a glass dipped into granulated sugar. Bake cookies at 350 degrees for 13 to 15 minutes. Let cool on cookie sheet 2 to 3 minutes. Remove cookies and place on cooling rack.


Salted Nut Roll Bars

Salted Nut Roll Bars
These tasty bars are reminiscent of salted nut roll candy bars and come from Maurine Zuetlau of Rockwell City.

1 package yellow cake mix
1 / 2 cup softened margarine
1 egg
3 cups mini marshmallows
2 / 3 cup white corn syrup
1 / 4 cup margarine
1 12-ounce package peanut butter chips
1 cup chopped, dry-roasted peanuts

Combine cake mix, 1 / 2 cup margarine and egg. Pat mixture into 9-inch by 13-inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes. Cover bars with marshmallows. Return to oven for 2 to 3 minutes. (Marshmallows will puff up.) Cool.

Boil white corn syrup and 1 / 4 cup margarine. Remove from heat. Add peanut butter chips. Pour mixture over marshmallows and top with nuts. Cool completely, cut into bars.

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

@Copyright 2016 Darcy Maulsby & Co. 


Riding with Harry: 2016 Presidential Election Reflects Truman’s Iowa Revival at 1948 Plowing Match in Dexter

Unpredictable. Shocking. Historic. All have been used to describe the 2016 presidential election, but they also characterized the remarkable presidential election of 1948. Back then, no one thought Harry Truman had any chance of returning to the White House, although he accomplished one of the biggest upsets in U.S. presidential history—and it all started on a farm near Dexter, Iowa.

Bob Larson, an 18-year-old farm boy from Casey, saw it all.  “Harry Truman was a farmer, not a politician, at heart,” said Larson, 86, who met Truman on September 18, 1948, at the National Soil Conservation Field Days and Plowing Matches in Dallas County. “We can thank him for the conservation practices that are now common in agriculture.”

A recent high school graduate, Larson was working construction in 1948 with his future father-in-law. The crew was recruited to help build a dam and pond in the conservation demonstration fields north of Dexter. Larson first saw Truman on the afternoon of September 18, when the president jumped off a hayrack at the national plowing matches and headed toward the conservation area. Truman visited with Larson and his friends and family, who were eating lunch under a shade tree.

“Truman said, ‘What the hell are you doin’ just sitting here? Get your dozers started and get back to work. I want to watch you,’” said Larson, who noted that the construction crews had been told to shut down their machines when the president was in the area. “Truman rode with me on my bulldozer for about 10 minutes.”


WhenTruman arrived in Dexter on Sept. 18, 1948, he was a 50-to-1 underdog against his presidential rival, New York Governor Thomas Dewey. Nevertheless, a crowd welcomed Truman to Dexter, Iowa, in grand style. As part of his whistle-stop presidential campaign, Truman arrived in Dexter via the Rock Island Railroad, where he was greeted at the depot by the Dexter school band, a parade and a queen and her court. The president, his wife, Bess, and their daughter, Margaret, were escorted to the farm site north of Dexter by a motorcade that included Truman’s convertible limousine.


Donald Hanson (left of the radio microphone), a farmer from Roland and competitor at the 1948 National Plowing Matches near Dexter, Iowa, was interviewed on WHO Radio. Hanson is the grandfather of Eric Hanson, a television reporter and anchor on KCCI in Des Moines.

Truman came to Iowa to “Give ‘em Hell”
When Truman arrived in Dexter on Sept. 18, 1948, he was a 50-to-1 underdog against his presidential rival, New York Governor Thomas Dewey. Truman’s appearance in Dallas County stemmed from a White House visit months before when Iowa Farm Bureau President E. Howard Hill and other Iowa ag leaders met with Truman in May 1948 and invited him to come to the National Soil Conservation Field Days and Plowing Matches. The president tried to discourage the men, asserting that they’d have nothing but problems if he and his entourage came.

Dewey was also invited to attend the event but turned the Iowans down flat. “Dewey thought he had the election locked up,” Larson said. “The Midwest didn’t like Dewey, because he was an elitist who had no time for Iowa dirt farmers.”

Months went by with no word from the White House. Then three weeks before the big day, plowing match organizers were notified that Truman had accepted their invitation. Once Dewey heard Truman was headed to Iowa, he immediately arranged for a farm-press event to be held on his Pawling, N.Y., farm on the same day as the national plowing matches near Dexter.

While the media focused on New York, all roads led to the nation’s largest farm event in central Iowa on the September 18, 1948. As the sun rose and the mercury soared, bumper-to-bumper traffic soon clogged the roads near Dexter.

The crowd welcomed Truman in grand style. As part of his whistle-stop presidential campaign, Truman arrived in Dexter via the Rock Island Railroad, where he was greeted at the depot by the Dexter school band, a parade and a queen and her court. The president, his wife, Bess, and their daughter, Margaret, were escorted to the farm site north of Dexter by a motorcade that included Truman’s convertible limousine.

Much to Truman’s delight, a huge crowd of 100,000 people gathered on Lois Agg’s farm to watch the plowing matches, see new conservation practices in action and hear him deliver a speech about farm policy.


President Harry Truman spoke about farm policy before a crowd of 100,000 people on Sept. 18, 1948, near Dexter, Iowa. This was the first speech that was referred to as “Give ‘Em Hell, Harry,” a slogan that stuck with Truman for the rest of the campaign.

WHO Radio personality Herb Plambeck introduced Truman. During Truman’s 29-minute speech, which was the first major speech of his 1948 presidential campaign, he was interrupted by applause 13 times. The loudest cheers came when he referred to the 80th Congress as the “do nothing Congress.” This was the first speech that was referred to as “Give ‘Em Hell, Harry,” a slogan that stuck with Truman for the rest of the campaign.


President Harry Truman greeted the crowd at the 1948 National Soil Conservation Field Days and Plowing Matches in Dallas County.

Event ushered in the modern era of ag conservation
After the speech, Truman and his entourage dined on fried chicken before heading out to the demonstration sites to see terraces, ponds and other conservation practices. Truman jumped off the hayrack to get a closer look, as members of the Secret Service scrambled to catch up with him.

“Truman was very interested in soil conservation and asked us a lot of questions,” Larson said. “While some guys thought terraces and contour farming were crazy, many farmers were intrigued by new conservation practices that were being promoted by the Soil Conservation Service.”

Truman took off his suit jacket, rolled up his sleeves on that hot afternoon and continued asking questions as he rode on Larson’s bulldozer while the Secret Service looked on. Larson wasn’t nervous as he chauffeured the president. “Truman was just an old farmer who wanted to know practical things, like how much dirt I was hauling.”

The response Truman received in Dexter that day revitalized his presidential campaign and Truman himself. While the polls still had Truman trailing Dewey on the eve of the 1948 election, and his margin of victory was small, Truman went on to become the 33rd president of the United States.

Truman’s appearance at Dexter also helped usher in the modern era of conservation in agriculture. Larson’s conservation work left a lasting impact, as well, since the dam and pond he built in 1948 are still there. His story, along with photos from that unforgettable day, are preserved at the Dexter Museum and on a historical marker north of Dexter.

“Truman made a good impression on me,” Larson said. “If I’d been old enough to vote in 1948, I probably would have picked Truman.”

Explore more rural Iowa history 

Want to discover more stories and pictures that showcase the unique history of small-town and rural Iowa? Check out my top-selling “Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing, and order your signed copy today. 

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

@Copyright 2016 Darcy Maulsby & Co. 

Iowa Turkeys Carry on National Thanksgiving Tradition   

They strut around their little area of the farm with a certain air about them. Nothing ruffles their feathers. These two pristine, white Sac County turkeys (named Tater and Tot) are special—and they know it.

“We’re honored that the national Thanksgiving turkeys hailed from Iowa this year,” said Gretta Irwin, executive director of the Iowa Turkey Federation. “These turkeys are a symbol of plenty and are a great celebration of Iowa agriculture.”


Tater and Tot make their Washington, D.C. media debut in the ballroom of the famous Willard Hotel on Nov. 22, 2016.

Through nearly seven decades, the President of the United States has received a turkey from the National Turkey Federation during Thanksgiving week. As part of the White House event, recent custom has the president “pardoning” the turkey, after noting the significance of a time of thanks for the nation’s many blessings and the opening of the holiday season.

Two turkeys are selected each year for this prestigious—if quirky—honor. One turkey functions as the “backup” in case the first turkey can’t complete its duties as the national Thanksgiving turkey. This year’s presidential turkeys hailed from Chris and Nicole Domino’s farm northwest of Early. The 42-pound male birds were born July 18 and were selected in August for their famous role.

“They had some of the best-looking feathers and the best personalities, because they are very calm,” said Chris Domino, a fourth-generation farmer who has raised turkeys for nine years. “They really stood out from the crowd.”


Chris and Nicole Domino and their five daughters raised Tater and Tot on their Sac County, Iowa, turkey farm.

Groomed for greatness
The presidential turkeys received plenty of personalized care during their months at the Domino’s farm, thanks to daughters Adrian, 13; Brianna, 10; Marissa, 8; Addison, 7; and Megan, 6. The male turkeys got their first taste of celebrity with the snacks they were offered. “We tried lettuce, cottage cheese and cooked eggs, but we found out the turkeys love dried meal worms and diced tomatoes,” Chris Domino said.

The birds enjoyed other perks, too, including dog toys. “They like playing with tugs and squeaky dog toys,” said Adrian Domino, who helped raise the birds with the help of her parents and sisters.

The five girls lavished attention on the turkeys and didn’t stop with special treats. They washed the birds and even played music for them. The first song to elicit a gobble from the turkeys? “Me, Too” by pop singer Meghan Trainor.

The turkeys got their first taste of fame on the morning of Nov. 18, when the Iowa Turkey Federation hosted a send-off for the birds. A small group of local and state media, turkey industry representatives and elected officials from Sioux City to Des Moines gathered in a shed at the Domino family’s farm to “meet” the celebrities and learn more about the Domino family’s farming tradition, which has spanned nearly a century.

“We highlight the family aspect of farming as we celebrate this fun, turkey-centered tradition,” Irwin said.


The official presidential turkey carriers are ready to transport Tater and Tot from their farm near Early, Iowa, to Washington, D.C.

Turkey tradition dates back to Truman administration
The turkeys left for Washington, D.C. in a van early in the week of Nov. 21. After arriving in the nation’s capital, they settled into their deluxe accommodations at the posh Willard Hotel just down the street from the White House.

Irwin and the Dominos watched as the Iowa turkeys basked in the spotlight during a high-profile media event at the Willard Hotel ballroom on Nov. 22. The big day arrived on Nov. 23, when President Obama bestowed names on the birds and issued his pardon for the turkeys, who were presented by National Turkey Federation Chairman John Reicks. The birds retired to Virginia Tech University, where they will live out their lives in comfort.

While some historians debate the origins of the presidential Thanksgiving turkey tradition, history is clear that the first presentation of a turkey by the National Turkey Federation occurred during President Truman’s administration.

Since then, Iowa has supplied seven of the Thanksgiving turkeys pardoned by various presidents. Prior presidential turkeys have hailed from Ellsworth, West Liberty, Dike and Story City. The birds have represented Iowa during the administrations of President Johnson (1964), President Ford (1976), President Reagan (1983 and 1988), President George Herbert Walker Bush (1991), George W. Bush (2008), and now Obama in 2016.

Congressman Steve King (R-Iowa) noted that 2016 marks the first time a presidential bird has come from his congressional district. He added that Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to be America’s national bird. “Turkey production is a form of value-added agriculture and reminds us that all new wealth comes from the land,” King said. “It’s a proud tradition that’s worth honoring as this country comes together for Thanksgiving.”


Savor more Iowa food history

Want more fun Iowa food stories 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 2016 Darcy Maulsby & Co. 



Iowa Eats! Why Radio Iowa, Newspapers and Libraries are Hungry for “A Culinary History of Iowa”

Everyone has an Iowa food story, even those doubters who sounded incredulous when I first proposed my idea for my “Culinary History of Iowa” book. Their amusement, followed by the inevitable question, “Iowa has a culinary history?” quickly dissolved into stories of Maid-Rites, potlucks and more.

The media, Iowa libraries and others across the state have really embraced these stories, too. I was honored to offer book programs and signings at the Ruthven Public Library and beautiful Kendall Young Public Library in Webster City. I was also pleased that the Webster City Freeman Journal ran a feature story on my book, at Pat Powers from KQWC Radio in Webster City interviewed me in a broadcast that has now popped up on Radio Iowa.

Need a fun read or a great gift idea? Click here to visit my online store, where you can purchase copies of “A Culinary History of Iowa,” a unique set of 15 vintage images from “A Culinary History of Iowa,” and my first book, “Calhoun County,” which shares the remarkable, illustrated history of small-town and rural Iowa through the eyes of those who lived it.







Book details Iowa foods


November 19th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

From pork tenderloins to sweet corn to Jell-o, a new book is out focused on Iowa foods and the flavors that make the state so delicious. The book, “A Culinary History of Iowa,” traces the popular tastes of Iowans through the years, according to author Darcy Dougherty Maulsby, of Lake City.  “We do have great cuisine,” Maulsby says. “It’s funny. When the book came out, I had some people questioning, ‘Iowa has a culinary history?’ We sure do. I said, ‘Just starting thinking what defines Iowa food,’ and everybody always comes up with an answer.” Maulsby says she’s done research for the book by exploring all four corners of the state and everything in between.

“I’ve been working on it in bits and pieces for almost 20 years in my career as an ag journalist,” Maulsby says. “I’ve traveled the state and met with some of Iowa’s finest chefs and lots of great old-school farm cooks. I’ve seen the spectrum of really awesome Iowa food and it’s been so much fun to collect all of these stories and photos in one place.” Some might categorize it as a cook book but Maulsby says it’s more than that.

“It’s the story behind the things that define Iowa food,” Maulsby says. “Whether that’s Maid-Rites, Dutch letters from Pella, there’s so many fun stories, Laura Ingalls Wilder turns up in there, the Younkers Tea Room, all of these amazing traditions, meat lockers, sweet corn, all of the things that make Iowa food great.” Find the book at the Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites as well as at: (Radio Iowa)


Darcy.Culinary, res

Darcy Maulsby is the author of “A Culinary History of Iowa,” which serves up stories, photos, recipes and more!

Iowa Eats: Maulsby pens book on the state’s culinary history

NOV 16, 2016

by ADRI SIETSTRA, Webster City Freeman Journal reporter


Author Darcy Maulsby will be bringing Iowa food stories to life during a free program Thursday evening at 6:30 p.m. at Kendall Young Library. The program will feature a cooking demonstration with book signing to follow.

“You’ll love this fun, fast-paced program filled with stories, rare vintage photos and surprising recipe tips. Be prepared to dig into the remarkable stories behind Iowa classics like Maid-Rites, breaded pork tenderloins, Iowans’ obsession with Jell-O, and our distinctive chili-and-cinnamon roll phenomenon,”said Maulsby. “I’ll also share practical, proven tips on how to preserve your own family’s history and food traditions.”

Maulsby, 43, is a self-described foodie and home cooking enthusiast from Lake City. She began baking and cooking in grade school while growing up on the farm. She entered many cooking contests at the Calhoun County Expo while a member of the Lake Creek Go-Getters 4-H Club.

“Food writing is a large part of my work as a small-business owner, freelance writer and marketing specialist who focuses on agriculture. I work with clients ranging from the National Pork Board to Farm News, where I often interview chefs and home cooks, create recipe pages and write feature stories that highlight the farm-to-fork connection,” said Maulsby.

In 2007, Maulsby completed the Master Food Preserver course through University of Illinois Extension. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communications and history from Iowa State University (ISU) and also earned her master’s degree in business administration from ISU.

Maulsby’s jams have won blue ribbons at the Iowa State Fair, and cookies have earned top honors at the Clay County Fair. She is also a certified Kansas City Barbecue Society judge.

Maulsby credits a variety of sources for the inspiration for her new book.

“The stories in “A Culinary History of Iowa” have come from the Iowa State Fair, as well as long-time restaurant owners, experienced farm cooks, candy shop owners and other foodies throughout Iowa,”Maulsby said.

Maulsby is excited to share some of Iowa’s culinary history with attendees Thursday evening.

“Everyone has a food story. Sometimes we don’t realize just how unique-and tantalizing-Iowa’s food traditions are. If you like to travel, you’ll walk away from this program inspired to explore Iowa, where you can sample flavors from around the globe without leaving the state,” said Maulsby. “If you have an appetite for adventure, you can’t do better than Iowa when it comes to history, agriculture and one-of-kind culinary experiences.”

Signed copies of her book “A Culinary History of Iowa” will be available for $24 a copy.


Celebrating great Iowa eats

LINDSAY ANDERSON, Kendall Young Librarian

webster-city-freeman-journalWe Midwesterners are known far and wide for our excellent, down-home cuisine. Having only lived in Iowa for two years, I have already eaten enough to be amazed at Iowa’s particular brand of culinary delights.

Have you ever wondered why Iowans cook – and eat – so well, and from where your signature recipes and food traditions originate? Iowa author and Lake City native, Darcy Maulsby, explores these and other food stories in her recently published book, Culinary History of Iowa. In it, she discusses everything from Maid-Rite classics to Iowan’s homemade cinnamon rolls (served with chili, of course). The Library is delighted to be hosting Maulsby at Kendall Young Library on Thursday, November 17 at 6:30pm for a presentation, book signing and cooking demonstration. Maulsby has been featured in the Iowa History Journal, Our Iowa magazine, Iowa Public Radio, and more. During Maulsby’s fun, interactive program, she will serve up fascinating tidbits related to more than 150 years of Iowa cuisine from all corners of the state.  Attend this free event and discover how Iowa’s delectable cuisine is quintessentially Midwestern, grounded in its rich farming heritage and spiced with diverse ethnic influences.

On the Shelf

If all this talk of food has left you hungry, here are some titles that can help get some great, local Iowa eats cooking in your kitchen:  The following cookbooks were recently added to the Library’s Genealogy Reference collection.  While we do not allow these unique cookbooks to be checked out, you are welcome to browse them and make copies of any recipes that catch your eye.

The Famous Old Webster City Cook Book

Curated by The Ladies’ Aid Society of the Congregational Church in 1916, this cookbook boasts only “tried and tested” local recipes, including everything from waffles and pancakes, to salads and corn breads. A fun addition: the past page of this cookbook includes “Discoveries and Household Hints,” a delightful list of tips and tricks from some early 1900s kitchen experts.

4-H & Friends Cookbook

Assembled in honor of the Hamilton County 4-H program’s 70th anniversary in 1987, this nearly 400-page volume is painstakingly indexed, and boasts over 13 sections of recipes. Explore and discover some delightful gems; experiment with recipe choices ranging from “Shoo-Fly Cake” to “Gramma’s Hamburger Soup”.

St. Paul’s Lutheran Church Anniversary Cookbook

Compiled by the ALCW of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church of Williams, Iowa in 1987 to commemorate their 75th anniversary, this volume boasts more than 250 pages of hardy, time-tested eats that will satisfy your hunger and delight your taste buds. Try your hand at everything from “Buttermilk Cinnamon Bars,” to “Zucchini Date Pecan Loaf,” to “Highbrow Haddock.”

Try out these locally celebrated recipes for some delicious mealtime fun, and don’t forget to join us at the Library with Darcy Maulsby on Thursday, November 17 at 6:30pm for an unforgettable (not to mention delicious) journey into Iowa’s culinary past.

Order you copies today!

Click here to visit my online store, where you can purchase copies of “A Culinary History of Iowa,” a unique set of 15 vintage images from “A Culinary History of Iowa,” and my first book, “Calhoun County,” which shares the remarkable, illustrated history of small-town and rural Iowa through the eyes of those who lived it.

Talking Iowa Food and Culinary History on Iowa Public Radio

What do you think of when you think of Iowa food? Charity Nebbe explored Iowa’s amazing culinary history with me during “Talk of Iowa” on Iowa Public Radio recently, and you won’t believe all the incredible stories we covered in 20 minutes!

Listen to the complete “Talk of Iowa” interview about “A Culinary History of Iowa here. 

Want to learn more about the book or its companion postcard packet of 15 vintage Iowa culinary history images? Check out my online store! 


Darcy.Culinary, res

Remembering Sept. 11: Iowa Community’s Potluck Honors America    

I wrote this story in 2014 for Farm News and wanted to share it again today on this 15th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedies. We must never forget, or take our freedoms for granted. 

Ginger Tribby doesn’t do a lot of cooking. That doesn’t mean that incredible home-cooked food doesn’t abound, however, when she and her husband, Neal, host a potluck at their home each Sept. 11 to remember the day America changed forever.

“It’s about asept-11-remembrance-collage-2014ppreciating our life, our freedom and all the blessings we have in America,” said Tribby, a retired Farm Bureau Financial Services employee.

The Tribbys have hosted up to 200 guests for the annual Sept. 11 remembrance gathering—an impressive number for a community with about 110 people. The event offers a meaningful way to bring the community together, said Dorothy Gavin of St. Marys, who prepares a variety of dishes for the potluck. “We come together to honor those who perished, as well as the firefighters and first responders.”

The remembrance gathering started after Tribby, her husband, her sister Margie and brother-in-law Chuck were waylaid in Ireland following the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. “We’d spent 10 days in Ireland celebrating our 25th anniversary,” Tribby recalled. “After we boarded a plane in Dublin on Sept. 11 to fly back to America, we heard there was going to be a slight delay.”

The passengers were later told that their flight had been cancelled due to the closing of U.S. air space. Amidst the fear and confusion, a fellow passenger with a cell phone was able to find out what was going on. “It was totally surreal,” said Tribby, who wasn’t able to return to the United States with her family until Sept. 15.

In 2002, the Tribbys decided to host a get-together on Sept. 11 to honor America. “It started as a small gathering,” Tribby said. “Then we thought maybe we should do this each year, so we have.”

The event has grown each year and includes people of all ages, from children to grandparents. Following an evening potluck meal featuring smoked pork loin, ham balls, cheesy potatoes and salads of all kinds, everyone heads to the dessert table loaded with cakes, bars, apple crisp and more. “The food is the best,” said Patty Gavin of St. Marys. “More importantly, Sept. 11 is a day that shouldn’t be forgotten.”

At sunset, guests gather in the Tribby’s back yard near the American flag to sing “America the Beautiful” and listen to a patriotic poem. “If that ceremony doesn’t make you tear up, nothing will,” said Steve Lininger, who travels 150 miles from Rock Port, Mo., to attend the annual gathering. “Sept. 11 changed the lives of everyone here. The remembrance gathering leaves a lasting impression on you.”

Savor more Iowa food history

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









Ham Balls
This family favorite comes from Ginger Tribby’s mother, Ellen Dooley. Ginger and her sisters made a triple batch for this year’s Sept. 11 remembrance gathering.   

1 pound ground ham
1 / 2 pound lean ground beef
1 / 2 pound lean ground pork
2 / 3 cup crackers, crushed
2 eggs
1 / 2 cup milk
1 / 2 cup finely chopped onions
1 / 2 teaspoon salt
1 / 4 teaspoon pepper
1 / 2 teaspoon liquid smoke


1 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons vinegar
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon dry mustard

Combine all the ham ball ingredients. Shape into balls about the size of golf balls, and place in baking dish. Combine the syrup ingredients and set aside. Bake ham balls at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Top the ham balls with syrup, and bake another 30 minutes.









Cheesy Baked Hash Browns
This recipe from Joanne Gavin of St. Marys is always a hit at potlucks.

1 2-pound bag shredded hash browns
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup cheese (Velveeta or cheese in a can)
1 / 2 cup onions
1 / 2 cup peppers, diced
1 stick butter, softened
1 cup sour cream
Salt and pepper, to taste

Mix all ingredients together. Bake in an uncovered 9-inch by 13-inch dish at 325 degrees for 1 hour.

Macaroni Salad
This classic recipe is found in the “Great Home Cooking” cookbook compiled by members of the Immaculate Conception Parish in St. Marys.

3 cups macaroni (uncooked)
2 cups Miracle Whip salad dressing
2 / 3 cup sugar
2 cups cheddar cheese (shredded)
1 cup celery, diced
1 / 2 cup carrots (grated)
2 / 3 cup onion, diced
1 / 2 cup green pepper, diced
1 / 2 cup dried bacon bits

Mix Miracle Whip and sugar together with an electric mixer; set aside. Cook macaroni until tender. Drain and rinse in cold water; let cool. Combine Miracle Whip mixture with macaroni and all remaining ingredients. Refrigerate for two hours before serving. Makes 10 cups.









Rum Cake
This easy recipe from the Tribby’s friend Sheryl Reynolds of Des Moines tastes great with ice cream or whipped cream. It also freezes well. With a few minor adjustments (noted below the recipe here), it can be transformed into Red Velvet Irish Cream Cake.

1 cup chopped, toasted pecans or walnuts
1 15.25-ounce yellow cake mix
1 3.4-ounce instant vanilla pudding mix
4 eggs
1 / 2 cup cold milk
1 / 2 cup vegetable oil
1 / 2 cup Bacardi dark rum

1 stick butter
1 / 4 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 / 2 cup Bacardi dark rum

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan. Sprinkle nuts on the bottom of pan. Combine all cake ingredients. Beat for 2 minutes on high with electric mixer. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour. Cool in pan. Invert onto serving plate. Prick top with fork.

For glaze, combine butter, water and sugar. Boil 5 minutes, stir constantly. Remove from heat, and stir in rum. Note: the rum will cause steam, so be careful not to burn yourself. Drizzle glaze over top of cake. Use brush or spoon to put extra drippings of glaze on cake.

  • To make Red Velvet Irish Cream Cake instead of Rum Cake, substitute 1 18.25-ounce box of red velvet cake mix instead of yellow cake mix. Also substitute 1 / 2 cup Irish Cream in the cake batter instead of rum. Follow all the same steps to prepare the cake. For the glaze, substitute 1 / 2 cup Irish Cream instead of the 1 / 2 cup rum. Follow all the same steps to prepare the glaze.

Slab Pie Bars

This recipe is a favorite of the Tribby’s neighbor, Holly Wiederin, who noted that it can be made with any berry or stone fruit. She likes to use pitted, tart cherries. This recipe makes one 17-inch by 12-inch sheet pan of bars.

For the crust:
5 cups all-purpose flour, divided
3 teaspoons coarse salt, divided
2 teaspoons sugar, divided
4 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut in to small pieces, divided
12 to 16 tablespoons ice water, divided

For the Slab Pie Bars:
All-purpose flour, for dusting
2 prepared crusts, from above
2 1 / 2 pounds (about 6 cups) fresh (or frozen, thawed & drained) berries, such as blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, or a combination
1 1 / 4 cups sugar
1 / 4  cup cornstarch
Juice of half a lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
1 / 4  teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon heavy cream
1 / 4  cup sanding sugar

For crust, process half of each of the flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor until combined. Add half of the butter. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds. With machine running, add about half of the ice water in a slow, steady stream just until dough comes together.

Turn dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap. Flatten dough, and shape into a rectangle; wrap in plastic. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight. Repeat process with remaining ingredients – you need two discs of dough to make the Slab Pie Bars.

For the bars, preheat oven to 375 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll out a larger piece of dough to a 20-inch by 15-inch rectangle. Fit into a 17-inch by 12-inch rimmed baking sheet, pressing into corners. Pastry will hang over sides. Chill while assembling filling.
In a large bowl, stir together berries, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, and salt. Spread mixture over chilled pie shell.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out remaining piece of dough to an 18-inch by 13-inch rectangle; drape over filling. Fold edge of bottom dough over top dough. Pinch edges to seal. Prick top dough all over with a fork. Brush entire surface of pie with cream, and sprinkle with sanding sugar.
Bake until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling, 40 to 55 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and let pie cool. Serve warm or at room temperature. Slab Pie Bars are best eaten the same day they are baked but can be kept at room temperature, loosely covered with plastic wrap, for up to two days. Slab Pie dough can be frozen for up to 1 month.

“A Culinary History of Iowa” Satisfies: Iowa History Journal Book Review

            This terrific review of my latest book, “A Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More,” from The History Press appeared in the September/October issue of Iowa History Journal. Enjoy!

            Also, if you’d like to get your own signed copy of “A Culinary History of Iowa” or would like to send signed copies as gifts, click here to visit my online store. I appreciate your support for authors and Iowa-based small business!

Iowa has a long and substantial culinary history; far deeper than corn and pigs that are so often associated with our farm-rich state. “A Culinary History of Iowa,” written by Darcy Dougherty Maulsby, delves deep into its past, tracing as far back as the pioneer settlers for the story of food in Iowa.

From well-known names such as the Graziano Brothers, Blue Bunny ice cream and Maytag Blue Cheese, to hidden gems found in the most unexpected places, Iowa’s food culture is incredibly varied. As the book’s subtitle “Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More” suggests, there are unique flavors to be discovered across the state.

The book is an excellent primer on the roots of Iowa farmland, as well as current trends. Beginning with an overview of Iowa’s agricultural value and its products from American Indian traditions through the Great Depression and beyond, Maulsby concisely writes how Iowa history is tied to food creation, proliferation and consumption. The Iowa State Fair is a section unto itself, which befits the food-centric and beloved affair. A diverse gallery of local events (country fairs, sweet corn festivals) and modern confabs (Baconfest) are the beneficiaries of profiles, as well.

Finally, the book devotes space to the many long-established restaurants that can be found almost anywhere in Iowa; each with its own story to tell. It’s always fascinating to see history through a different lens, and Iowa’s culinary exploits definitely shine throughout these pages.

Iowa History Journal Cover-V8I5-World-Food-Prize-e1472605373948           Iowa has been influenced by many cultures in a variety of ways, but nowhere does that cultural melting pot shine so bright as in the kitchen. Polish, Swedish, German, Dutch and other culinary traditions are highlighted across multiple chapters in an exploration of what it means to be an immigrant in Iowa and how such cultures blend to create a far more ethnically diverse cuisine than many realize. Of all the observations and stories in the book, these wonderfully inclusive stories are among my favorites.

This eclectic mixture of historical tidbits, social observations, vintage photos and delicious recipes provides just the right ingredients for a delightful reading experience. Maulsby, an Iowa native and lifelong food lover, has an obvious passion for her topic, and it pays off in this compact and charming book. She has worked across the state and Midwest for such diverse entities as Progressive Farmer magazine and the Iowa Turkey Federation.

Maulsby has written in many publications about Iowa food, and it’s clear that it is a labor of love and a collaborative labor as Maulsby solicited tales input from all across the state for the juiciest food-related tales and locations. Even those who are well acquainted with Iowa food lore are sure to find something new and interesting.

Ideal for anyone with a love of food history and particularly those with a Midwestern heart, this book has so many interesting tales, morsels of trivia and personal anecdotes that it feels as though the book should be twice as long. Go on an adventure with this fun, fascinating and tasty tale of culinary traditions that weave through Iowa’s past and present. Just be sure you have a snack handy.

(Julie Goodrich is a graduate of the University of Iowa and the University of Wisconsin. She works at Beaverdale Books in Des Moines, in addition to holding down a full-time job because she loves books.)


62 Years and Counting: Calhoun County, Iowa, Families Maintain 4th of July Picnic Tradition

Looking for deli fried chicken, bakery pies or other pre-made convenience food? Don’t be surprised if none of it turns up on the massive buffet on the Dial farm during the annual 4th of July picnic. I certainly didn’t see it at this year’s celebration.

“Everyone brings their A game to this event,” said Jolene Schleisman of Lake City, Iowa, who has been attending the 4th of July picnic since she was a child.

While my family has been attending the picnic each July for a few years, the event started in 1954 on Bud Burley’s farm near Lake City. Mike and Dorothy Nichols hosted the party the next year and maintained the tradition until 1981. Then their neighbors, Gerald and Alice Ann Dial, began hosting the celebration on their farm northwest of Lake City. In 2003, the event moved to the Dial’s son Dwight’s farm east of Lake City.

The celebration has been going strong ever since, attracting up to 50 or 60 guests each 4th of July. Along with the fireworks at dusk, the big attraction is the food. Countertops spanning the width of Dial’s two-car garage, along with additional tables, are loaded with homemade fried chicken, roast pork, casseroles, cheese potatoes, baked beans, salads of all kinds, deviled eggs, cakes, pies, candies and more.

“I appreciate how neighbors of all ages enjoy each other’s company,” said Laura Holm, a teacher from Ames who grew up on a farm near Lake City and brings her family back home for the picnic. “I also love the homemade, made-from-the-heart food that comes from friends’ kitchens, not store shelves. This party is about my roots, and I love to teach my kids about these roots.”

At this year’s celebration, Dial’s son, Andy, prepared a number of favorite recipes in honor of his late grandmother, Alice Ann Dial, including her famous lemon me

Iowa, picnic, food, lemon meringue pie

Andy Dial presents a lemon meringue pie to Jim and Joy Angove on their 50th wedding anniversary.

ringue pie. Schleisman also brought a number of classic dishes, including glazed ham balls. Oh yeah, that amazing Iowa classic that makes any picnic a little more memorable.

“To me and the Dial kids, the 4th of July picnic was better than Christmas,” Schleisman said. “I love it that this tradition continues.”

I couldn’t have said it better. Let’s eat!

Savor more Iowa food history

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

Fried Chicken
Andy Dial used his Grandma Alice Ann Dial’s recipe and his Grandma Dottie Loeck’s cast-iron skillet to make this fried chicken, which is always a star of the 4th of July picnic.

4 dozen chicken hind quarters separated into legs and thighs.


5 cups all-purpose flour
1 1 / 2 teaspoons onion powder
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp black pepper
4 tablespoons garlic salt
1 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons Lawry’s seasoning salt


4 eggs
1 cup whole milk

Combine breading ingredients until mixed thoroughly. Place breading mix into a 9.5-inch pie pan. Beat eggs and milk together until mixed thoroughly. Place egg wash in a separate 9.5-inch pie pan.

Place chicken pieces first in the egg wash until liberally coated; then transfer to the breading mix and turn until coated fully.  Once coated with breading, place chicken pieces into hot oil in frying pan. (Andy Dial prefers a cast-iron skillet.) Turn pieces ever 2 to 3 minutes until golden brown all over.  Place into roaster pan at 350 degrees to finish cooking through and keep warm until serving time.

Note: To keep chicken crispy, serve immediately after frying.

Iowa ham balls at a picnic

Glazed Ham Balls are an Iowa classic!

Glazed Ham Balls
Jolene Schleisman of Lake City uses 4 pounds of a ham-ball mix from the locker in Lake City to make these tasty ham balls. Her recipe shows how to make your own ham-ball meat mix, however. These ham balls can be made ahead and frozen (unglazed) to be baked later.

For the ham balls:
2 1 / 2 pounds ground ham
1 1 / 2 pounds ground pork
2 cups instant oatmeal or cracker crumbs
2 eggs, well beaten
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon ground pepper

For the glaze:
1 1 / 2 cups brown sugar
1 / 2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 / 3 cup Cookies BBQ Sauce
1 / 2 cup water
2 tablespoons honey

Combine ground ham, ground pork, oatmeal or cracker crumbs, eggs, milk and pepper. Shape mixture into balls. Freeze the ham balls to bake later, or place them in a greased, glass baking dish.

To make the glaze, combine brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, dry mustard, BBQ sauce, water and honey in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves.

Pour glaze over ham balls. Bake for 1.5 to 2 hours at 275 or 300 degrees. About every 20 minutes, spoon the glaze over the ham balls as they bake. Yield: 32 ham balls

Deviled Eggs
Andy Dial used a recipe from his mother, Jane, to create this potluck favorite.

6 eggs

1 / 16 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 / 4 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 / 2 teaspoon dry mustard or 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
1 / 2 teaspoon salt

Slice hard-boiled eggs in half lengthwise.  Remove yolks, smash and mix with seasonings.  Refill egg whites with seasoned yolk mixture.

Dial picnic Iowa Calico Beans

Calico Beans are healthy and always a hit at Iowa picnics.

Calico Beans
Jeanne Devine of Lake City brought along this potluck classic, which she created from a recipe on the Taste of Home website. This recipe can be easily doubled for a larger group.

4 ounces bacon, diced
1 pound lean ground beef (90% lean)
1 / 2 cup chopped onion
1 can (21 ounces) pork and beans
1 can (16 ounces) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (16 ounces) butter beans, rinsed and drained
1 / 2 cup packed brown sugar
1 / 2 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
1 teaspoon salt

In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove to paper towels to drain. Discard drippings. In the same skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat until the meat is no longer pink; drain. Combine the beef mixture, bacon, beans, brown sugar, ketchup, vinegar, mustard and salt. Spoon into a greased 2-quart baking dish.

Bake, uncovered, at 325 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes or until the beans are as thick as desired. Yield: 8-10 servings.

This homemade pie was inspired by Alice Ann Dial's famous Lemon Meringue Pie.

This homemade pie was inspired by Alice Ann Dial’s famous Lemon Meringue Pie.

Lemon Pie
Alice Ann Dial’s signature pie is distinguished by its fresh lemon flavor.

For the filling:

2 cups sugar
4 egg yolks
2 cups water
1 / 2 cup cornstarch
Dash of salt
8 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter

For the meringue:

4 egg whites
8 tablespoons sugar
1 / 4 teaspoon cream of tartar

To mix the pie filling: Blend sugar, egg yolks, water, cornstarch and salt. Cook until the mixture thickens and bubbles up. Remove from heat and add lemon juice and butter. Pour the filling in a pre-baked pie shell made from Alice Ann’s all-purpose pastry mix (see recipe below) and cover immediately with meringue.

To make the meringue, beat the eggs whites until foamy. Add sugar and cream of tartar. Beat slowly until peaks form. Spread on pie, and bake the pie for 20 to 25 minutes at 325 degrees Fahrenheit.


All-Purpose Pastry Mix
Alice Ann Dial kept this all-purpose pastry mix on hand to save time when baking pie.

7 cups flour
4 teaspoons salt
2 cups lard

Combine all ingredients together to create a crumbled consistency, but make sure the mix doesn’t clump together. Store mixture in a covered container in the refrigerator.

For a single crust:

1 1 / 2 cups all-purpose pastry mix
3 tablespoons ice-cold water

For a double crust:

3 cups all-purpose pastry mix
5 tablespoons ice-cold water

Combine the all-purpose pastry mix and ice water until the mixture leaves the sides of the bowl. Then roll out the dough. If you’re making a pie shell for a lemon meringue pie, place the crust in a pie plate and prick the dough with a fork on the bottom and sides before baking the crust at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 to 12 minutes.


Iowa’s Vigilante Crime Fighters of the 1920s and 1930s

Who were these guys? It’s a question I couldn’t get out of my mind after I discovered a black-and-white image in the Calhoun County Museum in Rockwell City that showed a group of well-dressed men in front of the Calhoun County Courthouse. The only identification on the image, which appeared to be from the late 1920s or early 1930s, were the words “Calhoun County Vigilantes,” along with some long-forgotten names of men I suspect were mayors and other leaders in local towns around the county.

A recent trip to the fascinating “Ain’t Misbehavin:’ The World of the Gangster” exhibit at the Hoover Presidential Library and Museum helped me piece together some potential clues about the story behind this photo.

While bank robbers and swindlers are as old as the banking industry itself, crime sprees shifted into high gear during the early twentieth century. As early as 1912, the Iowa Bankers Association (IBA) decried the “epidemic” of bank burglaries sweeping the state. This proved to be only an inkling of what lay ahead, however. By 1920, burglaries and holdups had increased so dramatically that new protective measures had to be taken.

Vigilante.Aint.Misbehavin.low res

This 2016 display in the “Ain’t Misbehavin:’ The World of the Gangster” exhibit at the Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch, Iowa, explains more about vigilantes and the role of the Iowa Bankers Association.had increased so dramatically that new protective measures had to be taken.

Although the Iowa Bankers Association (IBA) had previously employed the services of the Pinkerton Detective Agency and the W. J. Burns Detective Agency, the IBA formed Vigilante Committees in the early 1920s to fight the crime wave. In 1921, IBA helped organize 99 county associations and a Vigilance Committee in nearly every city and town in the state to help protect Iowa’s banks.

Vigilantes attracted international attention
The system was a modern reincarnation of the vigilante groups who fought back against horse thieving and cattle rustling during the days of the pioneers. In Iowa, each Vigilance Committee consisted of at least four men in every town where there was a bank. Each committee member was appointed as a deputy sheriff by the county sheriff. In addition, the banks of each county subscribed to at least a $1,000 reward for the apprehension and conviction of bank burglars, plus smaller rewards for telephone operators who helped in the process.

Arrangements were later made with the U.S. War Department so officers in each of Iowa’s County Bankers Associations could purchase guns and ammunition for the members of their Vigilante Committees. The Vigilance Committees were prepared for—and frequently engaged in—gunfights with criminals. At one time, there were 4,303 vigilantes covering 881 banking towns in 84 Iowa counties. “The time of easy dough for the bank bandit has passed,” noted a financial publication that commented on the plan.

Thanks to this system, the bank theft crime wave that had swept Iowa was broken. While losses from bank burglaries totaled more than $225,000 in 1920-1921, more than 100 bank bandits were apprehended from 1920 to 1925. “The plan was such a success that rates for bank burglary and bank insurance in Iowa were dropped to $1 per thousand, while in other states the rates ranged from $4 per thousand in Missouri to $10 per thousand in Oklahoma,” noted Howard E. Bell in his book, “A History of the Iowa Bankers Association.”

Insurance companies across the United States quickly adopted the Iowa Vigilance Committee Plan. A 10 percent discount for both night burglary and daylight holdup insurance rates was automatically granted to banks in any county in the United States that maintained Vigilance Committees.

Iowa’s Vigilance Committee Plan continued to be of national interest for a number of years and generated coverage in a number of magazines and periodicals. As late as 1930, the IBA received an interview request from a publication in Paris, France, that wanted to feature the Vigilance Committee Plan.

IBA takes to the airwaves
Though the vigilantes helped curb crime in the 1920s and early 1930s, the IBA also initiated a low-wave police radio system to bolster its crime prevention efforts. While Des Moines radio station WHO had broadcast news of bank robberies (when requested by the IBA) as early as 1924, it became clear that a radio station devoted solely to police information must be established.

To connect local law enforcement officers with the Iowa Bureau of Criminal Investigation by radio, the IBA purchased a transmitter that was installed in February of 1932 in the organization’s headquarters in the Liberty Building in Des Moines. After the system was tested carefully, station KGHO began regular operations on May 15, 1933.

Later, four other radio stations in Storm Lake, Atlantic, Fairfield and Waterloo (subsequently moved to Cedar Falls) commenced operations to allowed prompt contact with county sheriffs’ offices throughout Iowa. While the IBA transferred the operation of its radio station in 1937 to the State of Iowa and the organization sold its radio equipment, the IBA’s leadership in radio communication helped initiate Iowa’s permanent, statewide police radio system.

Darcy.Aint.Misbehavin.Hoover.exhibit.May.15.2016 low res

Couldn’t resist getting in on the action at the “Ain’t Misbehavin:’ The World of the Gangster” exhibit at the Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch, Iowa!

Although radio communication lessened the need for Vigilance Committees, the groups continued to function. The rewards that had been offered by various County Associations were rescinded around 1938, however, as the number of bank holdups and burglaries decreased substantially. As new state crime prevention agencies developed, the suggestion was made to abolish the Vigilance Committees, so banks would no longer have to assume the expense of maintaining the committees. Nevertheless, there were 216 vigilantes who remained active in a number of counties across Iowa as late as 1949.

Although the vigilantes and IBA radio stations are long gone, their legacy remains an intriguing part of Iowa history, including right here in Calhoun County.

Explore more rural Iowa history
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Want to discover more stories and pictures that showcase the unique history of small-town and rural Iowa? Perhaps you’d like a taste of Iowa’s culture and favorite recipes. Check out my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa” book from The History Press and “Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing, and order your signed copies today.