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The winners of the 2012 Heirloom Recipes Contest in Huron: Sheryl Kloss, Marie Harvey and Mike Sibson. Photo by Catherine Lambrecht.
The winners of the 2012 Heirloom Recipes Contest in Huron: Sheryl Kloss, Marie Harvey and Mike Sibson. Photo by Catherine Lambrecht.

Savoring the Story

Aug 29, 2013

I wish I’d carried pencil and paper with me when I was growing up. I spent a fair amount of time with my elders over the years, and there are so many things that I thought would be forever cemented in my memory that have slipped away, perhaps for good. It makes me sad to think about all the stories entrusted to me over the years that are now lost. I should’ve taken better notes. Heck, ANY notes would’ve made a difference. 

Then there are the half-remembered tidbits stuck in my head that no one else can verify. My grandparents told me about some foods their parents made back in the 1930s — malt leader beer, a non-alcoholic brew, and buttermilk jam. Perhaps both were products of hard times. Buttermilk was something Great-Grandma Mark had in abundance on her farm near Viborg, and a homemade non-alcoholic beer would have quenched Great-Grandpa Skoven’s thirst in those hot, dusty days of Prohibition. But I don’t have recipes, and I haven’t had any luck finding any. They weren’t deemed important enough to pass down. 

And then there’s the flip side. Have you ever paged through an old community cookbook and found a recipe that stopped you in your tracks? I have. The recipe giver may be credited, if you’re lucky, but you don’t know why this particular food was so important that they wanted to share it with their community. Was it traditional in their family, picked up on a trip or clipped out of a newspaper? Was it an everyday meal or fancy food that was only brought out for company? Were they famous or infamous for making this dish? You can recreate it if you want to, but you’ll never know why it mattered to them.

That’s why I’m excited to travel to the South Dakota State Fair this Sunday. I’ll be helping Catherine Lambrecht of the Greater Midwest Foodways Alliance judge the Heirloom Recipes Contest. Participants will bring a favorite homemade family recipe that dates before 1950, along with the story behind it. We’ll get to sample South Dakota tastes of years ago and place them in the context of their times.

Pre-registration is over, but if you have a recipe you’d like to share, take a look at the contest rules and please join us on Sept. 1 at 11:30 am in the Women’s Building. Last year’s entries were dessert-heavy, but savory recipes are very welcome too. 

When I first read this recipe in an old Yankton cookbook from 1946, I was a little taken aback. “You call that a dessert?” I thought. My husband suspected the recipe submitter, the pastor’s wife, was having a little laugh at her congregation’s expense. The truth probably relates to the times. Sugar was rationed from May 1942 to June 1947 because of World War II, so many housewives turned to marshmallows as a substitute.

While this recipe was by no means the weirdest thing I’ve ever found in an old community cookbook (the Jello salad section is always good for oddities), it is one of the few I’m actually willing to try. As I sample it, I’ll wonder what Mrs. Wicks’ name actually was, why this recipe was significant enough for her to put her name to, and if it was still popular with her family after the wartime restrictions were lifted. If you’re a Wicks descendant (or if you’ve got recipes for malt leader beer or buttermilk jam), please leave a comment below.


Marshmallow Dessert

Submitted by Mrs. T. G. Wicks
Trinity Lutheran Cook Book, 3rd edition, printed August 1946

24 marshmallows
1 cup strong coffee — cool
1 cup whipping cream
Nuts to flavor 

Whip coffee and marshmallows. Fold in whipped cream. Leave in refrigerator until ready to serve. Serve in sherbet glasses.



08:38 am - Thu, August 29 2013
Amanda said:
How on earth does one "whip" marshmallows and cold coffee? I can understand if the coffee is hot, and thus melting, or at least softening, the marshmallows, but as written? I hope we get an update on how this works out!
08:51 am - Thu, August 29 2013
Laura said:
Amanda - that's a very good question. Seems like it might make a big mess, now that I think about it. I promise to report back!
09:09 am - Thu, August 29 2013
Dick Reding said:
My mother taught me how to make her mother's cabbage slaw dressing. My mother made slaw with this dressing for church dinners in Marion, SD for decades. Quantities are make this by taste adjusting ingredients as needed

1c sugar
1c white vinegar
1/3c salad oil
1 tsp salt
2T yellow mustard

Combine the ingredients in a sauce pan and gently simmer stirring often until fully combined. Cool before using. This dressing will keep for months in the fridge. Shake well before using
11:09 am - Thu, August 29 2013
*Just Fran* said:
The ingredients of this recipe remind me of a Hershey Pie recipe I have been making since first married. Melt marshmallows, Hershey bars (I like the ones with almonds) and a little milk together. Allow to cool. Fold into whipped cream and turn into graham cracker crust.

I could see melting the marshmallows and coffee together, cooling, and then combining with the whipped cream to make a light, coffee-flavored dessert...but that certainly isn't what the directions say.
06:59 am - Fri, August 30 2013
Rebecca said:
I'm sure the marshmallows would dissolve partway in the coffee and whipping cream. Especially if you leave it in the fridge for a while before serving.
09:38 am - Fri, August 30 2013
Beryl C. Geer said:
Some of my grandmothers' (plural) recipes have only the main ingredients written down, and if you were born in that age, my guess is you pretty much knew the recipe process. (Maybe pencils/paper were at a premium; thus, recipes w/ bare minimum written on scraps of paper?) Even today, I read Homemaker Club-type recipe books that have few instructions. Anyway, my guess on the pastor's wife's recipe is that you stirred/whipped the hot coffee w/ the marshmallows, then cooled that mixture, then whipped the cream, then folded it and the nuts together, then refrigerated until cool/stiff and ready to serve. MMmmm yum, a new twist on the coffee craze -- maybe a little chocolate mixed in, too?? (Dick Reding, I'm writing your Grandma's dressing recipe down and using it!! Thanks.)
12:38 pm - Wed, September 4 2013
Laura Andrews said:
Amanda - I think my husband might be right about this recipe being a practical joke. As written, you get a great big mess when you try to whip cold coffee and cold marshmallows. You're right - you really want soft marshmallows for this kind of deal...and if you want a dessert with flavor, use STRONG coffee.

Dick - Any chance you can bring your dressing to the state fair next year? What church was your mother affiliated with? I thought my brother once told me there was a church up that way that made excellent taverns.

Fran - I would eat that. Marshmallow Dessert definitely needed some chocolate. The nuts were not enough to flavor.

Rebecca - Because of your comment, I learned about the solubility of Peeps (hey, they're marshmallows!) I'm not sure that coffee would be enough.

Beryl - Back in the day, recipes must've been hell on new cooks who hadn't received adequate training from their mothers. How do you know what steps to take when you don't know what steps to take?! I came across that problem last year, when I tried some recipes from the 1861 Yankton Weekly Dakotian:

I did follow your suggested method for the Marshmallow Dessert...though I'm not sure what size 1940s marshmallows were — I used jumbos and fewer of them, but may have ended up skimping.

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