Food and History: Historical society’s new cookbook creates a unique taste of the past

Published 7:09 am Saturday, March 2, 2019

It didn’t take long for Randy Forster, newest executive director of the Mower County Historical Society, to make a mark on the organization.

After all, he came into the position already armed with a recipe for success based on an idea for — recipes.

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That idea was for a cookbook using a combination of submitted recipes along with recipes taken from church cookbooks and other sources.

Sprinkle in a little history and you have the new cookbook, “A Taste of History: Recipes and Remembrances,” available at both the Mower County Historical Society and Sweet Reads for $10.

“When I first came in it was one of my first ideas,” Forster said.

Along with historical society board treasurer Sue Grove and Millie Burrows, the book was brought together using help from the community.

Corn Hot Dish by Inez Colescott, featured originally in the “1050s Methodist Church Cookbook.” You can see what other dishes were tried as well as find more stories in the March-April edition of Austin Living Magazine, out now.
Michael Stoll/

A simple request through the society’s newsletter set up a flood of recipes and submissions.

Aside from their request for recipes, they also scoured old church cookbooks that provided a flood of great ideas from places and from people readers could identify with.

“We tried to find, if possible, names that people might find familiar,” Grove said.

Some of those recipes came from places like Christ Episcopal Church (1951), The Garden Club (1968), Mitchell County Historical Society in Iowa and from “Prescriptions For Good Eating” from St. Olaf Hospital.

You can see what other dishes were tried as well as find more stories in the March-April edition of Austin Living Magazine, out now.

The recipes were also accompanied by little factoids and writings. Each divider features a photo of a church or building with a description included on the flip side.

Combining history and food just seemed to make sense as often times memories serve as a direct link to food.

“I just think there is an associated memory with food,” Forster said. “Every meal connects a food with a memory.”

It also made perfect sense as far as the historical society was concerned.

“I just think everybody likes a cookbook and what a fun way to do a fundraiser for the historical society,” Forster said.

The reception the cook book has generated has drawn pleasant reviews and has been well received by the community. A little over 500 copies were ordered, and given the interest, neither Forster or Grove are ruling out ordering more if need be.

“I think it’s gone better than we anticipated,” Grove said. “There are so many things to choose from.”