Prairie Cooks

Prairie Cooks

Glorified Rice, Three-Day Buns, and Other Reminiscences
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1993
148 pp, 4 photos
Paper: 
$16.00
0877457174

"The gentle care Young brings to her storytelling is reminiscent of other women writers from the plains, most particularly Bess Streeter Aldrich and Willa Cather. Her style and subject matter invite favorable comparison to these important predecessors…Her prose is a pleasure, especially in this day of cynicism and commentary on the human animal's disdain for its own well-being."—Bloomsbury Review

"…presents a vivid picture of life in the early part of this century on the plains of the Dakotas. In this harsh and demanding landscape, homesteading Norwegian immigrants clung mightily to the traditions—culinary and otherwise—of their native land."—The Source

Growing up in a Norwegian American community imbued with the customs and foods of the Old Country, Carrie Young recalls how her mother and her neighbors skillfully blended Scandinavian with what they always called the American style of cooking. Young recounts how her mother, Carrine Gafkjen—after homesteading as a single woman in 1904—cooked for a large threshing crew during harvest season. Living and cooking around the clock in a cook car the size of a Pullman kitchen, she delighted the crew with her soda pancakes and her sour cream doughnuts, her fattigman (Poor Man's Cookies) and her fabulous North Dakota Lemon Meringue Pie.

During holidays lutefisk and lefse reigned supreme, but when the Glorified Rice fad swept the country in the thirties women broke new ground with inventive variations. And the short-lived but intensely experienced Three-Day Bun Era (when the buns became so ethereal they were in danger of floating off the plate) kept the Ladies Aid luncheons competitive. Whatever the times, in good years or bad, there was always the solace of Kaffe Tid, the forenoon and afternoon coffee time, when the table was set with smor og brod (butter and bread) and something sweet, like a Whipped Cream Cake or Devil's Food Cake with Rhubarb Sauce.

This book will appeal to those who feel nostalgia for a parent's or grandparent's cooking, to those who have a longing for the heartier fare of times past. The author's daughter, Felicia Young, who has "cooked Scandinavian since she was old enough to hold a lefse stick," has compiled and tested the seventy-two recipes accompanying this joyful memoir.

Excerpt: 

Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake

1 1/2 cups unsweetened rhubarb (fresh or frozen)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup softened butter or margarine
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup milk
1 egg white

Heavily grease with butter or margarine an 8-inch round layer cake pan. Mix well-chopped rhubarb with brown sugar and spread evenly over the bottom of the pan.

In a bowl cream the butter and granulated sugar together, add the egg yolk and vanilla, and mix well. Add the sifted dry ingredients alternately with milk. Beat egg white to stiff peaks and fold into the mixture last. Evenly spread cake batter over the rhubarb until it is completely covered.

Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees on lower shelf of oven. Turn heat off and leave cake in oven another 10 minutes before removing it. With a hot knife or small spatula loosen cake gently from the sides and bottom of the pan before inverting over a cooling rack. Bake as close to serving time as possible. Serve still warm from the oven with plenty of freshly whipped cream sweetened with a little sugar and vanilla. Serves 4 to 6.