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Cooking with a purpose…

About a year ago Lutheran Social Services came up with a clever fundraiser to commemorate 100 years. They reprinted a cookbook that was called the Lutheran Home Cookbook from 1920. The Lutheran Home was a place in downtown Fargo that supported the advancement of women.

In today’s digital world, all we have to do is pull up a recipe on the Internet. Some of us get them on social media, some of us have subscriptions to cooking magazines while others exchange recipes like these women did in the late teens and early ‘20s. It’s amazing how cutting edge this cookbook was for its time. It’s obvious after reading all the way through it that these women did their homework because 100 years later, even though some of our favorite foods are much different, it still represents the best in nutrition.

In the beginning, the Lutheran Home Cookbook lists four food groups and specifically what they mean. Today we have the charts that provide visuals of what those food groups are. In 1920, they are listed and defined such as Group I - minerals, Group II - protein, Group III - vitamins and Group IV - carbohydrates. What I found really interesting in this two-page explanation of groups is what these food groups will do for your body. As an example, Iodine, which is present in spinach, oatmeal, salmon, cucumbers and eggs, is an excellent way to prevent goiter, an enlargement in the thyroid gland.

In Group II, which includes peas, lentils, peanuts and beans, these items are needed for rebuilding worn out tissue of the organs, blood and muscles. It also states that “the health of many people would be better if they ate more vegetables and less meat.” There is more information about children and how a growing child needs this group of foods more than an adult.

Group III is those foods high in vitamins. “Four different kinds of vitamins have been discovered and are distinguished as A, B, C, D.” We know that now very well, but apparently this breakdown was new at the time. It lists what each vitamin group is good for and what each will prevent, such as Vitamin C which prevents a disease called scurvy, a disease characterized by swollen bleeding gums and the opening of previously healed wounds.

Group IV lists sugars and starches and how potatoes are the main starchy food and that wheat, barley, rye, oats and corn are fuel foods. Group IV is where items like honey, syrup, molasses and sugars supply heat and energy to the body but any highly refined food such as granulated brown or white sugar has “little or no vitamins” and don’t provide any building materials.

This book also has a page which explains measurements, cross referencing, as an example, 2 cups of butter represents 1 pound. The rest of the book of 134 pages lists recipes of the various food groups and that some of them are quite different than what we know today. Keep in mind, these were all common, or at least introduced foods in Fargo at the time.

Following are some that we are all familiar with today: potato soup, tomato soup and beef vegetable soup. Others not so recognizable include oyster bisque, fruit soup and marrow fat pea soup.

There’s one called “North Dakota Chop Suey,” that includes five onions, one package of spaghetti, 2 pounds of ground beef, 1 quart of tomatoes and 1 stock (sic) celery. “Fry the onions in butter until brown; add meat and cook 15 minutes; add cooked spaghetti and tomatoes and cook slowly for one hour; when ready add celery.” How about stuffed onions, peanut loaf with tomato sauce, asparagus omelet, deviled tomatoes, turmeric pickles or Mrs. Coolidge’s pineapple salad. Personally, I’m looking forward to trying the turmeric pickles when I start getting some cucumbers. I’ll be honest, I’ve had poor luck canning good tasting pickles. I want to try these to see how they turn out.

Dorthea Nevramon, who had numerous recipes listed in this cookbook, has one called beet and macaroni salad. “It’s a salad men like” and one of the ingredients is ¾ teaspoon of evaporated horseradish. Here’s one I’ll bet you won’t find at Starbucks; prune mocha. It uses the obvious, prunes, strong coffee, evaporated milk, sugar and even a dash of salt. Gee, I wonder what that tastes like?

There’s even a section in this cookbook on how to make candies, many of them. That’s interesting in itself since at the beginning of the book, it cautions against using too much sugar. The miscellaneous section is where the Scandinavian heritage comes through with the likes of lefse, Danish kringler and rhubarb punch. One of my favorites is cabbage rolls. It’s almost verbatim of a cabbage roll recipe that is often used in German cooking in Linton, Ashley, Hague, Wishek and Napoleon. When I was living in my hometown and would frequent the neighboring communities, the trip wasn’t complete without a stop, say in the Linton Café for cabbage rolls. That’s another one I’d like to try and see if it tastes like the cabbage rolls that were mass produced in Linton.

The last two pages of the cookbook include recipes for 50 servings. I’m assuming it has something to do with threshing crews and cattle drives because the choices are fairly obvious; scalloped potatoes, baked beans, chocolate ice cream, macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes.

To the best of my knowledge, there were only a certain number of these books produced for the LSS centennial. However, it doesn’t hurt to inquire if you might be interested in obtaining one. You may call 701-235-7341, log on to ( or write Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota, PO Box 389, Fargo, ND 58107.


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