Prairie Fare: Explore Recipes from Multiple Countries | Chroniclers

“How can I get a copy of ‘Recipes from Many Lands, provided by the North Dakota Homemaker’s Club’? Said the email. “It was published by Agricultural Extension NDAC in July 1927.”

I have been at North Dakota State University for a while, but not that long.

The NDSU was known as NDAC (North Dakota Agricultural College) in 1927. The cooperative extension system had only existed for 13 years when the cookbook was printed. In fact, North Dakota had only been a state for 38 years.

Now I wanted to see this cookbook compiled by Dorothy Ayers Loudon. However, I was very doubtful that I could find a 95-year-old cookbook.

I like a good mystery, however. I emailed a few colleagues on the NDSU campus, including the library.

Within one day, I received a library scan of the entire cookbook in my email. I almost fell from my chair.

I could read it easily on my computer screen, but I have become “old school”. I downloaded and printed a copy of the 136-page document. I was intrigued as I flipped through the document while watching a cooking show on Food Network at home and browsing the internet on my phone.

People also read …

In the 1920s, computers, televisions and cell phones did not exist. Many of the modern conveniences we take for granted were just beginning to appear. According to a source, 80% of rural populations did not have indoor plumbing in the 1920s.

Depending on access to electricity and financial resources, some people had labor-saving innovations such as washing machines, refrigerators, radios, vacuum cleaners, and phonographs in the 1920s. These innovations have made food preparation and cleaning faster, while others have made it possible to entertain at home. Travel became more and more sophisticated with the refinements of automobiles and airplanes.

Groups of housewives have conducted community outreach classes nationwide. Volunteers helped home demonstration agents (now extension “agents” or “educators”) bring innovations from the land grant colleges to communities. In fact, some modern homemaking groups (now “family and community education” groups) continue to meet in North Dakota and other states.

The women who developed the cookbook probably never imagined that it would be explored almost a century later. The book contained Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Mexican, New England, Scandinavian, Scottish and Southern recipes.

Of course, none of the recipes had photos, portions, or nutritional information, as we strive to do now. Many recipes assume that you are not a “newbie” to cooking.

In most cases, the recipes called for simple ingredients without a lot of spices. Most people at the time had a cow or two and chickens. Butter, cream, milk and eggs were plentiful ingredients.

I could see the personalities of some of the contributors shining through the photocopied pages.

One recipe contributor commented that a great fruit cake recipe could serve as a dessert for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years as well as every Sunday in between.

I think the same fruit cake always does the trick.

Although most of the recipes used conventional measurements such as teaspoons and cups, the measurements were sometimes vague: “Add butter the size of a duck egg.” Other recipes were sophisticated and specified temperatures and the use of a candy thermometer.

Some households did not have electric stoves. They regulated the temperature of their wood stove by adding more wood. Then they determined the temperature of the oven by inserting their hand for a few seconds.

So what’s the point of my history lesson from an old cookbook? Old recipes are an incredible link through time. We all need food to survive, but food is a source of pleasure that goes beyond nutrition.

The unique aroma, flavor and textures of foods bind generations together. You can carry your legacy to future generations by sharing “grandfather’s favorite bread”. Try sharing your own family stories by creating videos or scanning favorite recipe cards to make a book.

You can appreciate other cultures by learning how to prepare their food. Dozens of North Dakota recipe contributors were promoting cultural diversity and culinary skills when they created the “Foods from Many Lands” cookbook almost a century ago.

If you would like to browse the 1927 Cookbook on your own, you can access it through the NDSU Institutional Repository at

In recent times, we are keeping the culinary and cultural tradition alive. So far, at NDSU Extension, we’ve created “Exploring North Dakota’s Food Methods: The Germans of Russia” and “Scandinavian Cuisine (Past and Present)” with nutrition and health updates. Search online for these titles and the NDSU extension.

On a cold snowy day, I made this comfort food recipe provided by Ms. Norin from Sheyenne, North Dakota. I felt like I was cooking with her. We enjoyed this recipe on my husband’s grandmother’s cream-colored porcelain around the same time, near his great-grandmother’s sideboard from the 1870s. I took a picture with my phone portable.

Swedish Meatballs (adapted from a 1927 North Dakota cookbook)

1 pound extra lean ground beef

1/2 pound of lean ground pork (I used pork sausage.)

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg (a “pinch”)

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger (a “pinch”)

Flour (for rolling meatballs)

2 tablespoons of oil (as needed for frying)

2 cups whole milk (I added more milk.)

Mix and form small balls. Roll in flour and fry until browned. Put the lid on and let it fry gently for 15 minutes. Pour the milk over it and cook slowly until it is slightly brown and thickened. Salt and pepper sauce to taste.

Makes six servings. Each serving contains 330 calories, 22 grams (g) of fat, 26g of protein, 7g of carbohydrates, 0g of fiber, and 530 milligrams of sodium.

Julie Garden-Robinson is a Food and Nutrition Specialist and Professor at the NDSU Extension.

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