Maulsby shares Iowa's culinary history and ethnic heritage

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Iowa author Darcy Dougherty Maulsby presented a program on Iowa's culinary history and ethnic heritage at the Guttenberg Municipal Building on June 13. (Photo submitted)

By Caroline Rosacker

Iowa author Darcy Dougherty Maulsby has a passion for food, farming and Iowa history. Maulsby has written three books, Images of America: Calhoun County; A Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More and Images of America: Dallas County. 

Maulsby presented her program at the Guttenberg Municipal Building on June 13. The Guttenberg Library Foundation and the Garnavillo Speede Shop Penny at the Pump program made the program possible. 

Local food oddities

Maulsby opened her program and shared this story,  "When I arrived in Guttenberg I stopped at Bender's grocery store. I was looking for Clayton County's famous Raw Dawg." She told the audience, "Raw Dawg is not available in other parts of the state." Audience member Joe Moser commented, "It's a Clayton County thing. The local volunteer fire departments in the area like to eat it at monthly department meetings."   

The history buff advised attendees, "Protect what you love, visit with older family and community members and write down their stories."

The author explained, "Iowa's rich farming history has created a meat and potatoes culture. We don't meet if we don't eat!"

Iowa's ethnic heritage

The following are a few examples of Iowa's culinary ethnic heritage. 

Immigrants from Czechoslovakia and Bohemia introduced Iowa citizens to the kolach, a sweet or savory doughy treat. Cedar Rapids bakers are famous for the open face kolach while Spillville bakers prefer the diaper fold. Those who favor the diaper fold method claim the open face bakers, "are just plain lazy."

Decorah's Norwegian heritage is famous for lefse, a traditional soft flat bread; kringla, a Scandinavian pastry, and lutefisk, a dried, salted whitefish, reconstituted in lye.  

The Amana Colonies, founded by German immigrants in 1850, are famous for their communal meals and simple, hearty fare. 

Famous steakhouse restaurants 

Taking an Iowa road trip? Include these three stops along the way. 

Archie's Waeside, LeMars, was once voted one of the Top 10 Steakhouse restaurants in America. The family, descendants of Russian immigrants, has been serving food since 1949. The James Beard Award-winning dining establishment is home to the Midwest's most extensive wine collection.  

Are you hungry for Greek food?  The Northwestern Steakhouse in Mason City offers meals served in traditional Greek style. The third-generation family restaurant has been in business for 100 years. Locals recommend, "Get there early, they fill up fast!"

Caroline's Restaurant, housed in the Hotel Julien, Dubuque, is rich in history and culinary flavor. The eatery is named after the late Caroline (Rhomberg) Fischer.   

Caroline’s husband, Louis, was a partner in the Fischer ice business. When Louis died in 1875, he left his young widow with five young children to raise. Caroline, with few options, took over her husband's portion of the business and eventually bought out her partners and invested in downtown and riverfront property

The plucky businesswoman was said to have followed her delivery men around town in her own horse and buggy to ensure her employees were doing their work properly. In an effort to persuade the deliverymen, tavern owners would offer them drinks in exchange for extra ice. Caroline would find the drunken workers passed out in their wagons, and hitch her own horse and buggy to the delivery wagon and drive both back to the warehouse herself.

Only in Iowa

Iowa is famous for Sterzberg brand potato chips, Eskimo pies, Blue Bunny ice cream and Jell-O.  

Maulsby told the audience, "Iowa is home to the classic pork tenderloin sandwich. Indiana claims to have invented it in 1904, but Iowans were the ones to perfect it."

The Maid-Rite sandwich, an Iowa original, was created in Muscatine in 1926. The original sandwich sold for five cents apiece. Maulsby shared, "As the story goes, Fred Angell, the creator, made his friend the sandwich and the friend replied, 'Fred that sandwich is made right.'"  

The Younkers Tearoom, considered the grand dame of the tea world for its longevity, served ladies, gentlemen and well-behaved children from 1913 - 2005.  The tearoom provided its diners with an elegant, sophisticated dining experience. 

Chili served with cinnamon rolls can only be found on Iowa school lunch menus. The mismatched combo brings back fond memories of the sweet fluffy rolls and spicy hot chili.

Maulsby shared the secret to the delicious rolls. "The secret ingredient for the fluffy soft dough is mashed potatoes. Don't forget to save the starchy water!" 

She will be making the mouth-watering cinnamon rolls on an upcoming episode of Iowa Public Television's "Iowa Ingredient." 

The Iowa culinary history buff ended the program with a photo of a Cascade woman's tombstone. The deceased sugar cookie recipe was etched on the back. Now there's one for the history books! 

You can find Darcy Dougherty Maulsby online at or find her on Facebook and twitter.

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