Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Moshla Cha (tea with a mixture of spices) recipe—from BITING THROUGH THE SKIN

Have a hot drink in this cooling weather from Biting through the Skin: An Indian Kitchen in America's Heartland, by Nina Mukerjee Furstenau.

Moshla Cha (Tea with a mixture of spices)

Serves 6

Mixture to make ahead of time and use as needed for tea:
4 tablespoons ground ginger
2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
2 tablespoons green cardamom seeds
1 tablespoon whole cloves

Pot of tea
Milk and sugar to taste

Grind the spices in a clean coffee grinder. Store the mixture in an airtight container and add 1/2 teaspoon to a pot of hot water, add tea leaves, and steep for 3 to 5 minutes. Strain as you pour into cups and serve with milk and sugar.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Apple Tart from GARDENING THE AMANA WAY, by Lawrence L. Rettig

Have some apples to use up? Try this delicious apple tart from Gardening the Amana Wayby Lawrence L. Rettig.

Apple Tart

2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2/3 cup butter
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups peeled, sliced apples
1/3 cup apricot or peach jam, mixed with 1/4 cup sugar
Extra milk and sugar

Combine flour, sugar, and baking powder and cut in butter until crumbly. In another bowl, mix egg with milk and vanilla. Add to flour mixture and mix well. Knead gently on lightly floured surface until smooth. Cover and chill one-third of dough. Pat remainder on bottom and up sides of a 9- or 10-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Arrange apples over pastry. Top with jam/sugar mixture. Roll remaining dough into ten-inch circle and cut into strips. Arrange lattice-style over apples and tuck in edges. Brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 375 degrees for forty-five to fifty minutes.

Friday, October 17, 2014

An Unlikely Heirloom, by Susan Futrell

It’s sacrilege to think of the Red Delicious as an heirloom, but in fact it has a humble and impeccable pedigree. The original Red Delicious tree was a stubborn seedling that sprouted in Jesse Hiatt’s field in Madison County, Iowa, in 1872. Over time, the branches chosen for grafting were selected for shape, color, and durability, and the modern flavor rarely lives up to its name. Strains of the original, sometimes called Hawkeye Delicious, can still be found and tasted.  

Heirloom trees and well-bred modern apples all trace back to seedlings that someone loved enough to keep and pass along. Zeke Goodband, orchardist at Scott Farm in Dummerston, Vermont, told NPR recently that eating and growing heirloom apples is “sort of like a chain letter” through history. Letter writing and apple eating are both among the most democratic of arts, and thankfully not yet lost.

Susan Futrell is writing a book about apples for the University of Iowa Press.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Every year from April to October, the Sánchez family traveled—crowded in the back of trucks, camping in converted barns, tending and harvesting crops across the breadth of the United States. In 1951, Saúl Sánchez began to contribute to his family’s survival by helping to weed onions in Wind Lake, Wisconsin. He was eight years old. In this excerpt from Rows of Memory: Journeys of a Migrant Sugar-Beet Worker, Sánchez invites us to appreciate the largely unrecognized and poorly rewarded strength and skill of the laborers who harvest the fruits and vegetables we eat.


I write this memoir to leave behind some testimony of a way of life that has disappeared perhaps forever. It is a personal narrative based on experience, taken from memory, and written years after the episodes it narrates. These episodes may not seem exalted or seem like exceptional accomplishments to the reader, but they are to the author. They are exalted because the people who appear here sacrificed a great part of their lives, and in some cases all of their lives, for the benefit of their families. And they are exceptional because it is the narrative of a people who not only survived for years under shocking living conditions but also because of those individuals who appear in these pages managed to triumph in their lives. If we also add the fact that these people spoke Spanish and not English, it is not difficult to understand why they embody those exalted and exceptional qualities that one finds in epics.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Apple-ocracy, by Susan Futrell

Apples have been called a democratic fruit: every seed is unique, and a tree grown from seed will produce apples not quite like any that came before. Those few that are especially sweet, tart, juicy, keep well, make the best pie, or just plain look pretty end up being named, grafted, and known. The great thing about this is there are so many of them, and the democratic thing about it is there are almost as many opinions and favorites as there are apples. 

Iowa was a leading apple and fruit growing state up through the early 1900s. The big old trees planted in that era are mostly gone now. But old varieties—Wealthy, Grimes Golden, Wolf River, Yellow Transparent, Stayman’s Winesap, and hundreds more—can still be found at farmers’ markets, pick-your-own orchards, and in the neighbor’s back yard. A library of apple trees grows on the slopes of the Seed Savers orchard in northeast Iowa (among the hundreds of trees is one from Aldo Leopold’s family orchard in Burlington). Good citizens of this apple-ocracy want to taste as many of these old varieties as possible. Picking a favorite is optional but nearly inevitable.

I’ve been watching the progression of the season’s apples at the farmers market for a few weeks now, starting with an early variety or two—Paula Red or Duchess. By the first of October, the two orchards at our local market were bountiful with choices. When I walked into my local grocery and saw Song of September apples for sale, I knew it was really apple season. Only one orchard near my town grows this sweet-tart, round, red beauty, great for cooking and eating fresh, so I knew where they came from. I’ve been out to Wilson’s to pick them right from the tree, and I know they aren’t ready to pick until the very end of their namesake month. It made me happy to see them in a grocery store where everyone shopping could see for themselves what a great-looking, beautiful-sounding fruit it is.

Susan Futrell is writing a book about apples for the University of Iowa Press.

Friday, October 10, 2014


Nile Clark Kinnick
(July 9, 1918-June 2, 1943)
—student, athlete, and naval airman—was born in Adel, Iowa. His father, Nile Clark Kinnick, was a farm manager in Adel, and his maternal grandfather, George W. Clark, was a former governor of Iowa. As a youth, Kinnick excelled in several sports. He played American Legion baseball, catching for future Hall of Famer Bob Feller, and in 1930 he led the Adel Junior High football team to an undefeated season. In three seasons of high school basketball, Kinnick scored more than 1,000 points.

During the Great Depression, as the Kinnicks fell on hard times, Kinnick's father found work with the Federal Land Bank in Omaha. Kinnick finished his last two years of high school at Benson High School in Omaha, then enrolled at the State University of Iowa (now University of Iowa), where he excelled academically. As a freshman, he played on the baseball, basketball, and football teams. In his sophomore year, he dropped baseball, and as a junior he dropped basketball, in order to concentrate on his studies and football. After successful freshman and sophomore football seasons, Kinnick struggled his junior year with a painful ankle injury for which, as a Christian Scientist, he refused treatment.

In 1939, Kinnick's senior season, he became the undisputed star of a team that became known as the "Ironmen" because the roster was so thin that key players were forced to play 60 full minutes in several games. Kinnick played an amazing 402 consecutive minutes until he was injured in the final game of the season. The undermanned Hawkeyes compiled a surprising season record of 6-1-1, highlighted by dramatic wins over Notre Dame and Minnesota. Notre Dame arrived in Iowa City with a six-game winning streak and was ranked number one in the nation. Kinnick scored the Hawkeyes' only touchdown and converted the crucial extra point in the 7-6 upset, and he booted a spectacular 63-yard punt in the final minutes to pin the Irish near their own goal line and preserve the win. Against the powerful Minnesota squad, the Hawkeyes fell behind 9-0, but Kinnick threw two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to secure the 13-9 victory.


After his first year in law school, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy Air Corps Reserve and was called to active duty three days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. On June 2, 1943, Kinnick took off on a routine training flight from the carrier USS Lexington, which was on a shakedown cruise in the Caribbean Sea. After his plane developed mechanical difficulties, Kinnick attempted a water landing, but when rescuers reached the crash site, neither the plane nor his body was found.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

SKULL IN THE ASHES by Peter Kaufman

Don't forget to check out Skull in the Ashes: Murder, a Gold Rush Manhunt, and the Birth of Circumstantial Evidence in America, by Peter Kaufman. A story just in time for Halloween!

"Peter Kaufman has written a wonderful yarn about a murder and a manhunt that happened more than a hundred years ago in Iowa and Alaska. Skull in the Ashes is a suspenseful, colorful tale--history told as it should be, evenhanded and accurate, with memorable dialogue and fully-realized, larger-than-life characters."—Cedar Rapids Gazette