Tempt Me! That is the title of a wonderful book by mother-daughter duo Kathryn Strand Koutsky and Linda Koutsky. This beautiful book features a nostalgic historical trip through visual arts in cookbooks and food advertisements. Starting with 1880 and moving right on through to 1980, the beautiful artwork as well as historical nuggets proves this book should be on every coffee table in Minnesota.
Minnesota cooking in fine art
If I was to stop and think about what attracts me to a cookbook, I would have to be honest and say it is the pictures. Pictures are proof someone actually cooked or baked what you are contemplating, and it turned out. Bonus!
Cookbooks got their foothold in Minnesota through local merchants looking to attract more customers to their stores. Most of these “cookbooks” were advertisement catalogs for each individual store; selling everything from floor paint to animal feed and best of all, they were free!
Many cookbooks art design began with simple etchings and engravings. As the economy began to expand, so did the Minnesotan pocketbook, taking with it food advertisements and artwork into the Golden Age of Illustration. Gone were the drab black or gray covers, in were colorful reproductions promoting fine art and the American spirit.
Some stiff flour competition
The historical material contained in this book is impressive, especially the history of Minnesota flour companies. Did you know that in the 1800s Minnesota was at the center for world flour production? Minnesota also held the record for the largest flour producer in the nation for more than fifty years.
Some of the famous flour companies were:
- Columbia Mill Company out of Minneapolis, MN
- Gardner Mill out of Hastings, MN
- New Prague Flouring Mill Company out of New Prague, MN
- “Gold Medal” flour from the Washburn, Crosby Company Minneapolis, MN
- “Pillsbury” Minneapolis, MN
- Sleepy Eye Mills, Sleepy Eye, MN- eventually moved to Minneapolis
- Queen Bee Flour Mills- Minneapolis, MN- moved from Sioux Falls, SD
- Duluth Imperial Flour, Duluth, MN
- Russell-Miller Milling, “Occident Flour”, Minneapolis, MN
- “Ceresota”, Northwestern Consolidated Milling Co. Minneapolis, MN
Close to home
“Blue Jay” quick cooked rolled oats took me by surprise. The Robson Grocery Company out of Pipestone, MN used the “Blue Jay” label. Does anyone out there remember the Robson Grocery Company? The Robson Grocery Company building no longer stands.
Time marches on
Wars came and went. The industry continued to expand and the homemaker began to see a larger variety in canned and boxed foods. Companies were making foods with easy preparations like the Pillsbury “just add water” pancake flour.
Famous Minnesota companies
Duluth, Minnesota has some interesting coffee brands:
- “Wampum” Brand Coffee by the Stone-Ordean-Wells Co., Duluth, Mn
- “Blue Bird” Coffee by the Stone-Ordean-Wells Co., Duluth, MN
Hormel of Austin, Minnesota made its mark as well with its product Spam. If you are in Austin, take some time to tour the Spam Museum. It is a great deal of fun and the gift shop is a hoot.
Land O’ Lakes butter made its debut in 1924 after the Minnesota Cooperative Creameries Association decided that they wanted to improve their butter. At the time, MCCA made their butter from sour cream and sold it in tubs. They now were making butter from fresh, sweet cream and wrapping the butter in one-pound boxes. This quickly caught on and became the industry standard.
An additional famous Minnesota food company, Creamette. James T. Williams invented the first quick-cooking pasta, elbow macaroni, in 1912. His pasta was designed to have thinner walls and larger holes, making the pasta cook faster.
I’m chuckling as I type because a thought just raced through my mind- “Wouldn’t it be funny if Mr. Williams was Norwegian?!” Bet the Italians would roll over in their graves. Can you imagine the headlines in the paper? “Norwegian Reinvents Italian Pasta”
Lastly, in 1887, Log Cabin syrup graced the tables of Minnesotans. All thanks to a grocer named Patrick Towel who lived in the small village of Forest Lake.
Friends, I could sit and talk with you for h o u r s about the cookbook covers, recipes, advertisements, and historical items throughout this beautiful book. I would suggest this would make a great gift for yourself, as well as for friends and neighbors who love nostalgia, cooking, and baking. The artwork alone is gorgeous.
You can get yourself a copy right here from Amazon, https://www.amazon.com/Tempt-Me-Fine-Minnesota-Cooking/dp/0873519973.
I wanted to take this time to thank Helen Vanorny for lending me this book to look at. It only took me a few months to get through my reading pile before I could start this book and within 15 minutes I ordered one for myself. Thank you, Helen, this book was the highlight of my reading year!
Till next time friends. Here is to good food, good friends and a very good life!
- Tempt Me by Kathryn Strand Koutsky and Linda Koutsky
Michele Bruxvoort is sure to draw you in with her delightful sense of humor and love for living life. She enjoys reading, repurposing, as well as remodeling the family home with her husband. Drawing from her life experience as wife, mom, and follower of Jesus, Michele brings you a very honest and real perspective on life. When you don’t find her writing, you can find her mowing lawns, stocking shelves, taking care of her grandbaby and tackling her latest life adventure.
Wisconsin native and empty-nester, she now makes her home with her husband of 27 years in the South West Prairie plains of Minnesota.