When it comes to food, a lot’s happened in Kansas over the past 150 years.
By ANNE BROCKHOFF
While the earliest pioneers made the most of what they had — bison pemmican, anyone? — later cooks were influenced not only by availability, but also the influx of immigrants, evolution of boarding houses and domestic sciences clubs, wars and droughts, cattle ranches and wheat farms, the railroads and Harvey House lunchrooms, food writers, the agricultural extension service and 4-H.
Throughout it all, Kansas State University trained a steady stream of farmers, cooks, scientists, innovators, journalists and other professionals who continue to have a profound impact on what we eat. Author Jane Marshall has collected their stories, photos and recipes in her celebratory book, Teatime to Tailgates: 150 Years at the K-State Table.
“Kansas has a rich and diverse food heritage,” Marshall told a crowd at K-State’s 14th annual Huck Boyd Lecture in Community Media last month. “After 150 years, the story of food at Kansas State is still about understanding nature, harnessing science and making friends while having conversations over plates of steak and pie.”
I must confess a personal interest: I’m a food journalist and K-State alum with a cookbook addiction, Marshall is a friend and Boyd was my grandfather. But even taking that bias into account, Marshall’s is a valuable compilation of Kansas food history.
There are recipes not only from several generations’ worth of university dining halls; Nellie Kedzie, K-State’s first female professor and a nationally recognized domestic sciences pioneer; and the entomology department (really), but also a litany of food writers who, in Marshall’s words, did more than kiss the cook.
“With their words, they embraced, appreciated and led the cook on adventures,” Marshall writes.
They include Clementine Paddleford, who was once considered the countries most influential food writer; Nell Nichols, who edited more than a dozen Farm Journal cookbooks; Michael Bauer, executive food and wine editor for the San Francisco Chronicle; healthy food advocate Janet Helm; Jane Butel, credited for popularizing Southwestern cuisine through her cookbooks and cooking school; food and wine pairing pioneer Shirley Sarvis and others.
There are overviews of how Kansas came to be a cattle and wheat state, the role food science plays in what we eat and the arrival of gourmet cooking to the heartland. And there are recipes … recipes for pie and pickles, bierocks, the Brookville Hotel’s sweet and sour coleslaw, mole with lime grilled chicken, arancini with marinara, grilled steaks, K-State’s crown rolls, and more.
But even the recipes aren’t really the point, Marshall says. It’s the stories, the recollection of meals past and what it means for our future that makes this book special.
“Sometimes what we cherish is not the food itself, but the bonds and memories food represents,” Marshall says.
Emma Chase Cherry Pie
Jane Marshall’s clearly a fan of pie, and this one appears on the cover of Teatime to Tailgates: 150 Years at the K-State Table. Her sister, Linda Thurston, contributed the recipe and the pie for the photo shoot.
Makes 1 9-inch pie
1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup cherry juice
4 cups quality canned pitted tart red cherries, drained
2 tablespoons soft butter
Red food coloring (optional)
One recipe basic flaky butter pie crust (recipe follows)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, flour and salt. Stir in juice. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until mixture is very thick. Add cherries and butter. If cherries are pale, add several drops of red food coloring. Line a 9-inch pie plate with pastry. Flute edges creatively. Pour slightly cooled cherry filling into the crust and top with a lattice crust. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes, and then reduce heat to 350 degrees. Continue baking for about 45 minutes. If edges start to brown, cover edges with foil.
Basic Flaky Butter Pie Crust
Makes 1 double-crust 9-inch pie
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Scant 1 teaspoon fine salt
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
2 teaspoons lemon juice or cider vinegar stirred into 1/2 cup ice cold water
Combine flour and salt in a bowl. Cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes. Divide the cubes into two piles. Add one pile of cubes to your flour mixture and blend quickly with fingertips until mixture resembles corn meal. The mixture should be cold to the touch. Add the other pile of butter cubes. Use a pastry cutter or two knives to cut the butter into the flour until it's the size of peas. Sprinkle enough of the water/lemon juice mixture into flour and butter so that a small amount of the dough holds together after stirring. Look for moist crumbs. All flours absorb liquid differently. Only add as much water as you need to have lovely moist crumbs. Form the moist crumbs into two patties and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least one hour, or up to three days. Dough can be frozen for several months.
Anne Brockhoff is an award-winning spirits writer who writes a monthly column for The Star’s Food section, as well as food features. She blogs at food_drink_ life.wordpress.com .