Come Into My Kitchen

Iowa ties keep childhood friends connected

For the last 70 years, Mary Ann Stewart has shared sustenance and a sisterhood with two women in the Kansas City area.

Stewart, Carolyn Rasmussen of Belton and Kay Sitzmann of Lenexa all grew up together in Sioux City, Iowa, and remain close.

They’ve all shared the bitter and the sweet of life, Sitzmann says.

“And we always know Mary Ann is going to feed us something delicious when we get together,” she says.

“This is really a gift,” Rasmussen says. “We are so grateful for the value of our friendship.”


Prairie Village


Retired registered nurse


Four children and six grandchildren

Special cooking interest:

Midwestern fare

What does Mother’s Day mean to you?

Of course, it is a time when I remember my own mother, Margaret Whitford, and the wonderful person she was.

But I also think of the women that I’ve grown up with and gone through life’s triumphs and travails. We’ve all gone through motherhood together — even though we weren’t all close in proximity during that time.

Now we are experiencing the joys of grandmotherhood together. There is really a core group of five of us friends that have been together for 70 years. Kay, Carolyn and I make the Kansas City contingency. But all five of us remain close, and that is a blessing.

Do you have plans for Mother’s Day?

I will spend it with my family. Now I go to their houses and will bring whatever they want to eat. I may end up bringing Tastees if they want a casual meal to eat.

My family loves Tastees and share with me the notion that each time we go to visit Sioux City, Iowa, that must be our first stop. When all my family or dear friends gather here, I ask what they would like to eat, and the first response is almost always “Tastees.”

Exactly what are Tastees?

These loose-meat sandwiches are simply a taste of my childhood. The Tastee Inn Out opened in 1955 in Sioux City, and I have many memories of eating there with friends growing up —we all have shared memories of eating there together.

There used to be other locations, but sadly, the original Sioux City location is the only one that remains. This sandwich is traditionally served with mustard and sliced dill pickles — but no ketchup — on a bun with a side of onion chips.

There are other loose-meat sandwich places, such as Maid-Rite, but to me, a Tastees is still the best.

But your cooking has evolved beyond preparing a loose-meat sandwich, hasn’t it?

I prepare simple menus that I hope will please my family and friends when I’m cooking for them. It can be anything from beef tenderloin to a big, green dinner salad, but it has to look as good as it tastes.

Even though I prepare a meal for myself every night, I will usually eat with a nice place setting because I believe you will never have any company that is better than yourself. I love to set a beautiful table and belong to a gourmet dinner club which I helped create 27 years ago.

My dear friends and I are Midwesterners to the core, and food is just one way we show our hospitality. It’s a part of nurturing each other, when you sit together and share a meal and conversation. It’s good when it happens among friends, and even better when it happens in a family.

I’d like to think that it’s just the good old-fashioned Iowa way.

Tastee Sandwiches (or Loose-Meats)

Makes 24 sandwiches

5 pounds lean ground beef 3 heaping teaspoons prepared mustard 3 heaping teaspoons cream-style horseradish 3 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce 1/2 cup ketchup 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon black pepper 1 cup water 1 cup finely chopped onion

To serve:

Hamburger buns Dill pickles Prepared mustard

In a Dutch oven, brown ground beef on stovetop over medium heat. While browning, break apart any lumps with a fork.

While meat is browning, stir together mustard, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, salt and pepper in a 1-cup measure. Stir until thoroughly mixed.

After ground beef is browned, drain fat and add mustard-and-ketchup mixture, water and onion to Dutch oven.

Turn heat down to low, and allow mixture to simmer for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

To serve, spoon meat onto hamburger buns and dress with dill pickle slices and mustard.

Per sandwich (without bun): 259 calories (70 percent from fat), 20 grams total fat (8 grams saturated), 71 milligrams cholesterol, 2 grams carbohydrates, 17 grams protein, 229 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber.