In a few weeks I will reach the seventieth anniversary of writing my weekly column. Through the years there have been many people who have inspired me with ideas and support. Here are just a few.
I wrote about Chuck Offenburger in a 1991 column that looked back at our friendship. “I have known him since he was a young sprout starting out at the Shenandoah Evening Sentinel.” As Iowa Boy columnist for the Des Moines Register, he covered the state with his insights and interests.
Chuck wrote a funny column in response to me calling him a sprout by saying that I, then just 71 years old, was in my twilight years. That gave me a chance to write about a picture of a rocking chair above my desk with the caption, DANGER! KEEP OFF!
About the same time, authors Jane and Michael Stern came from New Yorker magazine to interview me. They had expected to stay a day, but found people here so interesting they stayed a week.
We visited with Emmy Bengston at her Anchor Inn in Farragut. Emmy has been one of my dearest friends since we were young farm wives south of Farragut. She was still there with me at my 100th birthday party last summer.
The Sterns loved a cinnamon roll recipe called Emmy’s Big Buns. They published it in their book Road Food celebrating recipes from America’s small towns.
The Sterns also included Virginia Miller’s recipe for Elegant Pork Chops in an article for Saveur magazine as “one of the best 25 recipes ever!” It was featured on the cover.
Virginia and I go way back, sharing our interests in cooking and the raising of our children. Part of the definition of lifelong friends is that they are there for us in the darkest of times as well as the good moments.
The list of people I have cherished would fill many columns. Some, like Virginia, stayed out of the spotlight. Others have been well known.
One of those is Fannie Flagg, author of the novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café. About twenty years ago she called me. She was writing a new book and wanted a character to be a radio homemaker.
I told her about the lives of Shenandoah’s radio homemakers. Her next book, Welcome to the World Baby Girl, featured Neighbor Dorothy who broadcast daily from a microphone on her kitchen table.
I met Fannie during her book signing in Kansas City. She graciously asked me to share the stage with her to discuss farm life and my years on the radio. It was a remarkable event.
My writing has led to other exciting adventures. I was asked to be part of the contingent going to Washington, DC, to represent Iowa during Folk Life celebration. I was invited to appear on the Today Show where host Ann Curry and I demonstrated recipes to celebrate the Fourth of July.
One of my favorite events occurred after my book Always Put In A Recipe was published by University of Iowa Press. Charity Nebbe, host of Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Ingredient program and Iowa Public Radio’s Talk of Iowa, was my guide through the activities of a busy Iowa City day. We have stayed friends, and I never miss her programs.
While big events have been exciting, I have thoroughly enjoyed speaking to groups in churches and community centers across Iowa. I always feel at home in those settings, surrounded by people and communities I admire.
A message I always try to share whenever I write and speak is the same that I gave Chuck Offenburger long ago. Stay off the rocking chair. When opportunities appear, take advantage of them. You never know where they will lead.
Most importantly, be thankful for good friends and family, and don’t ever let them go. I love you all. Evelyn.
Here is my Virginia Miller’s wonderful pork chop recipe as it appeared in Saveur magazine.
Virginia’s Elegant Pork Chops
4 double-cut, bone-in pork chops
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups soy sauce
1 tbsp. molasses
1 3⁄4 cups ketchup
1 1⁄2 cups chili sauce, such as Heinz
2 tbsp. French dressing
1 tbsp. dry mustard
1. Put pork chops into a baking dish and season with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, whisk 1⁄2 cup brown sugar, soy sauce, molasses, and 1 cup water and pour over meat. Cover with plastic wrap and let pork chops marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
2. Heat oven to 375°. Drain pork chops and transfer to a 9” x 13” baking dish. Whisk together remaining brown sugar, ketchup, chili sauce, French dressing, mustard, and 1⁄3 cup water in a small bowl. Pour sauce over pork chops and bake, turning pork chops and basting with sauce occasionally, until pork chops are tender and sauce has thickened, about 45 minutes. Let pork chops rest for 10 minutes before serving.