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Cookbook editors: Town history deserves own volume

An oilcloth-covered booklet of recipes collected by her mother Virginia Griffey and other members of the Kinnickinnic Homemakers Club prompted Jan DeCraene to begin the process that led to the publication of two books about the town of Kinnickinnic -- one a cookbook and the other a collection of historical data and memories. 1 / 2
Jean Hoidal2 / 2

When she found the small book, handmade and titled "Kinnickinnic Kook Book," among her deceased mother's things, Jan DeCraene knew she'd stumbled across something worth preserving.

The little collection of 100 mimeographed recipes -- covered with red gingham-check oilcloth trimmed with pinking shears -- was assembled long ago by the Kinnickinnic Homemakers Club and tucked in little tips for happy marriages.

Its white pages have aged to a light tan color. The recipes -- including "Spice crumb cake," "Miracle marble cake" and "Green sparkle salad" -- had been passed down from the homemakers' mothers and mothers-in-law.

DeCraene's first thought was to redo the cookbook, using the old recipes and adding favorites from current town residents.

The book, she thought, could be a fundraiser for the Kinnickinnic Historical Association, formed in 1962 to preserve the Kinnickinnic Church. The money would come in handy for work that will be done in anticipation of the church's 150th anniversary in 2018.

As the plan developed, DeCraene asked for help from Jean Hoidal, who is semi-retired, has extensive editing experience, lives in Montevideo, Minn., and had edited a cookbook for Cocker Spaniel Resources, a rescue organization DeCraene founded in her own retirement.

"She said, 'You liked doing those books so much, what about (doing a book for) the Historical Association,'" recalled Hoidal, who has never set foot in Kinnickinnic.

"From there, it just went on," said KHA President Amy Thurston.

The cookbook was called "Recipes & Remembrances," and the plan was to add little notes at the bottom of each recipe or on the back pages.

"As we got people's recipes, they told little stories about remembrances of their family or traditions," said DeCraene. "We wound up collecting more and more stories."

"Besides the food memories, we got many other memories, and from there it just kind of snowballed and the memories were so good that I suggested we make a separate book," said Hoidal, who became both researcher and editor.

"She loves doing history, loves digging into the past," said DeCraene. "Jean said, 'Oh, I love doing that kind of thing,' and away she went."

As the St. Croix County women fed her names of local sources, Hoidal started calling or emailing people she'd never met, asking for their tales.

An obstacle, she said, was that she started making calls last October in election season.

"I had to do some fast talking," said Hoidal, who had to get her message out before people thought she was making a campaign call and hung up.

At first, she said, most people said they couldn't remember much, but with a little prompting from Hoidal, the memories flowed.

"What wonderful stories I gleaned from telephone calls and emails," she said. "And what wonderful friends I made over the telephone."

Hoidal added, "I learned so much about the area during my research that it's hard to believe I've never been there. I also learned that people in Wisconsin are just like the ones in Minnesota: friendly and helpful."

"Memories of Kinnickinnic" is apparently the town's first history book. It includes a wealth of old photos of the church, the Kinnickinnic Cemetery, town events, the Kinnickinnic Monument and early residents at work and play.

"There are fun stories that people remember, and there are tragedies the people remember all too well," said DeCraene.

The text includes archival materials and little tales about the ice cream socials, women's clubs, fishing on the river, early farming, the three Stanley Nelsons and horse riding.

The editors collected as much historical information as they could, said DeCraene. Some material is about events in the 1800s and some of it is from the 1940s and 1950s.

Gathering the material was a word-of-mouth project, said DeCraene, admitting that they probably missed a lot of good stories.

Hoidal said while archives at UW-River Falls hold information about the town's history, this book is more personal: "That's just events and stuff, this is life."

The project may not be over.

"I think it would be fun to continue and write another book from this era," said DeCraene.

As for Hoidal, she's looking forward to August when she will finally meet the people she interviewed.

"I'm also looking forward to someday being able to pronounce Kinnickinnic like a native," she said, explaining she has trouble clearing saying all the K's.

"If I ever do another book, it's going to be for a town with a short name, like Ada. I've never typed so man K's in my life," Hoidal jokes.

Both the history book and the cookbook will be introduced at the Historical Association's annual ice cream social. The event is 2-6 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 4, at the Kinnickinnic Church.

The books -- the cookbook is $15 plus $5 for shipping and the history book is $20 plus $5 for shipping -- can also be bought by calling Amy Thurston at 715-386-8379 or Mary Murphy at 715-425-6174.

Judy Wiff

Judy Wiff has been regional editor for RiverTown’s Wisconsin newspapers since 1996. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and sociology from UW-River Falls. She has worked as a reporter for several weekly newspapers in Wisconsin.

(715) 426-1049