Southwest Iowa Foodways, Farragut
Emily Bengsten began her formal training in cooking when she was 12 years old. Her grandmother decided it was time for her to learn, so she started off with angel food cake, made by hand with a wire whisk, a crock, and egg whites. The owner and head cook at several local restaurants in SW Iowa, Bengsten started on a wood stove, which required 10 cobs per quarter hour to keep the oven at a constant 350 degrees. She now cooks on a dual fuel convection oven—quite a change from 70 years ago!
Bengsten describes her cooking as “just old farmwife cooking.” In her days cooking for the hay hands, she’d make fried chicken, vegetable, gravy, homemade pie, chocolate cake. And homemade pie, angel food cake, chocolate cake were always on the table for a Sunday dinner.
Bengsten traces her roots in Iowa back to 1859 on her mother’s side, when the (English) Zimmerman family (her maternal grandfather’s folks) came to Riverton. The (German) Outerback family came in 1839, when Iowa was not yet a state. Though the family heritage was both English and German, Bengsten says that her food heritage is more German. Such dishes as creamed cabbage, which is made only in this southwest corner of Iowa, point to this identity.
Contact: Emily Bengsten, Farragut IA 51639, 712/385-8229