Longtime Hastings historian Hazel Jacobsen-Theel, who died in 2011 at the age of 103, was well known for her chief negotiating tactic: food.
According to locals, when she had a certain project in mind, she would invite influential townspeople over for dinner, feed them an elaborate meal and then lock the door until they agreed to move the project forward.
“She would cook magnificently,” said Margaret Goderstad, senior educator for the LeDuc Historic Estate in Hastings. “She thought if she’s fed them well, they would certainly say yes to her project. Then she would let them out and say, ‘Let’s get on with it. Let’s do it.’ ”
The Friends of LeDuc of Historic Hastings just published a cookbook called “Cooking with Hazel and Friends,” a tribute to Jacobsen-Theel. The book contains more than 300 recipes from Jacobsen-Theel, her friends and community members, as well as other recipes connected to the historic LeDuc home. It will be for sale at the Hastings Artists Show, which runs through next Sunday at the estate.
“She was one of the chief promoters of this place,” Goderstad said. Volunteers plan to use the proceeds from the sale of the book to redo the catering kitchen, which Goderstad said badly needs to be redone.
The new kitchen will be dubbed “Hazel’s Kitchen.”
Jacobsen-Theel helped to preserve and restore the 1865 LeDuc estate, and, in the ’70s, she was instrumental in getting several downtown buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. She created walking, driving and bus tours of Hastings, which Goderstad said drew people from the Twin Cities and ran from the late ’50s until the early ’70s.
“Before anyone had thought anything about tourism, Hazel was all about it,” she said.
“She had a positive attitude,” said Cindy Thury-Smith, a curator at the Pioneer Room, a historical records room in Hastings, who edited the book with Goderstad. “She wasn’t a woman who let grass grow under her feet.”
When Thury-Smith met Jacobsen-Theel, the historian was in her 90s, living by herself in a historical building a block away from city hall. Though she didn’t drive anymore, she still went to meetings.
“She just kept going,” Goderstad said. “Every time we would visit her, she would say, ‘What are you doing now? You’re not just sitting still, are you?’ She was quite an amazing woman. She did not walk, she ran.”
She would help local school kids with projects, Goderstad said, but only if they promised to get an “A.”
Goderstad said Jacobsen-Theel always served three desserts and chided others who didn’t. “That’s just the way she was,” Goderstad said. “She was very generous, very knowledgeable, very willing to share.”
The book includes some recipes of her famed sweets, such as Hazel’s Favorite Chocolate Frosting and Hazel’s Perfect Meringue, as well as recipes for main dishes like Hazel’s “No Peek” Chicken. The book also includes LeDuc-influenced recipes, such as an 1859 recipe for Bubble and Squeak, Minnie LeDuc Gardner’s Sponge Cake and Mrs. Gardner’s Boston Plum Pudding.
There are also recipes contributed by community members — even recipes for laundry detergent and eco-friendly cleaners — as well as ones from local and regional businesses, like Naniboujou Lodge’s Mushroom Toasts and Alexis Bailly Vineyard’s Drunken Ice Cream, made with hazelnuts, currants and chocolate port wine.
The book, which costs $12, will be featured during the artists’ show, which is 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily at the estate, 1629 Vermillion St. It will also be available at a variety of Hastings locations.
The show features the work of local artists in media including photography, watercolor, oil painting, handblown glass, Scandinavian wood carving, fiber art, jewelry and handcrafted woven baskets. For more information, call 651-437-7055.
Liz Rolfsmeier is a Twin Cities freelance writer.