The daughter of an orchestra member recalls the chef's hospitality, and an act of kindness that led to her first cookbook.
The year was 1965. The location was Northrop Auditorium, home then to the Minneapolis Symphony (now the Minnesota Orchestra). It was noon, and 98 very hungry musicians had just finished one "Young People's Concert" and had limited time before the second was to begin. The question was, where could they get something tasty in Dinkytown that was quality food and get back in time for the next performance?
My father, Fritz Scheurer, who was the orchestra's associate principal bass, suggested the newly opened Sammy D's sandwich shop on SE. 4th Street. The musicians walked swiftly and upon their arrival met Mama D. My father asked if they could have an antipasto salad instead of a sandwich. She advised them to have a seat and she would make them whatever they wanted.
That was the beginning of a long relationship between Mama D and the Minnesota Orchestra. The musicians became a fixture in the restaurant, along with guest artists of the orchestra who supped on special seven-course meals prepared especially for them. They ate at all hours due to their unique schedule, and she often stayed open very late on the weekends to accommodate their very hungry appetites after a concert.
The walls of Sammy D's began to fill with autographed photos of the famous guest artists of the Minnesota Orchestra who enjoyed her incredible cuisine and unique hospitality.
In 1968 my father fell ill with the Hong Kong flu and lost his kidneys -- a young man in his 40s with a family of six. Mama D wanted to help.
"He needed treatment on the dialysis machine and there wasn't any money," she once told an interviewer. "The symphony pledged to raise money for him and I decided I would try too.
"I decided to give cooking lessons. But I had never cooked anything with measurements. I measured with my hand and eye. So before I could give lessons, I had to get all my recipes down. I prepared 12 menus this way and gave the lessons and raised $1,200 for 10 lessons."
This also gave her the manuscript for her first cookbook, which a doctor friend helped her get published.
My father died, but on her last visit to see him in the hospital he blessed her for her friendship and her help. "I always felt the cookbooks had his special blessings," she said years later.
Mama D always said, "You do everything with love. You feed the hungry of mind and body and you give advice; some of it may be harsh, but always said with compassion." She will live on in our hearts and was a true testament of the wisdom of those words.