Almost every small Minnesota town holds a treasure trove of recipes, tested and perfected through generations of potlucks and church suppers.
If you weren't lucky enough to inherit a box of stained and dog-eared recipe cards, the 75 residents of Huntley are happy to share a few of their own. The Huntley Community Cookbook is warming hearts and ovens far beyond the borders of the south-central Minnesota village.
"I love food and I love to cook. There's something that happens when you feed people," said cookbook coordinator Nina Patten, who was born and raised in Huntley and who tested the Wednesday church suppers at Huntley's Community Covenant Church. Recently, she fed 60 parishioners at a gathering she dubbed "O Holy Hot Dish."
Every recipe in the book includes the name of the cook who came up with it, and many recipes come with a story. There's a recipe for "Beans by Sam," submitted by Sam Patten, Nina's husband. There's Marian Ziegler's "Apple Pie Enchiladas." There's a recipe for the brown bread that every student who ate in the Huntley school cafeteria — kindergarten through 12th grade, all under one roof — remembers from Wednesdays, when they served beans and brown bread.
A cookbook like this helps "keep that connection of a place you can always think fondly of. I think that's what this cookbook brings out," Nina Patten said.
The school is closed now, but her family's roofing business operates out of the building and her office is her old first-grade classroom.
But the Huntley cookbook seems to appeal to those without a hometown connection as well. Visitors drive in to the Huntley Café and snap up copies.
The Huntley Community Cookbook recently sold out its third printing, and more are being ordered. More than 1,000 copies have been sold so far — seven and a half copies for every current resident of Huntley.
The hardcover binder book holds hundreds of recipes, some collected from residents, some gleaned from earlier cookbooks Huntley put out in the 1920s and 1950s. Mixed with the recipes are vintage photos of Huntley and stories submitted by local residents.
"I wanted it to be a keepsake," Patten said. "We wanted to make it something more than just recipes."
The cookbook sells for $12 to those who travel to Huntley and stop at the cafe. But because the books recently sold out, they can now be preordered for $15 by mail. The cost includes shipping. The church, which came up with the idea of putting out a cookbook through its Evangelism and Outreach Commission, wasn't looking to make a profit, Patten said.
"There isn't much in our town, we're kind of rural. We kind of took it on as a project to bless our community," Patten said. "We did it as a way to draw people together and get the stories of their faith and their life."
For those who want a taste of Huntley this weekend, here's the recipe for Huntley School Brown Bread, a recipe handed down by the school's longtime cook, Kelly Robertson:
1 cup white flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons soda
2 cups Graham flour
2 cups buttermilk or sour milk
Mix white flour, sugar, salt and soda together. Add Graham flour. Mix together and add buttermilk. Bake 1 hour at 350 or until brown. Makes one large loaf.
For information on ordering the "The Huntley Community Cookbook: Recipes and Reflections," contact the Community Covenant Church of Huntley, P.O. Box 64, Huntley MN 56047, or call 507-866-4646.