I was thrilled to receive a copy of this community cookbook from a thoughtful reader. It’s a first edition, copyright 1947, compiled by the Trinity Lutheran Ladies’ Aid.
Several scenes from The Light Keeper’s Legacy are set on Washington Island, and the rest are set on Rock Island—visible in the upper right corner of the map on the cover. Both are off the tip of Wisconsin’s Door County peninsula.
My husband and I have served as volunteer docents at Pottawatomie Lighthouse, in Rock Island State Park, for the past seven summers.
The lighthouse has been restored to its 1910 appearance, when Charles and Mollie Boshka lived there with their two children.
This cookbook is a treasure for several reasons. First, it includes a number of recipes submitted by Mollie Boshka. Each one is a tangible link back to that lovely woman in the photo.
It also reflects the families who settled on Washington Island in the mid-late 1800s and early 1900s. Many of the women’s surnames are still common on the island today. Many of the recipes reflect Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, and Icelandic heritage.
The recipes also capture an era when old traditions were blending with new. The cookbook includes recipes for things like head cheese and vinerbrod (Danish pastry), and many include little or no instruction. The assumption was that anyone using the cookbook would just know how to put the ingredients together, or how hot the oven should be.
But the book also includes recipes for dishes like Texas Hash (which calls for 3 Tbsp. of something called “Spry”), Spanish Noodles, and several versions of Chop Suey.
Finally, the book tells a story about the woman who once owned it. I’ll never know her name, but I’ve got glimpses of her. She received the book from for Christmas in 1848; the inscription is Norwegian.
And she used the book a lot. Pages are dog-eared and sometimes stained, and she added notes by some of the recipes. It’s fun to imagine her flipping pages, deciding what to prepare for family or friends.
I’m so grateful that this particular cookbook got saved, and passed from hand to hand…and ended up in my kitchen.
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To read more about the Boshkas, see Making Jam for Mollie. To learn more about Pottawatomie Lighthouse or Rock Island history, follow The Light Keeper’s Legacy link on the right side of this page.