As we cooked through pamphlets, cookbooks, and even home recipe cards for this issue, a few resources rose to the surface as our essential guides to the heartland kitchen.

The Prairie Farmer-WLS Cook Book

by Gladys Blair
This classic cookbook contains recipes from issues of Prairie Farmer Magazine, printed between 1841 and 1941, and from the magazine’s 20th-century radio station, WLS, which broadcast cooking tips to homesteaders. The book, a historic artifact in its own right, inspires with frontier recipes for vinegar pie and fried cucumber, which delivers on its promise to be “one of the most delicious dishes you can imagine.”

_The Prairie Press, 1941. _

Out of print with limited availability; check for used copies on


At Willa Cather’s Tables

edited by Ann Romines
Recipes from the family and friends of the region’s most celebrated writer are gathered here, as well as recipes for the foods that wend their way through her early 20th-century novels. Like Cather’s writing, the dishes draw from the immigrants who made the heartland home. Sweets like Czech poppyseed tortes and ostkaka, a Swedish ricotta cake, had us reaching for both our aprons and Cather’s seminal novel O Pioneers!

_Allen Press, $23.88. _

Buy At Willa Cather’s Tables on

Prairie Home Cooking

by Judith Fertig
Heartland cookbook icon Judith Fertig is a tour de force of the region’s layered foodways, providing historic context and personal anecdotes along with each of her 400 recipes for down-home dishes like summer peach jam, prize-winning barbecued ribs, and Exoduster stew—a one-pot meal of sausage, smoked turkey, and green beans brought by emancipated slaves.

_Harvard Common Press, $13.66. _

Buy Prairie Home Cooking on