If you think back 30 years ago to 1987, perhaps you remember an illustrated book of Christmas reminiscences, traditions, and recipes, “A Wisconsin Town and Country Christmas,” written by local authors Larry Lynch and Renee Howarton.
The book has been reissued with a new foreword by noted environmentalist and author James Eggert, and a new preface by Lynch recounting how the book came to be and what has happened in the three decades since the book was first published.
“To me, it’s a classic book to be read today, tomorrow, or 10 or 20 years from now while being aware that much of the cultural ecology and practices of the different groups may well have been lost or forgotten—if they had not been written down here,” Eggert wrote.
Besides the 25 recipes provided by the 17 Dunn County residents Lynch interviewed back in 1987, the book includes some local lumbering and farming history, along with the recollections of country and town life as shaped by traditions of these descendants of Slovak, Norwegian, Swedish, Irish, English, Scottish, German and Swiss immigrants to the U.S. and Wisconsin.
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While Lynch interviewed, Howarton tracked down illustrations for the book, which has engravings from St. Nicholas Magazine published between 1874 and 1909, and with line drawings of farms in the snow created by local artist Marcia Bowlus. Renee is responsible for both the cover and for the layout of the book.
Katherine Indermuhle, whose mother and father left Switzerland near the end of the 19th century, at the time of the interview was living in the old Annis Creek Cheese Factory, which operated from 1898 until it was closed in 1960. Besides her memories, Katherine provided Larry with recipes for Kuchli and Bratzeli pastries, Zopfe braided bread and her country beef soup.
One highlight of the book is the recollection of an 1895 Christmas in Eau Claire by local historian Christine Granger Klatt when she was six years old. Christine was 98 years old at the time of Lynch’s interview with her at her home in Menomonie. She provided a recipe for a basketball-sized plum pudding that was intended to serve 22 of her Scottish relatives.
Howarton still lives in Menomonie and is a professor at UW-Stout. Lynch is a former university archivist at UW-Eau Claire and a retired technical writer who now lives in the San Francisco Bay area.
“A Wisconsin Town and Country Christmas,” published by Lynch’s small publishing company Hedgerow Press, is available in trade paperback format at Bookends on Main in Menomonie, online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble and in ebook format at Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks and Barnes and Noble Nook. It is also available wholesale from Ingram Book Company, www.ingramcontent.com.