Our Life MN Our Life - Page 6

focus.mnsun.com / post.mnsun.com Page 6 Our Life • Thursday/Friday, November 17 & 18, 2016 Lessons learned on the Iron Range Rosemount cook well served growing up in Buhl BY SUE WEBBER CONTRIBUTING WRITER Growing up on the Iron Range figures prominently into the cooking and baking emerging from the kitchen of Patricia Roberts. “I’ve always been a baker,” said Roberts, a resident of Rosemount. “I remember making ethnic breads and foods since I was 10.” She has fond memories of learning to cook and bake with her mom -- Finnish cardamom braid, potitza (a Slovenian dessert bread), pasties, homemade noodles and ravioli. A 4-H member, she said that she baked for people during her high school years. “ Instead of babysitting, I baked for people. I had my own supplies in the kitchen cupboard. I had certain customers each week. Some had special requests. I bought more supplies with the money I earned. Along the way, folks showed me how to make things they liked.” Roberts’ mom was a war bride, who met her husband in Connecticut. “He brought her back to his hometown of Buhl, Minnesota, (on the Iron Range) and introduced her to people, and she learned to bake and make things,” Roberts said. “She met his friends, his parents, the grandparents of Dad’s friends and learned about the foods he liked growing up.” A home economics major in college, Roberts taught for a couple of years and then spent the rest of her career as a chemist. She has been a consistent winner at the Minnesota State Fair since 2006, when she won her first blue ribbon. This year, her ginger cookies took first place. Roberts also has collected a plethora of ribbons from her entries in the Dakota County Fair. Her winning entries include Swedish Patricia Roberts and her granddaughter, Courtney Casey, team up to make bread in Rosemount. (Submitted photo) rye bread, oatmeal cookies, Finnish cardamom bread, scones, and oatmeal bread. She has created a cookbook for her son, daughter and three granddaughters. Roberts also is a member of the St. Paul Bread Club. “I’ve got a neighbor who has his favorites [of Roberts baking] and I’ve been baking for him in return for snow shoveling and mowing,” she said. “I’m a pretty good neighbor. I share what I bake.” She and her husband grew up together, attending the same classes from kindergarten through high school, graduating in a class of 40 from Buhl High School. “I was the student and he was more fun-loving and outgoing,” she said. “We kept each other in line.” They went to college together, too, and then married. She had a teaching job in the Twin Cities for two years, before the family moved to a town in Wisconsin, then back to the Iron Range and finally to Colorado Springs, Colorado, before resettling in Rosemount. “We have the same house and the same neighbors as when we were newlyweds; we have the same church and the same friends,” said Roberts, who is active in her church and has organized two stamping groups that meet monthly. She also is a gardener. “We work hard and we play hard,” Roberts said. “We do a lot of things for ourselves. That was the first real difference my kids noticed when we moved back to Rosemount. On the Iron Range, if you wanted a trailer, you built one. You used the welder in the garage, got some steel, an axle and wheels. If something went wrong with the car, you fixed it. You changed your own oil and did your own baking. We made things from scratch. We made our own noodles. Most people grew their own tomatoes and made their own pasta sauce.” The Roberts’ daughter thought it was a treat to have store-bought bread. At the height of her baking years, Roberts was making 200 dozen cookies at Christmas time, 24 different kinds. “Now a lot of the people I gave them to have passed away, and fewer people are eating quantities of sweets these days,” she said. Still, she’ll be baking 75 to 100 dozen cookies this year, she said, including 20 different kinds. “We like variety, and it’s hard not to make the family favorites,” Roberts said. “I try to make what everyone wants. I ask them for 4 or 5 of their favorites.” The room where she pursues her stamping hobby is decorated with ribbons from the State Fair and the Dakota County Fair. Hanging by wires around the perimeter of the room are 43 State Fair ribbons and 127 from the Dakota County Fair. The baking “gene” has come full circle these days. The Roberts’ youngest granddaughter, Courtney Casey, started baking at the age of 7 and now is 13. “I started her while she was working on fractions, and helped her learn how to choose the correct measuring spoons,” Roberts said. “She has almost all blue ribbons for her cookies and bread.” When it comes time for preparing entries for the fair, Roberts gets up at 4 a.m. and her granddaughter joins her at 6 a.m. days ahead of time, and they begin baking early to get their entries done. “The house smells mighty fine then,” Roberts said. “Our neighbor knows when I’m baking; the smell comes out the windows. The neighbor boys, who are 5 and 4, call me the Cookie Grandma.”