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Retired home ec teacher still loves the kitchen

By Staff | Feb 20, 2009

Sally VanWert poses in her Hampton home's kitchen. She is a retired home economics instructor from Hampton-Dumont school district an she still loves to work in the kitchen.

HAMPTON – Growing up as a city girl in Des Moines, Sally VanWert never thought she would marry a farmer and become a farm wife. That is, until she met Jay VanWert on a blind date while she was a home economics student at Iowa State University.

Jay VanWert’s father, J.S “Pat” VanWert, was part of Farmer’s Hybrid, an important part of Iowa agricultural history, who was killed in a traffic accident when son Jay was a junior in high school. The VanWert farm was rented to Farmers Hybrid until 1964. Jay and Sally were working in Indiana when Jay’s mother said if they wanted to farm, this would be a good time to start.

The VanWerts made the move to their Franklin County homestead. In 1972, Sally VanWert was hired as a home economics teacher in the Hampton-Dumont school system where she remained for 30 years until her retirement.

They are parents of three children, a son, Jay, who farms with them, and two daughters. One daughter lives in Minneapolis and another daughter lives in Waverly, managing a 130-ewe operation, while her husband teaches vocational agriculture at Nashua-Plainfield schools. The VanWerts are grandparents to five grandchildren.

Sally VanWert said that retirement has not slowed her down. She serves as president of the Hampton chapter of PEO, a philanthropic women’s organization. She also makes quilts every Wednesday morning at her church for Lutheran World Relief, serves on the board of the Harriman-Nielsen historic farm of Hampton, is an officer in the Eastern Star, and active in T.T.T., an organization that sends girls around the age of 11 to camp and then follows them through high school.

When asked about memories of teaching home economics, she recalled one time when her pupils said they needed whipping cream and didn’t see it in the refrigerator. She showed them the carton. The students hadn’t seen it because they were only familiar with Cool Whip. Other students, used to margarine, believed butter tasted funny. When she wanted a microwave oven for the class room, a parent objected to it because of safety reasons concerning radiation.

Over her years of teaching, boys became part of the home economics class, which Sally VanWert said was good for the teaching environment. With many couples sharing tasks in the kitchen, she said, it is important for boys to be familiar with cooking.

The family home and farm kitchen remain an important place for gatherings of the VanWerts immediate family, plus the families of many nieces and nephews. Holiday gatherings typically number 16 to 24 people at a meal. Sally VanWert enjoys the meal preparation and cooking, but it is the family members that make the gatherings memorable.

Each holiday has its own menu. The Thanksgiving meal will include turkey, scalloped oysters, herring, and pumpkin and sour cream pie.

On Christmas Eve there will be lutefisk, lefse, Swedish meatballs, korv (a Swedish sausage), Christmas cookies and candies. On Christmas day will be ham, scalloped oysters, cranberry salad, white Christmas pie, and gold room chocolate pie.

The Easter meal will feature lamb, served at their daughter’s home in Waverly, and a pound cake in the shape of a lamb.

Moving to the farm in 1964, Sally VanWert recalls her adjustment to the almost continuous wind and, many years later, cannot imagine living anywhere else as she looks across farm country from her kitchen table.

Rice casserole

(Also good with ham or chicken)

1 cup white rice

1 can French onion soup

1 can consomme soup

1 stick butter

Put rice and soups in casserole dish. Place butter in center. Bake one hour at 350 degree. Serves 6-8.

Marinated pork tenderloin

(Serve with rice casserole)

1 pork tenderloin

1/2 cup salad oil

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup red wine

2 tablespoons catsup

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

Mix marinade ingredients together. Butterfly thick end of tenderloin; leave thin end whole. Place in non-metal pan or casserole. Pour marinade over. Let sit in refrigerator 6-24 hours. Cook on preheated grill.

Rhubarb bars

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 cup water

3 cups rhubarb

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix cornstarch and water. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.

Crumb mixture:

1 1/2 cups oatmeal

1 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon soda

1 cup butter, melted

1/2 cup nuts

Mix until crumbly. Pat 3/4 of crumb mixture into greased 9-by-13-inch pan. Pour rhubarb on top. Put remaining crumbs on top. Bake 25 minutes at 375 degrees.

Can be cut larger and served as dessert with whipping cream.

Rhubarb chiffon pie

3-4 cups rhubarb, diced

1 cup sugar

Cook over medium heat. Add 1 package strawberry Jell-o. Stir until dissolved. Allow to cool.

Stir in 2 cups whipped topping. Pour into prepared pie shell. Refrigerate.

Italian vegetable soup

(Yields 3 12 quarts)

Brown 1 1/2 pounds stew meat in 2 tablespoons oil in large heavy kettle. Add 5 cups of water, 5 beef bullion cubes, 1 pound can chopped tomatoes, 2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon oregano, 1/4 teaspoon thyme, 1/2 teaspoon basil, 2 cloves of garlic, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 1 cup chopped onions, 1 cup diced celery.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer covered 1 1/2 hours or until meat is tender.

Add one 16-ounce can green beans, including juice and one 15-ounce can kidney beans, including juice and 1 1/2 cups sliced carrots. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Add one cup shell macaroni and simmer another 15 minutes.

Sprinkle each serving with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.

Contact Clayton Rye at crye@wctatel.net.

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Retired home ec teacher still loves the kitchen

By Staff | Feb 20, 2009

Sally VanWert poses in her Hampton home's kitchen. She is a retired home economics instructor from Hampton-Dumont school district an she still loves to work in the kitchen.

HAMPTON – Growing up as a city girl in Des Moines, Sally VanWert never thought she would marry a farmer and become a farm wife. That is, until she met Jay VanWert on a blind date while she was a home economics student at Iowa State University.

Jay VanWert’s father, J.S “Pat” VanWert, was part of Farmer’s Hybrid, an important part of Iowa agricultural history, who was killed in a traffic accident when son Jay was a junior in high school. The VanWert farm was rented to Farmers Hybrid until 1964. Jay and Sally were working in Indiana when Jay’s mother said if they wanted to farm, this would be a good time to start.

The VanWerts made the move to their Franklin County homestead. In 1972, Sally VanWert was hired as a home economics teacher in the Hampton-Dumont school system where she remained for 30 years until her retirement.

They are parents of three children, a son, Jay, who farms with them, and two daughters. One daughter lives in Minneapolis and another daughter lives in Waverly, managing a 130-ewe operation, while her husband teaches vocational agriculture at Nashua-Plainfield schools. The VanWerts are grandparents to five grandchildren.

Sally VanWert said that retirement has not slowed her down. She serves as president of the Hampton chapter of PEO, a philanthropic women’s organization. She also makes quilts every Wednesday morning at her church for Lutheran World Relief, serves on the board of the Harriman-Nielsen historic farm of Hampton, is an officer in the Eastern Star, and active in T.T.T., an organization that sends girls around the age of 11 to camp and then follows them through high school.

When asked about memories of teaching home economics, she recalled one time when her pupils said they needed whipping cream and didn’t see it in the refrigerator. She showed them the carton. The students hadn’t seen it because they were only familiar with Cool Whip. Other students, used to margarine, believed butter tasted funny. When she wanted a microwave oven for the class room, a parent objected to it because of safety reasons concerning radiation.

Over her years of teaching, boys became part of the home economics class, which Sally VanWert said was good for the teaching environment. With many couples sharing tasks in the kitchen, she said, it is important for boys to be familiar with cooking.

The family home and farm kitchen remain an important place for gatherings of the VanWerts immediate family, plus the families of many nieces and nephews. Holiday gatherings typically number 16 to 24 people at a meal. Sally VanWert enjoys the meal preparation and cooking, but it is the family members that make the gatherings memorable.

Each holiday has its own menu. The Thanksgiving meal will include turkey, scalloped oysters, herring, and pumpkin and sour cream pie.

On Christmas Eve there will be lutefisk, lefse, Swedish meatballs, korv (a Swedish sausage), Christmas cookies and candies. On Christmas day will be ham, scalloped oysters, cranberry salad, white Christmas pie, and gold room chocolate pie.

The Easter meal will feature lamb, served at their daughter’s home in Waverly, and a pound cake in the shape of a lamb.

Moving to the farm in 1964, Sally VanWert recalls her adjustment to the almost continuous wind and, many years later, cannot imagine living anywhere else as she looks across farm country from her kitchen table.

Rice casserole

(Also good with ham or chicken)

1 cup white rice

1 can French onion soup

1 can consomme soup

1 stick butter

Put rice and soups in casserole dish. Place butter in center. Bake one hour at 350 degree. Serves 6-8.

Marinated pork tenderloin

(Serve with rice casserole)

1 pork tenderloin

1/2 cup salad oil

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup red wine

2 tablespoons catsup

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

Mix marinade ingredients together. Butterfly thick end of tenderloin; leave thin end whole. Place in non-metal pan or casserole. Pour marinade over. Let sit in refrigerator 6-24 hours. Cook on preheated grill.

Rhubarb bars

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 cup water

3 cups rhubarb

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix cornstarch and water. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.

Crumb mixture:

1 1/2 cups oatmeal

1 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon soda

1 cup butter, melted

1/2 cup nuts

Mix until crumbly. Pat 3/4 of crumb mixture into greased 9-by-13-inch pan. Pour rhubarb on top. Put remaining crumbs on top. Bake 25 minutes at 375 degrees.

Can be cut larger and served as dessert with whipping cream.

Rhubarb chiffon pie

3-4 cups rhubarb, diced

1 cup sugar

Cook over medium heat. Add 1 package strawberry Jell-o. Stir until dissolved. Allow to cool.

Stir in 2 cups whipped topping. Pour into prepared pie shell. Refrigerate.

Italian vegetable soup

(Yields 3 12 quarts)

Brown 1 1/2 pounds stew meat in 2 tablespoons oil in large heavy kettle. Add 5 cups of water, 5 beef bullion cubes, 1 pound can chopped tomatoes, 2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon oregano, 1/4 teaspoon thyme, 1/2 teaspoon basil, 2 cloves of garlic, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 1 cup chopped onions, 1 cup diced celery.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer covered 1 1/2 hours or until meat is tender.

Add one 16-ounce can green beans, including juice and one 15-ounce can kidney beans, including juice and 1 1/2 cups sliced carrots. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Add one cup shell macaroni and simmer another 15 minutes.

Sprinkle each serving with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.

Contact Clayton Rye at crye@wctatel.net.

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