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A century of food prep

By Staff | Jun 17, 2015

-Farm News photos by Clayton Rye VIOLA ROBERTS still cans meat she uses for herself and company, although she says she gives most of it away.


FERTILE – On May 31, 1914, Ben and Ellen Miller, on their farm three miles west of Fertile, became the parents of their fourth child. They named her Viola.

On May 31, Viola celebrated her birthday – 101.

Roberts not only has a clear mind, visiting easily about her life, but lives in her own home and prepares her own meals.

In her lifetime, she said she’s lived in a wide variety of places from farmhouses in the Fertile area and a log cabin near Bayfield, Wisconsin, to the comfortable home she’s living in on the east side of Fertile, the house she and her husband moved into in 1967.

A GLASS OF MILK complements Viola Roberts’ recipe for molasses crinkles cookies.

“I’m not a good cook,” said Roberts.

She still enjoys canning meat starting with boneless chuck that, when canned, is mixed with chopped onion, salt, pepper and its own juice to make sandwiches.

“I mostly give it away,” she said of her canned meat.

Her daily eating habits are minimal.

“I don’t eat much at all. I never get hungry and hardly ever snack,” she said.

-Farm News photos by Clayton Rye VIOLA ROBERTS’ recipe for molasses crinkle cookies cool after coming out of the oven.

The Bayfield move occurred when her grandfather wanted his children to follow him to Wisconsin.

In October, 1920, Viola, 6, moved by car with her family, to an 80-acre farm of trees and sand.

Her grandfather passed away the following May.

Her family lived in the log house for eight years. Water was brought to the house a distance equal to 1.5 city blocks, with a team of horses hauling two full barrels.

Her family returned to Fertile when Roberts was 14. She graduated from Fertile High School in 1933.

Viola Roberts mug

She and Forrest Roberts were married Dec. 20, 1933.

Forrest Roberts inherited 40 acres at Pine City, Minnesota, where they lived for three years, dairying with eight cows, raising hogs, and using two horses for work.

“I could see we were going nowhere,” said Viola Roberts.

In 1937, they sold the 40-acre farm and moved to a farm southeast of Fertile.

The farm at Fertile had a Delco plant for electricity and around 1947 was receiving its power through the REA.

It also did not have running water.

“All the water was carried in and carried out,” Roberts said.

Her husband dug a trench 6 feet deep to provide a drain, eliminating the need for carrying out the water.

When asked about preparing cooking on a wood-burning stove, Roberts said she has good memories using one.

It had the problem of bringing in wood as the source of heat, but it did keep the house warm.

For Roberts, the cook stove was used for more than cooking and baking. With the oven door open and laid down, she used it to warm her babies’ bath water, powder and clothes.

The stove was kept hot all day, even in summer, but it was not a problem according to Viola Roberts.

“We never thought a thing about it,” she said. “Everyone did the same thing.”

Forrest Roberts’ main source of income, once the children were grown, was as a semi driver.

It was Viola who ran the machinery – plowing, disking, dragging, picking corn with a mounted picker – everything except planting.

“I loved the farm work,” she said.

When they moved to Fertile in 1967, they rented out the farm.

Forrest Roberts passed away in 2003.

She has three children, Wayne, in Clear Lake; Donald, in Chico, California; and Joanne in Shell Rock.

Her oldest is Wayne, 79.

“He is working all the time. He mowed my lawn yesterday,” she said.

Roberts has 12 grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren.

“The good Lord has blessed me with good health,” Roberts said. “Hard work didn’t hurt me one single bit.”

“So far, so good. I am going to stay here as long as I can.

“I just got my driver’s license renewed.”

Molasses crinkles

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup margarine

2 eggs

1/2 cup molasses

teaspoon salt

4 cups flour

2 teaspoons soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon allspice

You can use 1 cup white sugar and 1 cup brown sugar.

Mix together and roll in balls the size of a walnut. Dip top in sugar.

Bake on ungreased cookie sheet for 10 to 12 minutes at 350 degrees.

Barbecue baked beans

2 pounds hamburger

1 cup onions, chopped

1 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup catsup

2 29-ounce cans pork and beans

Salt and pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Brown hamburger and onions; drain.

Add brown sugar, catsup, salt and pepper, garlic powder and pork and beans.

Stir together and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes or until thickened.

Spice drop/orange slice cookies

1 1/2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed

1/2 cup shortening

2 eggs

2 cups sifted flour

1 teaspoon soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup coconut or chopped nuts

1/2 cup rolled oats

1 pound orange slices or spiced drops, diced and mixed with 1/4 cup flour

Cream sugar and shortening until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs.

Sift flour, soda and salt together and blend into creamed mixture. Fold in candy, coconut or nuts, and oatmeal and mix well.

Roll into balls 1-inch in diameter. (Or roll, chill and slice.)

Place on greased baking sheet and press down with fork.

Bake in slow oven, 325 degrees, for 10 to 12 minutes.

Baked custard pie

4 eggs, slightly beaten

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 cups milk, scalded

1 unbaked pie shell, rolled less than 1/8 inch thick

Ground nutmeg

Thoroughly mix eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt. Slowly stir in hot milk.

At once, pour into unbaked pie shell. Dash top with nutmeg. Bake in very hot 475-degree oven for 5 minutes.

Reduce heat to 425 degrees and bake 10 minutes longer until knife inserted into custard comes out clean.

Cool on rack. It bakes in 15 minutes.

Holiday date bars

1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup margarine or butter, softened

1 cup chopped dates

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup margarine or butter

1 egg well beaten

2 cups Rice Krispies

1 cup chopped nuts

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

3 ounce package cream cheese, softened

Heat oven to 375 degrees.


Combine first three ingredients; mix until crumbly. Press into a 12-by-8-inch pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes.


In sauce pan combine dates, sugar and margarine or better.

Cook over medium heat until mixture boils. Stir constantly.

Simmer 3 minutes. Blend one-fourth hot mixture into beaten egg; return to sauce pan.

Cook until mixture bubbles, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in Rice Krispies, nuts and vanilla.

Spread over baked crust. Cool.


Combine powdered sugar, vanilla and cream cheese and beat good. Spread over cooled date filling.

Special Christmas


1/4 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup sugar

3 cups nuts, coarsely chopped

1 cup pitted dates, coarsely chopped

1 cup halved Maraschino cherries

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

In mixing bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Add nuts, dates, and cherries.

Stir until well coated. Beat eggs and vanilla together; stir into dry mixture. Mix well.

Pour into a greased and floured 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan. Bake at 300 degrees for 1 hour and 45 minutes.

Cool 10 minutes in pan before removing to wire rack.

Can also bake in three small loaf pans. Bake small loaves for 70 minutes.

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