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Bull Cook

This book nearly jumped out at me at the used bookstore in Mankato the other day. I was browsing shelves of the reference section that I have never looked at before — in fact, I didn’t even know reference books were located there. But I was waiting in line to check out, so I thought I’d take a peek.

It’s been in the back of my mind to look for this book for several months, but it hasn’t crossed my mind for a long time. I believe I was called to find it!

I’m a little fascinated with Herter’s stuff since I’m from Waseca. Not only that, but my mom worked at Herter’s as a cashier for many years in the 1960s and early 1970s. I remember visiting the store once as a very young child, scared out of my wits by the taxidermied polar bear standing up on its hind legs.

Most anyone of a certain age around these parts remembers the Herter’s stores and catalogs. Herter’s was the Cabela’s of its time — one of the few big stores that sold outdoor and recreational gear. And it all started in tiny Waseca.

Herter's Cover

I read this New York Times article a few years ago about George Herter and it made me only more fascinated. He sounded like such an eclectic guy, a vintage of which we just don’t see anymore.

I browsed through the entire Bull Cook book as soon as I got home. I couldn’t help but to stop and read a few of the short entries. Most are recipes, but Herter also reminisces about trips he’s taken and places he’s been. He gives some cultural commentary very reminiscent of the 1960s (remember this was before the politically correct era). It’s a fascinating historical document.

The stage is set in the book’s third paragraph:

“For your convenience I will start with meats, fish, eggs, soups and sauces, sandwiches, vegetables, the art of French frying, desserts, how to dress game, how to property sharpen a knife, how to make wines and beer, how to make French soap, what to do in case of hydrogen or cobalt bomb attack. Keeping as much in alphabetical order as possible.”

All right then! Because who doesn’t need to know all of those things? In case you’re wondering, here are some things to have on hand in case of the said bomb attack:

  • Wood stove
  • Lots of blankets
  • At least 1,000 matches
  • Dried food, powdered coffee, macaroni, flour, sugar, etc.
  • A .22 rifle and 1,000 rounds of ammo (which I suppose you should have bought at Herter’s)
  • Traps, wire for snares, fish hooks,
  • Iodine and aspirin
  • 5 pounds of tobacco

Other tidbits:

  • Don’t drink water right after eating pickled or fried fish, otherwise “your mouth will taste like a live fish is swimming around in it.”
  • Scientists have proven that people who eat a lot of red pepper can resist atomic radiation.
  • The Virgin Mary “was very fond of spinach.” That is a well-known fact, Herter claims, along with the fact that she very much enjoyed the music of crude bagpipes of the time. She sounds like a lovely woman.

But seriously, I need to try some of the recipes. The Belgian burgers sound like a delicious way to make hamburgers. I will let you know how they turn out. I also found a yummy-sounding sweet potato recipe with an unusual name (consult p. 204 of the hardcover version if you’d like to know).

I’ll leave you with this: img-Z07191708. Start at the bottom of p. 234. Who knew all-purpose flour could be so evil? It could be the downfall of society.