Honon Steak Revisited

Last month I wrote about the mystery of “honon steak.” Someone suggested to me that, since this seemed to be an Iowa specialty, I should contact a local historical society for assistance. Accordingly, on May 5, I located a contact form for the State Historical Society of Iowa, which, it turns out, is a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.

On May 17, I received a reply from Shari S. Stelling, Librarian, at the State Historical Library & Archives in Des Moines. She was also intrigued by the mystery and reported that she had found a few other mentions but “nothing like a description (let alone recipe).” Her search of newspapers in the public domain (dated before 1922) through NewspaperArchive and Chronicling America had turned up a reference in the Spencer Reporter for April 5, 1916, which gave the menu for a Commercial Club Banquet that included “honon steak.” Other references, also banquet menus, were found in the February 23, 1915; January 9, 1917; and March 27, 1917, issues of the Webster City Freeman.

Since all these sightings were from the northwest part of the state, Shari suggested “contacting the Webster City Public Library to see if any of the Webster City community cookbooks in their collection include honon steak,” adding, “Maybe it was a regional favorite” (which was also my assumption). She also recommended contacting the Special Collections department at the Iowa State University library in Ames, which has “a significant cookery/cookbook collection.”

Yesterday I contacted both of those institutions, one via contact form and one via email. To my amazement, I received replies from both of them within hours!

First to respond was Olivia Garrison, Reference Coordinator, Special Collections and University Archives, at the Iowa State University Library. She wrote:

Shari Stelling pointed you to the right place! And the tip about the Webster City Freeman was extremely helpful, because it gave me an idea of where to start looking. Our cookbook collection is extensive and most are not digitized at this time, so it was great to be able to narrow the search down.

Luckily, we have a cookbook published by the Webster City Freeman, originally in 1916 then republished in 1952. And lo and behold, there’s a recipe for Honon Steak!

She attached a scan of the cover and title page of The Famous Old Webster City Cook Book, along with page 13, which has the recipe.

Less than half an hour later, I heard from Ketta Lubberstedt-Arjes, Assistant Director of the Kendall Young Library in Webster City, Iowa. She had found the same cookbook in her library’s collection and also sent scans of the relevant pages. As lagniappe, she included scans of several pages of MacKinlay Kantor’s Webster City, Iowa, by Paul C. Juhl, in which The Famous Old Webster City Cook Book is pictured and its history recounted:

There were actually three versions of the Webster City cookbook. The first, which many called the best, was published in 1900; a second in 1906; and then a third in 1916. The second creation, by the Ladies’ Aid Society of the Webster City Congregational Church, created a bound volume of the version printed in 1906. This was called “Tried and True Recipes of Webster City’s Best Cooks” and expanded on the earlier version. It was this booklet that was reprinted by the Freeman-Journal Publishing Company in 1952.

The Honon Steak recipe itself is not terribly impressive.

That sounds to me an awful lot like a blend of country fried steak (or chicken-fried steak) and pot roast, and I can’t imagine anyone ever considering it an elegant banquet entrée. Moreover, the mystery of “honon” is still unsolved. Still, I am grateful to have gotten this far with the quest. Since Mrs. Joe H. Richard, who provided the recipe, and all the cooks who may have followed it are surely long dead, I suspect this is as far as we will get.

Posted in Language | Leave a comment

Bluff Neighborhood Construction Report 5-21-17

Today’s report will be short and sweet.

352 N. Summit Street

The house was securely locked up again today, but the Palmetto Street lanterns from The Coppersmith have been mounted.

Peeking through the sunroom door, I can see that the kitchen faucet valve has been installed (but not the soap dispenser).

The fridge (GE Café™ Series ENERGY STAR® 27.8 Cu. Ft. French-Door Refrigerator with Hot Water Dispenser) and oven (GE Café™ Series 30″ Built-In Single Convection Wall Oven) have been delivered.

The cooktop has been temporarily removed, probably to facilitate installation of the oven.

And here’s a view of the whole house from the street.

351 N. Summit Street—Parting Shots

Since the homeowners have definitely moved in, I offer just two views of the finished house (well, mostly finished—the screened porch hasn’t yet been screened).

Posted in Construction | Leave a comment

Bluff Neighborhood Construction Report 5-14-17

I was able to get access to 352 N. Summit today, so this will be a marathon. Buckle up!

352 N. Summit Street

I was expecting to have to content myself with exterior photos, and those alone would have been numerous, as the landscaping has been completed.

In addition, the back steps have finally been constructed.

I took a few fuzzy photos through dirty windows but then found a front window open (I later realized that many windows had been opened from the top, presumably to promote circulation to dry paint, etc.). I was tempted to enter that way but then found that the kitchen door was unlocked.

In the kitchen, the gas cooktop has been installed, but the range, dishwasher, and fridge are still to come, and the disposal hasn’t been installed, either.

The racks I saw in the space designated for a microwave were still a bit of a mystery—perhaps somewhere in the pantry?

The valve for the Delta Leland® Single Handle Pull-Down Kitchen Faucet is still lying in the sink; obviously, additional holes will have to be drilled in the countertop to accommodate that and the Delta Cassidy® Soap / Lotion Dispenser and Bottle.

In the pantry, the center drawers are just drawers, but what appear to be cabinet doors at left and right conceal pull out drawers for bulky items.

Here’s a bi-level drawer in the kitchen.

Here’s a close-up of the dining room chandelier and its decorative ceiling medallion.

And here’s the completed fireplace, with hearth and screen.

In the back hall, two pendant ceiling fixtures have been installed.

Here’s a close-up of one of them.

In the powder room, the Gerber Logan Square pedestal lavatory has been installed, and the mystery of why there were only three Toto toilets for four bathrooms is solved: this one is a Logan Square model to match the lavatory. The faucet here, like all the other lavatory faucets, is the Dryden™ Two Handle Widespread Lavatory Faucet.

After I got home, I got to thinking about light fixtures and realized I hadn’t noticed whether one had been installed in the powder room. It will be recalled that a Feiss 1-light LED sconce was earmarked for that location. A Feiss 3-light LED vanity fixture had also been among the boxed lighting fixtures seen earlier. In fact, it turned out that the three-light one has in fact been installed over the lavatory, so high that I hadn’t noticed it and in fact rather higher than seems reasonable to me; a very tall mirror must be planned.

The one-light sconce is at a more normal height on the wall facing the toilet. Perhaps there will be a small table or chest under it.

In the laundry room, the C-Tech-I Patras LI-800 Italian sink and Delta Foundations® Single Handle Pull-Out Kitchen Faucet have been installed. Note also the stone-tiled floor.

Again, I was so focused on items below eye level that I entirely missed this striking light fixture until the second trip.

In the master bedroom, the pendant lamps on either side of the bed now have shades. I haven’t been able to identify the model, but the construction of the lamp and shade is novel.

In the master bath, nothing has changed, but I was able to take some photos from the inside. The installation of the tub faucet and hand spray is now complete. Although it’s not visible in these photos, the drain assembly, unlike all the other plumbing fixtures, is not Delta but instead a “tip-toe” drain with “linear overflow” from Westbrass.

Here’s the shower as seen from inside.

In the toilet room, one of the three Toto Eco Drake toilets.

Upstairs, both the light fixtures previously installed in the “break room” (a Heath Flushmount and a Denton Narrow Sconce Tall, both from Restoration Hardware) have been removed. The former has been replaced by this unusual fixture.

The Denton sconce in the corridor beside the stair, leading to the center bedroom, has also been removed, but two of the sconces remain in the actual stairwell.

The bar sink and Delta 1959LF-AR bar/prep faucet have been installed.

So the break room awaits only its small fridge (below the counter) and microwave (on the shelf above).

This is the light fixture in the upstairs hall.

In the hall bath, the previously installed light fixtures have been replaced by the two relocated Denton sconces (their shades were found in the linen cupboard).

The completed shower uses the Dryden™ Monitor® 14 Series Shower Trim.

In the en suite bathroom, the Ara® Single Handle Vessel Lavatory Faucet with Channel Spout has been installed, but the vessel sink has not. The Feiss Sophie wall brackets are now shaded.

In the tub, the Ara® Monitor® 14 Series H2Okinetic® Tub and Shower Trim.

All the interior doors are pickled and have glass door knobs, some with brass plates but most with dark bronze. I made several attempts to get good photos of them in hopes of identifying the model, but photographing glass is a challenge!

351 N. Summit Street

I think it’s time to stick a fork in this one. Although I did not get a chance to talk to the homeowners to confirm this, I believe that they have moved in. In any case, they were celebrating Mother’s Day by hosting all their family (including the architect son who designed the house) and possibly a number of friends as well, so the house was surrounded by parked vehicles.

59 N. Summit Street

The main news is that the chimney extension was completed this week.

Inside, construction has begun on partitions, though considerable floor work is still needed.

Posted in Construction | Leave a comment

Bluff Neighborhood Construction Report 5-7-17

Just a few tidbits today.

352 N. Summit Street

A curb has been added to the parking space in front.

Views of the brick terrace from top and bottom.

It appears that the plan is to add landscaping to the narrow space between house and driveway. I can attest from painful experience (with a space about twice this wide) that it is very difficult to find low-maintenance plants that do not outgrow the space both horizontally and vertically.

In the master bath, the tub has finally been installed, complete with Delta’s Dryden™ Roman Tub Trim with Hand Shower.

Hardware has been added to the vanity and the light fixtures restored.

The front door now sports this fancy combination lock.

And, in the dining room, a chandelier has been hung.

In the kitchen, installation of sink fixtures is still incomplete, and the cooktop has not been installed, but cabinet hardware has been added, and the pantry doors have been installed. In the photo above, something that looks like a dishwasher rack is in the space (at left) reserved for a microwave oven.

351 N. Summit Street

In the powder room, this striking sink counter is paired with Brizo’s Odin™ Two Handle Wall-Mount Lavatory Faucet.

The powder room toilet is finally off the kitchen counter and in place. Note the underside of the stairs above.

New additions in the butler’s pantry are a Simonelli Musica espresso machine, a Eureka Mignon Istantaneo espresso grinder, and a ULine Wine Captain wine cooler.

59 N. Summit Street

The façade has changed dramatically again with the addition of a dormer, and work has begun on building up the existing chimney to extend above the addition.

Posted in Construction | Leave a comment

Slow Return from a Lenten Fast

I gave up desserts for Lent this year, and the results were somewhat unexpected.

I grew up in a household where desserts were de rigueur. They were the expected conclusion of every lunch or dinner. My mother was a good cook and provided filling meals, but she always claimed she had “saved a little corner” of her stomach for dessert. Nowadays, people call that the “dessert stomach,” and apparently it’s really a thing.

So I regarded dessert as an essential component of every meal. If a party served only “heavy hors d’oeuvres,” I felt disappointed if there wasn’t some little “sweet taste.” If I ate out and (as regularly happens nowadays) filled up on half the entrée (the rest going home in a box), so dessert was out of the question, at least I was grateful for the Andes mint or peppermint the restaurant provided.

Over the years, as it’s become increasingly difficult to control my weight, I’ve tried to cut down on desserts, but it was difficult. After supper, I would have one “square” (that is, one rectangular segment) of a Giant (6.8 oz.) Hershey Special Dark bar (just 60 calories!). After lunch, my preferred dessert was one or two oatmeal raisin cookies from the bakery at Piggly Wiggly—hardly even dessert, right? After all, oatmeal and raisins are good for you!

I have never had any will power, so I find dieting (and New Year’s resolutions) pretty much a lost cause, but, even though I don’t have any particular religious reverence for Lent, I have found that, when I give something up for Lent, it is easier for me to stick to it. Perhaps it’s because I feel I’ve made a commitment to something or someone besides myself. This was a distinction I found it hard to impress on my mother-in-law, who had been brought up a Baptist and consequently was unaccustomed to Lenten observance. We often visited our in-laws during the kids’ spring break, which usually fell before Easter. Every time I said, “No, thank you,” to dessert and she continued to press it on me, I’d explain again that I’d given up desserts (or chocolate in some cases) for Lent, and she’d say, “Oh, yes, I forgot you were dieting.”

This time I didn’t announce my intentions to anyone. If my husband noticed that I was routinely avoiding and declining desserts, he didn’t mention it. I slipped up just once, a week into Lent, when our Tuesday book reviewer, a fabulous cook, brought her own home-baked cookies as refreshments. They were heavenly, and it was only after I’d had two of them that I realized, with horror, that I’d transgressed. After that, however, I didn’t even take advantage of fast-free Sundays.

The results surprised me. I’d expected the sacrifice to be really hard. Instead, I found it in many ways a relief. For example, those oatmeal-raisin cookies were often hard won. Sometimes I’d have to go to Piggly Wiggly three or more times to find them in stock. By Ash Wednesday, there had been none available since before Christmas. Once I’d made up my mind not to eat them, anyway, I stopped fretting over their unavailability.

But the most revealing experience was a University of Alabama reception following the performance of A Chorus Line by the university’s Department of Theatre & Dance at the Saenger Theater in Mobile. In addition to the wine (which, in retrospect, I also didn’t need), there were tables full of petits fours and other dainty confections. I am a sucker for “pretty” desserts, but if I had been able to sample them, I would have been a glutton because there were half a dozen or more different varieties, and I would have wanted to try them all. I was genuinely grateful to be relieved of that temptation!

Throughout the eight weeks, I found I didn’t really crave sweets. In fact, when I was in the Walmart aisle that canned fruit shares with “seasonal,” I found myself totally uninterested in chocolate rabbits and eggs. I did cheat a little, substituting an occasional dried date for the chocolate square or a cookie, but that was fruit, not “dessert” per se, right?

In the end, what I realized was that eating dessert had just become a habit, one that I had given myself permission to break. Now, two weeks after Easter, I’m still mostly refraining. A couple of days before Easter, my husband craved brownies, and, unable to find our usual mix, I bought three different ones. He’s so far made up two batches, and I’ve “helped” dispose of them, but aside from that I’m still on the wagon. When I had “Hershey bar” on my shopping list and found that Walmart was out of the Giant bar, I was more relieved than disappointed: I’ve found that a date works just as well as a chocolate square.

I had, of course, hoped that omitting desserts would make me “healthier”—that is, that I would lose weight. Well, I did. I have at various points weighed as much as 5–7 pounds less than when I started, and although I’ve probably reached a “plateau” now, I am hoping that extending my “fast” will show continuing results. But even if it doesn’t, I feel good about breaking a pointless habit.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bluff Neighborhood Construction Report 4-30-17

Mostly exterior views today.

252 N. Bayview Street

Since we last visited this house, Sexton Lawn & Landscape has provided landscaping in the front that includes a fountain, lighting, and plantings in the brick-framed planter beds.

352 N. Summit Street

The driveway, parking area, and front walk were completed yesterday by brick masons.

This photo of the area shown in one of last week’s photos shows that, as predicted, the gap in the concrete was filled with bricks.

In the back, the area between house and garage is being terraced.

The front of the garage is finally being painted, and some areas of the house are also being touched up.

Finding the window in the master bath ajar again, I was able to get these shots of the vanity, with its Delta Dryden™ faucets. The tub skirt continues to be peripatetic, the tub not yet installed.

351 N. Summit Street

No report.

59 N. Summit Street

Although there was activity inside this week, I couldn’t see any evidence of it, and the façade appears almost unchanged from last week.

Posted in Construction | Leave a comment

Bluff Neighborhood Construction Report 4-23-17

Just a few words and photos today, as I’m snowed under finishing up my book review for Tuesday.

352 N. Summit Street

Concrete has been poured for most of the driveway and part of the parking space.

I’m guessing that there will be a brick inlay across the driveway at this point and along the sides to the street.

Although the house was still locked up, I found a bathroom window partially open and was able to get my camera inside to take this shot, which shows the shower fixtures installed. They are the Dryden™
Premium Single-Setting Slide Bar Hand Shower
(there were two of these, so I’m assuming the second is in the hall bathroom upstairs), Dryden™ Monitor® 14 Series Shower Trim, and Dryden™ Monitor® 17 Series Valve Only Trim.

From this photo taken through one of the front doors, we can see that the second chandelier has been(sort of) installed in the kitchen.

351 N. Summit Street

No report.

59 N. Summit Street

The outlines of the new façade are really taking shape now.

Posted in Construction | Leave a comment