In the kitchen with Bob: Latest Artley book was a group effort

The words in Bob Artley's introduction to his latest book, "Memories of a Farm Kitchen," express just how central that title room was to his childhood memories.

"Memories of a Farm Kitchen"

The words in Bob Artley's introduction to his latest book, "Memories of a Farm Kitchen," express just how central that title room was to his childhood memories.

If by means of some magic I were to be set down in a farm kitchen in the early decades of the 20th century, I would know immediately where I was, for I have been there many a time, even though it was a long time ago.

Even if I were blindfolded, I could tell where I was by the sounds and smells in the room.

"Memories of a Farm Kitchen" has been a work in progress for several years, and in the end, it was a fully collaborative effort involving Bob's children, publisher and a longtime family friend. Now 93 years of age, Bob's health, including a series of strokes, impeded progress on his ode to the farm kitchen, but he was determined to get it done.

"Dad, several years ago, talked about doing this book," recalled Bob's son, Rob Artley, a retired high school principal who now lives in Rochester. "He'd mainly written so much from the child's perspective on the farm about outside things, and he kind of wanted to do something that centered on the kitchen. But the last five years have been tough on him."


In order to pull the final project together, other son Steve Artley, who followed in his dad's footsteps as an editorial cartoonist on the East Coast, was recruited to fine-tune some of the artwork for the book and organized the layout. Rob helped Bob with some of the text, and both he and sister Joan Sterner, who lives in St. Paul, earned editing credits.

"Although I was enthusiastic about the prospect and fortunately was able to complete several watercolor illustrations, a series of strokes put the project on hold," Bob writes in the book's acknowledgements. "Only after my family took over did the book become realized."

Rooted in the rural life

"Memories of a Farm Kitchen" is the latest book that stems from a series of cartoons that Bob began when he was an editorial cartoonist for the Daily Globe in the 1970s. The first edition of "Memories of a Former Kid" was published in 1978, and other titles followed, including "Christmas on the Farm," "Once Upon a Farm" and "Living With Pigs." He also penned a book after his first wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, titled "Ginny: A Love Remembered."

Since leaving Worthington and the employ of the Daily Globe, Bob has lived in his hometown of Hampton, Iowa, and Winter Haven, Fla. He and second wife Margaret most recently moved to Akron, Ohio, to be close to the support system of her children. In a brief phone interview from their Akron home, he talked about the completion of "Memories of a Farm Kitchen."

"Rob and I wrote it together," he credited. "I wrote part of it, and he wrote part of it. His part was on the kitchen table, and I thought it was the best part of the book."

Although he's proud of the collaborative effort, Bob did express disappointment in not being able to play a more active role in the book's design.

"I had a stroke while I was working on it, so I wasn't able to lay it out, I wasn't able to finish it," he said. "I would have added more prominence to the kitchen table."


In the end, however, "Memories of a Farm Kitchen," is probably the most personal of Bob's recollections of growing up on the family farm. It includes pictures of his parents, Elsie and George Artley, a poem written by his mother, and recipes direct from the Artley farm kitchen.

"She was a very good cook," recalled Bob about meals at his mother's table. "We boys -- three boys, two brothers and I -- had a very good home. Very good. My dad was a wonderful dad, and my mom was a wonderful mom."

Contributing cook

In addition to the 12 recipes from Elsie Artley's personal recipe file, "Memories of a Farm Kitchen" includes an appendix of recipes compiled by Dorothy Harchanko of Worthington. She has a dual connection to the book as a friend of both Bob and its publishers, Milburn and Nancy Calhoun, who operate Pelican Publishing Co. in Gretna, La.

"The Calhouns are some of our closest friends," Dorothy said about a relationship that dates back to before she and husband Ray moved to Worthington. "When we lived in Fargo, N.D., Ray was managing a White Drug store up there, and Milburn, who is from Louisiana, was assigned there as a recruiter with the Reserves. We were both young couples with young children, and we became fast friends.

"Milburn was a medical doctor, but he was always interested in books," she continued. "They finally opened a used book store, and then this small publishing company became available for sale, and he decided to buy it. They've built it into a respectable big publishing company. We introduced them to Bob."

To add to the homey, regional flavor of the book, the Calhouns wanted more recipes from the heartland, so they enlisted friend Dorothy, who has a home economics background, to hunt down typical farm fare.

"I never lived on a farm, so I called Bob and asked, 'Was your mother German or Scandinavian or what? What did she cook?" related Dorothy. "I really agonized over it all summer long. It seemed like it was such common stuff, so I had a hard time deciding on the recipes. I got recipes from a lot of people, boiled them down, and in a lot of cases, I didn't use just one person's recipe, but conglomerated them. I tested a lot of them, and the ones I didn't test, I felt had good references. ... I did not test the soap recipe, nor the canned meat."


The editor assigned to the book had requested 29 recipes; Dorothy sent 29 plus five alternates, and everything she submitted was used in the final edition.

"Some contributor's names will be familiar to longtime locals. Although I didn't think it relevant to note in the book, the cream pie fillings were served for years at our lunch counter," Dorothy noted, referring to the Midtown Pharmacy restaurant she and Ray ran for many years in downtown Worthington. "If you make them, be aware they fill a 10-inch crust, or use a 9-inch crust and just eat the rest. The meringue recipe makes that mile-high topping."

From "Memories of a Farm Kitchen," here is Dorothy's recipe for Banana Cream Pie.

Banana Cream Pie

Scald 2½ cups milk and 1 cup sugar in a large saucepan.

Beat 4 egg yolks with another ½ cup milk and 1/3 cup cornstarch. Gradually add to saucepan, stirring constantly. Cook until thickened. Add 2 tablespoons butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Cool.

Add 2 large bananas, sliced. Pour into crust.

For meringue, beat 4 egg whites to a soft peak. Slowly add 2/3 cup sugar and 1½ tablespoons cornstarch as you beat, till whites are stiff but still shiny.


Cover filling with meringue, sealing it to the edges of the piecrust so filling doesn't "weep."

Bake at 400 degrees only until the swirls of meringue start to toast a nice golden brown.

A book signing event with Dorothy Harchanko will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday at the Buffalo Billfold Company/Cows Outside in downtown Worthington. Hot cider and refreshments will be served.

Dorothy Harchanko pages through a copy of "Memories of a Farm Kitchen," in her Worthington home. Harchanko, a longtime friend of Bob Artley, sought out farm kitchen recipes to be included in his latest work.

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