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Grim's Grub: Minnesota's second family

Enjoy foods good enough for a U.S. vice president.

Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.

Let me start today's column with a huge thank you and shout out to Jean and Ron Weber of Breezy Point for an awesome, thematic gift of "The Mark's Cookbook". In this valuable tome is a record of recipes from many famous individuals, actors, politicians and others including Lucille Ball, Princess Grace of Monaco and our focus for today, Joan and Walter Mondale, Minnesota's very own second family.

I've written in the past about President Eisenhower's love of cooking and I wouldn't mind collecting more recipes from former US presidents and their families. However, when the Weber's sent me the above recipe book I was even more excited to find recipes from Mondale, one of our state's most famous sons.

Walter Frederick "Fritz" Mondale was born in 1928 in Ceylon, Minnesota and, sadly, died April 19 of this very year. Mondale attended Macalester College and the University of Minnesota before enlisting in the army in 1951. He was stationed at Fort Knox during the Korean war and got the rank of Corporal.

Washington DC - Former United States Vice President Walter Mondale, the Democratic Presidential candidate, attends a fundraising rally. (February 15, 1984)


He attended the UofM law school using this G.I. bill before serving in law, first working for Minnesota Law Review and then as a clerk for MN Supreme Court Justice Thomas F. Gallagher. He met his wife, Joan Adams, on a blind date and they married in 1955. Before entering politics he practiced law in Minneapolis.

Mondale had a hand in politics since 1948 when he helped on Hubert Humphrey's senate campaign. He was credited with winning Humphrey the second district, a traditionally republican district. He was on Orville Freeman's gubernatorial campaigns (1 failed and two successful) in 1952, 1954 and 1958 before making his own mark as attorney general, as appointed by Freeman in 1960. Mondale was instrumental in the Gideon v. Wainwright case which established the right of defendants in state courts to have legal representation.

Mondale became a senator thanks to appointment by Minnesota Governor Karl Rolvaag to fill a vacancy left by Hubert Humphrey (another one of Minnesota's second sons) upon his election to the position of Vice President. He continued as a senator until 1976 when Jimmy Carter chose him as his running mate for the country's highest office. The pair lost their 1980 bid for re-election to Ronald Reagan. Mondale tried again, this time for president in 1984 with running mate Geraldine Ferraro, however he lost in a landslide to Reagan.

Mondale continued to practice law until 1993 in Minneapolis and served as an Ambassador to Japan until 1996. Before his death in April he was the oldest living former U.S. Vice President.

His wife, Joan, who was nicknamed Joan of Art due to her art advocacy, told the Washington Post in "Mondale's Kitchen Campaign" that cooking was Mondale's second favorite hobby. Fishing was his first favorite. Not only that, on the subject of cooking she said "That's for the men" making it clear that it wasn't much of an interest to her.

She told the WP that Mondale's first gastronomic success was learning to fry fish from Italian fishing buddies who helped him learn to never make fettuccine with margarine, but from there it became a major hobby then on. She said her husband would write down recipes on scraps of paper or the backs of envelopes. It became so big that "The Mondale Family Cookbook" became a gift for members of the Mondale-Ferraro campaign. The 139 page book had family photos, statements by family members about their favorite foods and recipes for blueberry muffins, Fettucine a la Pimento Mondale and many other items. The blueberries came not only from Mondale but supporters as well including campaign manager James A. Johnson's recipe for hot dogs and Tab.

Joan Mondale's recipe for Pumpkin Bread


Pumpkin bread with dates and nuts with slices cut from the loaf. Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts
  • 1/2 cup chopped dates

Sift together all of the dry ingredients listed above flour then mix in the eggs, oil, pumpkin and water with a beater. Finally, add the chopped nuts and dates before baking 1 1/2 hours in a 350 degree oven.

The Mondale's Minnesota Wild Rice Casserole

Wild rice with hamburgers and mushrooms. Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.


  • 3/4 cup long grained rice
  • 1/4 cup wild rice
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons diced celery
  • 2 tablespoons chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green pepper
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 (10 1/2 ounce) can mushroom soup, not cream of mushroom soup.
  • 1/2 cup consomme
  • 1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds

In separate pots, cook the two rices according to the instructions on their packages. While they are cooking, sautee the vegetables in butter over medium high heat, add the ground beef once the vegetables have begun to wilt and soften. Brown the beef then stir in the soup, consomme, mushrooms and almonds. cook for 10-15 minutes. In a large casserole dish combine the rices with the vegetable-beef mixture and keep warm in a 250 degree oven until served.

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