Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Dolores Allen and Recipes

This is an article I wrote for Edible Door, a Door County publication. I don't mention that she is my mother. I don't know if it will look like this after the publisher does something with it.

Dolores Allen was part of the Door County cooking scene for more than fifty years. She created her long lasting recipe program in 1951 shortly after the startup of radio station WDOR by her husband Ed Allen. First it was called “Kitchenette and Fashionette,” and not long afterward it became “Five Minutes With Dolores Allen.” It might have been put into the Guiness Book of World Records if anyone had documented its duration for number of years it was on the air. More than fifty. In later years the recipes became a cookbook, Door County Recipes and a Little Local Lore.

Dolores’ little down home five minute program sparked an ongoing relationship about cooking with her listeners, who mailed her recipes regularly. She wasn’t like Julia Child or Martha Stewart and wasn’t like the other well-known culinary experts. She had no education in cooking, or home economics as it used to be called, but she knew cooking from her mother, her own experience, and the women’s magazines she read during her long life. So Dolores happily tried out most of the offerings of her listeners and announced them on her program for all the world to enjoy. The program’s long time sponsor was Corner House Shops of Sturgeon Bay.

After saying, “Thank you and good morning, everyone,” Dolores would tell what the day’s recipe was, with anecdotes about the person who created it if she was familiar with the person. She would list the ingredients and the method of preparation, and then repeat the recipe, all in a five minute time period. This was radio, so she was not cooking while talking. Her program originally was on the air before Sturgeon Bay began to have television from Green Bay.

This woman was no couch potato. Dolores grew up in Winona, Minnesota, where she proved to be an attractive, creative person. She was Miss Winona in the late 1920s, earned a degree in English and French from the College of St. Teresa in Winona, and then moved to Chicago. She worked for Life Magazine and did some modeling. She married Ed Allen who was a Chicago radio announcer, and had three children, while being a writer of fiction and radio drama. They brought these talents and advantages to Sturgeon Bay, created a corporation with local investors, and WDOR was born. That produced the beginning of the cooking program.

Dolores could write, and she could talk. She brought a wide range of recipes to the program. Some were from Door County restaurants (with permission), some were from listeners, and some came from her own recipe collection or cookbooks. She once borrowed a chapter from a cook book belonging to her daughter, Kathy, and later returned it with many notes and dates of broadcast in the margins. Always she gave credit to the sources. Dolores also created in and published The Key to the Door Peninsula guidebook for many years, in the 1950s once a year and later twice each year. It continues to exist in altered form today.

The popular cookbook was an outgrowth of the recipe program. Door County Recipes and a Little Local Lore is a book of recipes compiled by Dolores from her radio program, along with some of her personal favorites. She included little comments with the recipes, anecdotes of Door County history and illustrations by her daughter.  Who could resist Mrs. Bassford’s Strawberry Pie, which arrived from Connie Anderson?  And everyone would want to try du Nord Cherry Torte from Mrs. Max Fletcher. Don’t miss Broccoli and Apple Soup from Eileen Madson  of Sister Bay. Then everyone should try Dolores’ personal favorites, like Infallible Roast Beef or $200 French Dressing. The story of the dressing is included, including the story of the bill for $200 that the lady who requested the recipe received, whereupon she shared it widely. This is the flavor of the Dolores Allen cookbook.   Publication was in 1989, with a second printing in 1994, by her company, Key Enterprises of Sturgeon Bay.  It is out of print but still appears in used book stores.

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