Posts Tagged: luther college

All Recipes Are Home


By Benji Nichols • Above photo by Aryn Henning Nichols

Chocolate chip cookies. Mac and cheese. Betty Crocker. Ten Layer Cake.

Recipes are – in theory ­­– mathematical equations. But in reality, each recipe – tucked in an old box or church cookbook, scribbled to the edges with notes and names – is a story, sometimes handed down from generation to generation, place to place, family to family. Just a whiff of a favorite dish can transport you to another time and place. Home.

SeanHeadshot“Irish Stew,” says Sean Lewis, writer and director of ‘All Recipes are Home.’ “It’s the meal I remember smelling in my grandmother’s house whenever we would visit her.”

But as anyone who has tried to recreate a dish “just like grandma” knows, a recipe will only get you part way there.

“At its simplest a recipe is just measurements and ingredients, but at its best it is like a potion,” says Lewis. “Mundane things that when put together remind of us of who we are and where we came from.” (Photo at right courtesy Sean Lewis.)

Commissioned by Luther College, The University of Iowa, and Grinnell College, “All Recipes Are Home” is a new theatrical piece by Iowa City’s Working Group Theatre. Following a young man’s epic journey across the state, and his sister’s journey to find him, a beautiful story is woven through words and music, including new songs from Iowa City’s own Awful Purdies. The work explores and celebrates the rich ties of food, farming, and recipes to Midwestern culture, and the comforts of “Home.”

“This is our fourth major play in Iowa,” says Lewis, the lead of Working Group Theatre. Founded in 2009 by three MFA graduates from the University of Iowa, Working Group has created more than 30 new plays and theatrical works, many centered around timely social issues. “We have done some heavy material in the past including race and class, the support for caregivers of loved ones suffering from Alzheimer’s, cyber bullying, etc. It was clear after coming to Decorah and meeting farmers across the state that this piece would need to be different. This show needed to be joyful. A celebration. We really wanted to make a show that collected this identifying quality of the state, this ‘look at how we are brought together despite our differences.’”

Lewis, an award winning director, actor, and playwright in his own right (including being heard as a commentator on NPR’s This American Life), visited Northeast Iowa extensively in preparation for the production.

Sheep(Photo courtesy Luther College.)

“The local commitment to food is amazing,” he says. “Young people deciding to come back to the farm and living from the land juxtaposed with children leaving the family farm, the shared interests and concerns of farmers who are neighbors but also their differences regarding the type of farm; family vs. commercial; organic vs. non. I loved how excited people were with their work. No one is in farming for the easy money. But there is a true honor in growing something and nurturing it – a joy in providing for others.”

BluePotatoesSpecific stops for Lewis included The Pepperfield Project Farm, Foresight Farms, WW Homestead Dairy, The Seed Saver’s Exchange Heritage Farm, The Oneota Co-op, multiple local vegetable farmers, as well as the Decorah School District and Luther College Kitchens.

“I loved working in the Decorah Middle School cafeteria,” said Lewis. “The food they provide local and fresh prepared is worlds removed from my cafeteria experience. We served purple French fries that day – I served them – and never felt less popular in a middle school!” (Photo at right courtesy Luther College.)

Iowa City-based folk band Awful Purdies also collected stories from around the state and visited Decorah in in preparation for the production.


(Photo courtesy Seed Savers Exchange.)

“At first the idea of writing songs about food seemed completely lacking in sexiness,” says Katie Roche, the official accordion, xylophone, penny whistle, recorder, and washboard player for the group. “But now that we are deep in this subject, the band has realized that it is dripping with politics, love stories, empowerment, and complete loss.”

They performed at Seed Saver’s Exchange Heritage Farm during their stay in Northeast Iowa, and held story circles to collect personal experiences for the project.

“We could have easily continued to listen through that gourd labeled food and wrote nothing but food songs for the rest of our lives,” says Roche, “Because lyrically, food is really about survival and quality of life. That subject is a ten layer cake.”


Benji Nichols has long believed that recipes are merely rough guides to follow. Much as in life, the monumental failures and successes are often found by deviation – but finding them again is the real magic!

All Recipes are Home premiers as the final show of the 2014-15 Center Stage Series in Decorah on April 11, with additional performances at Grinnell College April 13, and the University of Iowa / Hancher on April 17-18.

Find out more at:

The new Awful Purdies album, also entitled “All Recipes Are Home” is available for pre-order now on Maximum Ames Records with a delivery date of Summer 2015. The “physical” album will actually be sent as a packet of Seed Saver’s vegetable Seeds with a download card – plant and play, and eat your way through the summer!

Free Gardening Classes


2015 Luther Gardening Classes

We love the series of gardening classes that Luther College’s sustainability department has put together – you can learn about everything from picking out seeds to making your very own hoop house! Classes are free and open to the public – all you have to do is register in advance. Find more information and registration forms at

Questions? Email

Seed Starting 101
Thursday, March 12, 2015 • 9:45-10:45am • Valders 362
There are many reputable places to buy high quality transplants, but have you ever thought about growing your own? Benefits of growing transplants at home include the ability to choose your favorite varieties, as well as the potential for significant cost savings. Jeff Scott of Driftless Gardens will discuss strategies and techniques to help you learn to grow your own plant starts this year.

How to Build a Raised Bed
Thursday, April 9, 2015 • 9:45-10:45am • Valders 262

There are a myriad of benefits to gardening within a raised bed system. Benefits can include easier weed and pest control, better soil, accessibility and aesthetics. Jeff Scott of Driftless Gardens will discuss key considerations and show plans and budgets for various raised bed systems.

How to Make a Bean Tipi
Thursday, April 30, 2015 • 9:45-10:45am • Valders 362 / Valders Edible Landscape
Bean tipis are an easy way to maximize the use of your garden space while also adding making the garden more topographically interesting. David Cavagnaro of the Pepperfield Project will work alongside participants to build a bean tipi in one of Luther’s edible landscapes.

Container Gardening
Thursday, May 14, 2015 • 9:45-10:45am • Valders 362

Containers can be great places to grow a garden! David Cavagnaro has been photographing container gardens for years and will share his expertise on creating beautiful container gardens with combinations of flowers, plants and herbs. Perry Halse, of Luther’s ground crew has been incorporating edibles into flower pots all across campus. Participants are sure to leave feeling inspired to create container gardens that will be the talk of the neighborhood.

How to Build a Low-cost Hoophouse for Home Production
Thursday, June 11, 2015 • 12-1pm • College Farm – 2132 Pole Line Road, Decorah

Hoop houses can provide shelter for seedlings and early and late season crops. Giles Teslow and Perry Halse have both built multiple low budget hoop houses and will be on hand to provide you with design ideas and tips for constructing your own.

Backyard Chickens
Thursday, July 16, 2015 • 12-1pm • Valders 362

Do you like omelettes and quiche? Have you always dreamed of being able to have fresh eggs for breakfast from a coop right out your back door? Jon Jensen and Rachel Sandhorst have been raising their own broilers and laying hens for years and will share some of what they’ve learned with participants during this session. They will discuss housing, light requirements, seasonal needs, feed and other considerations.

Growing Grapes
Thursday, September 17, 2015 • 9:45-10:45am • Valders 362

Think grapes and Iowa don’t mix? Think again. Join David Cavagnaro for a conversation about growing grapes in this region. David has successfully grown grapes at his farm north of Decorah for years and will share with you some of his best tips and tricks. He will provide recommendations on varieties that do well in your Midwestern home garden.

Saving the Season: Storing Vegetables Through the Winter
Thursday, October 1, 2015 • 9:45-10:45am • Valders 362

You’ve grown bushels of beautiful sweet potatoes, carrots, potatoes, brussels sprouts, leeks, squash and onions. They are still happy in the garden but you know the frost and cold temperatures are imminent. Have no fear. Regardless of whether or not you have a root cellar, there are many creative solutions for storing your homegrown vegetables so that you can enjoy them throughout the winter and spring. Come learn how.

Wheekend! March 5-8, 2015


Lots of fun stuff happening in the Driftless this #wheekend! And you better get used to it – March looks like it’s gonna be a busy one, and it might even get warmish! Woot! Make sure you note all the great events THIS weekend, March 5-8, 2015, at Luther College – Oneota Film Festival, Ethnic Arts Festival, Hugh Masekela and Vusi Mahlasela, Body of Water performance, and more! Have fun, friends!

Thursday, March 5:
June Melby book reading and signing, Decorah Public Library, 7 pm

Center Stage Series: Hugh Masekela and Vusi Mahlasela, Luther College, 7:30 pm

Adam Palm, Trempealeau Hotel, 7 pm

Freekbase, the Root Note, La Crosse, 10 pm

Friday, March 6:
The Fab Four, The Englert, Iowa City, 8 pm

Shen Teh CD Release w/ Dolly Rocker, the Root Note, La Crosse, 8 pm

Saturday, March 7:
Ethnic Arts Festival, Luther College, Decorah

Creative Communities Art Event, Kickapoo Valley Reserve, La Farge, WI, 10am-4pm

Pugsley World Championship V, Decorah (Awards @ Courtyard & Cellar)

El Caminos, Xi Omicron fundraiser, Nob Hill, Decorah, 8 pm

Circle of Heat, The Haymarket, Decorah, 10 pm

Mike Munson, Trempealeau Hotel, 8 pm

Apollo Cobra, Ed’s (No Name) Bar, Winona, 9:30 pm

Watching for Foxes w/ Cardinal Harbor, the Root Note, La Crosse, 9 pm

Sunday, March 8:
ArtHaus Second Sunday Family Workshop, Decorah, 1pm

Daylight Savings Begins! Set your clocks forward one hour at 2 am (or whenever you wake up)!

All Wheekend!
Oneota Film Festival – March 6-8, Luther College, Decorah

Body of Water, Luther College Dance and Theatre – check here for performance times!