Taste A Bit of History with Home-Cooked Meals!!
Here it is! The blog that you have all been waiting for -- the secrets behind the incredible home-cooked meals at Heartland Lodge! If you’ve already eaten at the lodge, then you know precisely what I am talking about. And if you have never been to the lodge or enjoyed one of their delicious meals, then you don’t know what you’re missing!
Even though Dan and I consider Wanda and Gary family, I had the honor and privilege of spending some time with them a couple of weeks ago. The main reason for my visit was to ask Wanda some questions regarding the meals served at the lodge – those that every one of us has thought about but hasn’t asked. Honestly, I wanted to see if she would relinquish any of her ‘secret’ recipes - but she didn’t budge! Oh well, you can’t blame a girl for trying!
The ringing of the dinner bell marks each mealtime – 9:00 a.m. for brunch and 6:00 p.m. for dinner (Lunch can be added for larger groups). Once summoned to the dining room in the new lodge, each guest is seated at Amish-made dining room furniture – solid wood tables and chairs. The table(s) will be fully set for a family-style or buffet meal - I didn’t realize this but a buffet is set up for larger groups. Don’t worry – whether it’s a buffet or family-style meal, the quality and amount of food doesn’t change! And before filling your plate with all the goodies in front of you, check out the dishes. Wanda and her staff have different sets of dishes and serving pieces for each meal – with the evening meal being served on china! We don’t get that at home!
Each meal begins with a prayer led by Wanda or one of her staff. Then let the feast begin! Dan has always said, “If you go away hungry, it’s your own fault!” There is certainly truth to this and after spending some time with Wanda, now I know why. Wanda gives much of the credit for the meals served at the lodge to her mother, Vera. Wanda explained that her “mother’s table was always full of food” and that philosophy is what she practices when serving her guests. Everything served is made from scratch – everyday – just like Wanda’s mother used to do. She said there was always plenty of food – bowls were heaping and the pork chops were piled high. Her mom would even make seven pies at a time! So the basic things that Wanda grew up with on her table as a child – she wants to pass along to her guests.
Now breakfast at the lodge is certainly nothing to miss – fruit, an egg dish, sausage, bacon (or both), and maybe even cinnamon rolls or coffee cake. We’ve had some of the best crepes in the world for breakfast at the lodge! But the dinners seem to garner the most attention – and rightly so. Dinners always include a salad, meat, potato, vegetable, homemade bread, and dessert – need I say more? Let me emphasize that the homemade bread is made by hand – not a machine like I use at home! We have had everything from Swiss steak to pork chops to Cornish game hens. Wanda said that one of the most requested dinner meals includes roast – so tender you can cut it with a fork – along with gourmet mashed potatoes and corn casserole. And what would be better to top this meal off with? One of Wanda’s favorites – peanut butter pie – or the famed blackberry cobbler! Sounds so good that maybe I’ll request it when we return to the lodge in September (I’m leaning towards the peanut butter pie!)
Even though Wanda isn’t willing to reveal her secret recipes, I had to ask where she gets the recipes that they use. She told me that approximately 70% of the tried and true recipes came from the first cook at the lodge, Blanche Barton. Blanche was Wanda’s sister-in-law and obviously, a great cook! What tough shoes to fill! But Wanda still looks at new recipes and even uses some recipes given to her over the years by guests.
Now don’t think that these awesome meals are for overnight guests only. The lodge can handle conferences, retreats, luncheons, showers and more! So with a little advance planning with Wanda and her staff, you and your guests can also enjoy everything the kitchen has to offer.
Even though I wasn’t able to pry any ‘secret’ recipes from Wanda, she was kind enough to give me a tour of the kitchen at the new lodge. It is amazing to me that all these wonderful, home-cooked foods come from a kitchen I’ve never seen and how efficient the cooks can be in a space that they have already outgrown. And obviously, the amount of food prepared behind the closed door depends on the number of people being served that meal. The cooks have meals they can prepare for two or twenty-two (or even more)!
So whether you are an overnight guest, or visiting the lodge for a conference or luncheon, the lodge will serve you and your guests plenty of food. Not only will you ‘eat with your eyes’, you will taste and enjoy what is prepared and placed in front of you! Wanda says there are never any leftovers served – everything is prepared fresh daily. Just think of it as Thanksgiving every day at the lodge!
I want to thank Wanda for taking the time to meet with me and giving me a little peek into her childhood. I loved the stories that she shared about her mother and the memories she has of mealtime when she was growing up. We actually discovered that we even had just a little bit in common – her mother’s name was Vera and my grandmother’s name was Vera! I knew there was a connection somehow!
So the next time you are enjoying one of the many dishes at the lodge, think about the family history that it brings to the table – and remember to make your own family memories while you enjoy your meal! I know I will!