The Dirty Dozen and The Clean Fifteen

Peg Harvey-Sweeney

Food as Medicine: Here is a list of common produce items that you should print out, cut out and carry in your wallet. According to the Environmental Working Group, you should always buy organic from the list of “The Dirty Dozen,” as these are the most contaminated with pesticides and herbicides. Foods from The Clean 15 are not as contaminated, so you can safely buy them conventionally (and usually less expensively).


The Dirty Dozen

  • Celery
  • Peaches
  • Strawberries
  • Apples
  • Blueberries
  • Nectarines
  • Bell Peppers
  • Spinach/Kale/Collards/Lettuce
  • Cherries
  • White potatoes
  • Grapes (imported)
  • Dairy

The Clean Fifteen

  • Onions
  • Avocado
  • Sweet corn
  • Pineapple
  • Mangoes
  • Sweet peas
  • Asparagus
  • Kiwi
  • Cabbage
  • Eggplant
  • Cantaloupe/Watermelon/Honeydew
  • Sweet Potato
  • Grapefruit

Three Christmases I Remember

Donna Benson

There were three Christmases that I remember when I was growing up in Iowa.

My family, Chris and Edna Meierotto, lived on a small farm about five miles North of Keokuk, Iowa. Christmas, 1942, there was no money for presents. At that time my mother had four children, all born one year apart. At eight years old I was the eldest. I went out to get the mail, the mailman handed me a box.  It was from my uncle Anthony (son of Henry & Mary Flanders of Wellman, Iowa). He was in the U. S. Air Force. He wrote that he did his shopping at the PX. There was a big doll for me, wearing a pink dress. I named her Polly. There was a medium sized doll for my sister Patty, a little brown doll for my sister Rosemary, and a football for my brother Dennis.

We attended St. Mary’s Catholic School in Keokuk. The nun who taught me said we could bring our favorite toy to school to show our classmates.We put all our toys on a shelf in back of the room during class. I remember turning around and looking at my doll several times during the school day. She was so beautiful!

When my parents had six children, Santa brought one sled for all of us. Christmas morning the sled was on the dining room table. Oranges, bananas and Christmas nuts in the shell were on top of the sled.

It didn’t snow one time that year!

When I was l6 years old my mother was pregnant at Christmas time and very uncomfortable. She sent our dad to shop for Christmas presents. Dad went to Platte’s Service Station about a quarter of a mile down the road. He bought each of us a tablet with lines, two yellow wooden pencils and a box of crayons. We were sitting on the stairs when we received our presents. There was wordless communication between mom and me. I gave her an understanding look when our eyes met. We colored the lines in our tablets and we were happy. Pegi was born on December 29, 1951.

Our Christmas trees were harvested from the fence row along the highway. Pegi is pictured many years later standing beside one of our family’s Christmas trees.

In 1954.  From left: Casper Meierotto, Pegi, Rosemary, Charles, Ann, Pat, Dennis, Jim, Karen, Judi, and Donna.  We must not have been that poor because it appears we all had shoes.


Our most recent family picture was taken at a wedding in Kansas City, Mo. It is the first time our family was together since mom died in 1989.  From left: Peg, Karen, Rose, Dennis, Judi, Donna, and Pat.

"French" Grilled Cheese

Ryan Harvey

The odds were stacked against Meghan and me when it came to getting good meals when we were little.  First, our mom worked so didn’t have a ton of time to cook for us.  Second, she was cheap, as are all Meierottos.  Finally, she wasn’t, shall we say, blessed with the cooking gene.  All three of these traits conspired against us kids when it came to the following meal (this is a true story).

One night, she decided to make grilled cheese for us.  We were probably about 8 and 6 years old.  Because Peg was so cheap, she kept the bread in the freezer so it wouldn’t get moldy.  She must have been in a hurry because she didn’t bother to defrost the bread — she took it out of the freezer and made the sandwiches in the skillet on the frozen bread.  I think that she was thinking that the heat from the skillet would evaporate the ice crystals in it, but instead they melted and turned the grilled cheese sandwiches into a soggy mess that looked more like grilled cheese soup.

Undeterred, she spooned those soggy sandwiches onto plates and served them to us anyway.  When we lifted them from our plates, we asked, “Mom, what is this?”  Her response:

“That’s how they eat grilled cheese in France.”

So, the secret to making “French” grilled cheese: start with frozen  bread and don’t bother defrosting it.

The Keokuk Farmhouse

We were asked by sister Rosemary to write about a room in our farm home outside of Keokuk.

Fruit Stand

Pat wrote about the dining room:

The dining room had a doublewide deep freeze where Mom kept her cold cash and a lot of good things to eat that she made and froze. There were windows to the south and a big archway to the kitchen and a small archway to the living room. Under the south window was the buffet with several carnival glass bowls sitting on it. The inside housed Mom’s fancy dishes and photos she collected. The floor was red and white checkered linoleum. The table was grey Formica and chrome and the chairs were covered in red vinyl. There were only 8 chairs, but it didn’t matter, as someone was always out working in the fruit stand at dinner time. The ironing board was usually sitting up so everyone could iron their own clothes when they wanted something pressed.

I see Dad at the head of the table, eating pig’s feet and sauerkraut, and a steaming rhubarb and strawberry pie sitting on the table.

In the winter the dining room floor heat register was a great place to stand to get warm when you came home from school or were just cold. The telephone was on the wall next to the kitchen and it was fun to listen in on the neighbors when we heard their ring. Our number was J-2, and we had 8 families on our party line. (Later, our number was 2346M and even later, 524-5000)

Off white Venetian blinds covered the windows. You could see the Powder Town Road and a big weeping willow tree out the window. Grandpa Flanders eventually built a bathroom off the dining room but that was after I got married, so I always had to go to the outhouse.

Wonderful smells came from the kitchen, especially when Mom was baking her famous rolls or doughnuts.

Karen described the kitchen:

tn_480_711b05635c26410b9859e8433c160e88.jpgMom was the center of our lives and the kitchen was truly the center of our home, “Command Central”! You could see the garden, hog shed, barn, orchard, driveway, basketball hoop, chicken house, out house and fruit stand from the kitchen window.  The sink, topped by a small outward opening French window brightened with red gingham checked curtains was the focal point. It was where we took turns washing dishes for nine every night, where we peeled over-ripe apples, peaches, and other fruits and vegetables  by the bushel that we couldn’t sell, trying to make the peel come off in one piece. We all became experts in this, as Mom used to say, “We eat what we can, but what we can’t we can!” I remember getting itchy from peeling so many fuzzy canning peaches at Mom’s side. By the age of ten was a pro at peeling apples fast, too.

The wooden country cupboards were painted light green. I remember a patch of wall paper, always some variation of red, green, black and mostly white. There was a Formica table between the white enamel four burner stove and the cupboards where I can visualize the still warm jars of fruit or jam that had just been canned. That table was where the bread and pie making happened, too.

The cookie jar was a gold ceramic pig with a red and blue ribbon around its neck! It always had some kind of cookies in it. In the summer they were store bought.

I remember Mom trying to make a hasty summer meal, usually corn on the cob and BLT’s, with garden cuks and tomatoes in vinegar, while keeping an eye on the fruit stand traffic.  On the busiest days we had cold cuts and iced tea, all she could manage.

One of my happiest memories is coming home in the snow from school to the warmth of the kitchen and to the fragrance and taste of fresh baked rye bread, right out of the oven. She put butter on the top to make the crust soft.


Karen Druker

This cookbook is dedicated to our dear Mother, who taught us that a lovingly prepared meal can show love just as well as a hug or a kind deed or act. Many of her posterity have inherited a love of cooking and things fresh from the earth. Perhaps we have her and Dad and our early life on the farm to thank for our collective good health (knock on wood) and longevity. Certainly our food and water could not have been more pure, or fresher.

What a delight is it to us, her children– to see our children now taking the same care to create their own traditions, whether for holidays with special foods or involving the warmth that comes from hosting friends and family. Some of us still love growing things and eating them fresh from our gardens.

Our Mother faced tremendous challenges, but who ever heard her complain? She did everything with more pride, pleasure, and satisfaction than many of us feel today. Consider how different and difficult her life was: She fed nine people every meal, for years! Her food budget was nearly nonexistent! If she wanted to make Sunday dinner, she would have to kill and pluck a chicken, dig up potatoes, pick beans or peas, both of which she had planted and  tended, and  make the bread or rolls, and probably bake a nourishing pie or cobbler from the orchard or the myriad jars of carefully preserved fruit in the basement. We were grateful for every bite, knowing how much she’d put into it. Thanks, Mom, we will keep you alive in our memories, carrying on your legacy from generation to generation.

Food as Medicine

Peg Harvey-Sweeney

In the midst of editing this cookbook, I was diagnosed with a recurrence of uterine cancer, Stage IV, with metastases to both lungs. Since my oncologists could offer no curative treatment, I had to invent my own extreme self-healing plan. I began to look at food in a whole new way.  Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, was the first to say “Let thy only medicine be food and food be thy only medicine.”

tn_480_967c8b206b44476d9e173225b88c566b.jpgI began to think about some of the eating practices we engaged in as children. While most were farm fresh and healthy, some were not. I remember we were all asked to poison cut worms in the watermelon patch each spring. This involved sticking our bare hands into a bucket filled with a “brew” of arsenic, bran and molasses, then spreading a handful of the toxic mash on each hill up and down the rows. No one explained (or probably even knew) that poisons absorbed through the skin go directly to the bloodstream, without the benefit of being “filtered” by the liver first. So this was, literally, equivalent to eating arsenic–only worse! Could this explain–at least in part– why Mom died of cancer, and why almost half of our siblings have been challenged by cancer so far? It’s worth thinking about the accumulation of toxins we experienced over the years, especially when the “tipping point” of our toxic threshold is unknown.

Some describe cancer as “a disease of civilization.” We now pollute our drinking water with chlorine and fluoride, we create “Frankenfoods” by genetically modifying them, we use toxic pesticides and herbicides on our produce, and we apply known carcinogens to our skin in the name of “beauty.” Is it any wonder that the incidence of cancer continues to rise?

farm 2I have recently become aware of the benefits of eliminating toxins from my body, as well as the benefits of eating live, or raw, foods. I currently eat only raw foods and no animal products, including dairy. Because cancer feeds on sugar, I also eat no fruit (which converts to sugar).  Cancer thrives on acidic foods like coffee and alcohol, so those are gone, too. Eating this way has brought me more energy, a trim and toned body, and skin that literally glows. More importantly, after 19 weeks of embracing the raw food lifestyle, x-rays confirmed there was no longer any evidence of cancer in my lungs!

Research has shown that cooking foods above 116 degrees destroys as much as 80% of the nutrients in our food, as well as enzymes which are so important to maintaining a healthy digestive tract. So, throughout this cookbook, I will introduce you to some concepts of using food as medicine and some raw food recipes that are not only delicious, but will benefit your health, too. After all, I want all of us to live long enough for the Fourth (2020), the Fifth (2030) and Sixth (2040) Meierotto Family Cookbooks!

Gobble, Gobble — All About Turkeys

Donna Holman

Donna had fun interviewing and teaching her grandchildren on Christmas Day with these questions. Dan videotaped the interviews. She doesn’t give the answers, but I bet some were pretty funny!

Where would you find a turkey? Forest, woods, or on a farm? On the ground or in a tree? Would you wear camouflage clothes? How would you kill it? With a BB gun, slingshot, bow and arrow, set a trap or chase it down? What would you put in the trap for bait? Do you feed the turkey and wait until it’s asleep before you catch/ kill it? Could you kill it with a knife? Does a turkey have feathers, or fur? How do you get the feathers off? Can you skin it instead? Do you cut the turkeys head off or leave it on? Do you cut off the feet, or leave them on? If you wash the turkey, do you give it a bath in the bathtub or kitchen sink? Do you use a washcloth and soap? Who cooks the turkey, Mom or Dad? Could you cook it yourself? What do you put on the turkey before you cook it? Would you use milk, butter, sugar, beans or sprinkles? What does it mean to dress the turkey? Do you put lace underpants on it? Would you cook it on the grill, in the oven, in a pot, frying pan, microwave, or in a crock pot? Do you stuff the turkey before you cook it or after? Could you stuff it with cookies, chocolate chips and bubble gum? Must you throw the turkey up in the air before you put it in the pan? How will you know your turkey is done? Does it go beep or beep, beep?  What do you do while you are waiting for the turkey to get done? You don’t want blood in your turkey, do you? How do you get the blood out? What if you forget that you put the turkey in the oven? When it’s done what kind of mittens do you use to take it out of the oven? Who is supposed to carve the turkey? If you had to carve it, how many pieces would you make? How many people will a turkey serve? Would you eat the turkey all by yourself, or would you share it with your family and friends? What else do you like to eat with the turkey? Should you see if your dog will eat the turkey before you eat it? Before you eat the turkey do you put on it hot sauce, mayo, or barbeque sauce? How many wish bones does a turkey have? Do you think a turkey is just an overgrown, fat chicken? Would a turkey make a good pet? If you poked holes in the turkey and put candles in the holes on Jesus’s birthday how many candles would it take this year?

Sterzing Potato Chips

Pat Miller

I don’t remember ever having Sterzing Potato Chips at home but when I got married and joined a bridge club that was the only chip to have with dip.  They are only made in Burlington, Iowa so when I moved to Missouri I missed the salty, greasy, crunchy taste of Sterzing Chips.  When I moved to Nevada one of the ladies in my bridge club said she came from Burlington, Iowa and we discussed the chips. For my birthday every year she brought back from her family fishing trip in Iowa a bag of Sterzings.  I gave her fresh tomatoes from my garden and I considered that a good trade. They were such an important item in our family that they became the subject of a five minute debate at my sister’s reunion and Mindy got in trouble for innocently opening a bag of them.

"Kraft, or Nothing!"

Pat Miller

When Cody was about six years old he was in the hospital with pneumonia.  He was a picky eater and only ate what he liked.

The nurses asked him what he would like to eat and he told them macaroni and cheese. They went down to the kitchen and made him up some and brought it up to his room.  When he saw it he wouldn’t eat it and they asked him why when he asked for it.  He replied, “I only eat Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.”  I guess Mindy had gotten to him at that early age.

[Editors: We remember Grandpa Ray was a picky eater, too!]

Apple Taxonomy

Rosemary Fritzjunker

What are the new apples on the grocery shelves for?

  • BRUEBURN – Bake and cook. Good for Applesauce
  • GRANNY SMITH – Tart and Crisp for all around cooking
  • JAZZ – Eat raw and use in salads
  • PACIFIC QUEEN – Sweet, light and crisp. Eat raw or use in salads
  • CAMEO – Sweet and spicy for pie and cooking
  • CANDY – Good eating apple
  • FUJI – Very sweet and crispy. Eat raw, bake or use in salads
  • GALA – Great eating apple
  • GOLDEN DELICIOUS – Keeps well an all around good apple for eating and cooking
  • RED DELICIOUS- Great eating apple