A Food Historian, Peggy Lutz, B.A., M.A.
The joy of food has been with me throughout my lifetime. One of my fondest childhood memories is of chocolate sauce, salted peanuts, and hand-packed vanilla ice cream late at night. My father, a restaurant owner for over fifty years, sometimes brought cylindrical, white paper containers of this rich delight home at the end of his day, around 10:00 PM. My mother jostled my two siblings and me awake; joy unspeakable resulted. Memories of these sweet blessing are like soft prayers to me-this same indulgence still spells bliss to this day!
I believe we all can go on with the deep imprints food left on our beings. Tortilla chips dipped in cottage cheese mixed with salsa is another childhood food tradition, to which I still regularly adhere. My parents took our family to Tucson, Arizona for several winters in the 1960’s, where Friday night was our family night out. I fell in love with an eating establishment that brought this spicy concoction with fresh warm corn chips, while we were waiting to order. I was quite excited by this new combination and still am.
Cooking and eating minister deeply to me; preparation of food stills me in the “pressing in” times with my soul. I was created to cook and share the fruits of my labors with others; indeed, these delectable results also nourish me in my quiet meals alone, when I’m not really alone. Food is life to me in more ways than one, for it is a way to commune with my God and let him heal me.
He began to develop this gift in me at the age of six. That is when I had my first job in my father’s restaurant, which began my training in this craft of ailments, for my older sister and I peeled a five gallon bucket of potatoes, for 50 cents a bucket, every summer day except Sundays. After several years, I graduated to dish washer, then salad prep, and on through the equipping-line of tasks in the food business.
My maker prepared me all my lifetime for his workmanship that he ordained in me before creation; there is no mistake that I am who I am. The loving direction of his perpetual hand on me is crystal clear.
The winter of 1980-81 marked a delightful period for me, for I lived in the glorious city of Tokyo, Japan! Sudden illness brought me back to the United States. My heart’s cry, for many years, was to go back to the Orient; I sought the manifestation of this dream for a long time, to no avail (yet).
Creativity in me birthed my work in food, as I sought this aspiration to return to Japan; hence after my illness, I began catering historical meals upon my return to Billings, Montana. Among repasts of many cultures and times, I designed a feast representing the history of my state, with the intention of getting back to Tokyo. Next I met one-on-one with Governor Ted Schwinden and proposed my promoting the popular sale of Montana beef in Japan.
He grasped my vision of entertaining Japanese clients with my dinner, showcasing our beef; thus, I had contact with the head of the Montana Department of Commerce for two years-albeit there were never enough funds to send me abroad.
The summer and fall of 1985 took me on two important trips that inspired me to pursue my dream of presenting my work around the world. The first brought studies of food in Peru. Looking back, I learned deep lessons of compassion for people here. This contributed to my vision to touch the world with my knowledge of nutrition.
The second trip submerged me in cooking to the cosmopolitan heartbeat of Paris. Upon my return to my small Montana city, I knew that I needed a bigger platform, from which to launch my hopes to go worldwide; therefore, I moved to Portland, Oregon on February 2, 1986.
Portland expanded my calling greatly! 1991 marked the finish of my Master’s degree in Pacific Northwest history, specializing in food history; I was now prepared as an expert in my native foods. Both local and out-of-state events have utilized my knowledge of period American cuisine, as well as that of other cultures from different times.
I have fond memories of great joy found in my business. Some of the highlights are an international conference of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, a fundraiser for the Southern Oregon Historical Society, and a meal teaching the docents at the Oregon History Center-all featuring the history of the Oregon Trail. There also was a journey through the developing stages, beginning in 1888, of the Portland Rose Festival, for visiting dignitaries.
My favorite memory, however, is a splendid dinner for 368 historians of the national Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation; these passionate followers were here in Oregon commemorating the bicentennial of the expedition, at Lewis and Clark College. As always I was dressed in period costume, taking my audience on the given journey, by speaking the colorful history, as they ate the documented dishes.
This dinner thrilled me more than any I have done! Read about this quaint history, by googling my article “A Taste of What Followed” in the LCTHF’s journal We Proceeded On-Article Index, or http://www.lewisandclark.org/wpo/article_index.php
I have come full circle after decades of delighting in food here in my native home. Now I want to reach abroad with my gift through thoughts on cooking, eating, and entertaining; I will use ailments of the past, as well as exciting, nourishing, new combinations. My passion is to bring vibrant heath and joy to all who will come to partake in this bread of life with me. It is my pleasure to invite you to enjoy this vital journey, as I share this gift, which God started in me before time began.