Food Historian Peggy Lutz
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 blessings 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 souls. 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. 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. I 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, my work’s delectable results also strengthen me in my quiet meals alone, when I’m not really alone. Food is life to me in more ways than one. 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. This is when I had my first job in my father’s restaurant, which began my training in this craft of ailments. 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 has prepared me for his workmanship (that he ordained before creation) all my life. 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 my soul: 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).
My creativity birthed my present work in food, as I sought this aspiration upon my return to Billings, Montana, following the illness. Thus I began catering historical meals in 1982. 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. I had contact with the head of the Montana Department of Commerce for two years; however there were never enough funds to send me abroad.
The summer and fall of 1985 took me on two important trips. These travels inspired me to pursue my dreams of presenting my work around the world. I learned deep lessons about my Lord’s compassion for people while I studied food in Peru. It left me with a desire to pray for poor people around the globe. Albeit the fullness of this yearning surfaced many years later. The second trip submerged me in the heartbeat of Paris, where I did a lot of historical cooking. Vision arose here to take my food preparations abroad.
Upon my return to my small Montana city, I realized a need for a bigger platform than Billings from which to launch my hopes. Thus I moved to Portland, Oregon on February 2, 1986.
Portland expanded my work greatly! 1991 saw me finish 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 in my work. 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. These all featured the history of the Oregon Trail. Another gratifying celebration was a journey through the developing stages of the Portland Rose Festival for visiting dignitaries. This enthralling account begins in the year 1888.
My favorite memory is a glorious 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. I took my audience on the journey with the colorful history as they ate the documented dishes. This dinner thrilled me more than any I have ever done!
I have come full circle after decades of delighting in food here in my native home. Now I want to reach the world with my gift through thoughts on cooking, eating, and entertaining. I will use ailments of the past as well as exciting, nourishing, new creations. 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 vital journeys, as I share this gift which God started in me before time began.