Walter Mondale's culinary hobby became a cookbook from Minnesota's second family

Enjoy foods good enough for a U.S. vice president.

Walter and Joan Mondale 1978
Walter and Joan Mondale are seen in this 1978 file photo. (Forum News Service file)
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PEQUOT LAKES, Minn. — When Jean and Ron Weber of Breezy Point, Minnesota, sent me "The Mark's Cookbook," I found recipes from many famous individuals, actors, politicians and many others. I was even more excited to find recipes from Joan and Walter Mondale, Minnesota's very own second family.

Walter Frederick "Fritz" Mondale was born in 1928 in Ceylon, Minnesota, and died April 19 of this very year. Mondale attended Macalester College and the University of Minnesota before enlisting in the army in 1951. He was stationed at Fort Knox during the Korean War, earning the rank of corporal.

He attended the U of M law school using this G.I. bill before serving in law, first working for Minnesota Law Review and then as a clerk for Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Thomas F. Gallagher. He met his wife, Joan Adams, on a blind date and they married in 1955. Before entering politics he practiced law in Minneapolis.

Mondale had a hand in politics since 1948 when he helped on Hubert Humphrey's senate campaign. He was credited with winning Humphrey the 2nd District, a traditionally Republican district. He was on Orville Freeman's gubernatorial campaigns (one failed and two successful) before making his own mark as attorney general, as appointed by Freeman in 1960. Mondale was instrumental in the Gideon v. Wainwright case which established the right of defendants in state courts to have legal representation.

Mondale became a senator thanks to appointment by Minnesota Gov. Karl Rolvaag to fill a vacancy left by Humphrey upon his election to the position of vice president. He continued as a senator until 1976 when Jimmy Carter chose him as his running mate for the country's highest office. The pair lost their 1980 bid for re-election to Ronald Reagan. Mondale tried again, this time for president in 1984 with running mate Geraldine Ferraro, however he lost in a landslide to Reagan.


Mondale continued to practice law until 1993 in Minneapolis and served as an ambassador to Japan until 1996. Before his death in April he was the oldest living former U.S. vice president.

Joan, who was nicknamed Joan of Art due to her art advocacy, told The Washington Post in 1984 that cooking was her husband's second favorite hobby. Fishing was his first favorite. On the subject of cooking, she said "That's for the men," making it clear that it wasn't much of an interest to her.

She told the Post that Mondale's first gastronomic success was learning to fry fish from Italian fishing buddies. They also helped him learn never to make fettuccine with margarine.

Joan said her husband would write down recipes on scraps of paper or the backs of envelopes. "The Mondale Family Cookbook" became a gift for members of the Mondale-Ferraro campaign. The 139-page book had family photos, statements by family members about their favorite foods and recipes for blueberry muffins, Fettucine a la Pimento Mondale and many other items.

Joan Mondale's Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin bread with dates and nuts with slices cut from the loaf. Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts
  • 1/2 cup chopped dates

Sift together all of the dry ingredients listed above flour then mix in the eggs, oil, pumpkin and water with a beater. Finally, add the chopped nuts and dates before baking 1 1/2 hours in a 350 degree oven.

The Mondales' Minnesota Wild Rice Casserole


Wild rice with hamburgers and mushrooms. Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.

  • 3/4 cup long grained rice
  • 1/4 cup wild rice
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons diced celery
  • 2 tablespoons chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green pepper
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 (10 1/2 ounce) can mushroom soup, not cream of mushroom soup.
  • 1/2 cup consommé
  • 1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds

In separate pots, cook the two rices according to the instructions on their packages. While they are cooking, sautee the vegetables in butter over medium high heat, add the ground beef once the vegetables have begun to wilt and soften. Brown the beef then stir in the soup, consomme, mushrooms and almonds. cook for 10-15 minutes. In a large casserole dish combine the rices with the vegetable-beef mixture and keep warm in a 250 degree oven until served.

Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
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