Columnist Marlis Ziegler hangs up her apron

Nancy Edmonds Hanson

Marlis Ziegler, the Moorhead Extra’s popular “Home Cookin’” columnist, is leaving the kitchen. The 82-year-old home-style cook officially retired this week after turning in her final recipe.

“I like to eat, and I like to cook,” the personable grandmother of 12 and great-grandma of 11 reports. “When Tammy (Finney, editor of the Extra) asked if I’d like to write about some of my family’s favorite recipes, it was an easy ‘yes.’”

In nearly a decade of shining a weekly spotlight on unassuming foods that are easy to cook and good to eat, Marlis has shared just short of 500 recipes. Not all of them came from her own recipe box. Along with the tried-and-true dishes she cooked on the farm – feeding husband Bill, their four children and the two hired men who lived in the bunkhouse – she has sifted other sources as well. She searches the internet, pages through her collection of cookbooks, and receives emails from relatives and readers.

“I’ve gotten some good ones from my three sisters and different friends over the years,” she confides. “But I’ve tried out all but one before I submitted it.” That exception was a recipe for meatloaf. She admitted in print that she was passing it on without whipping one up in her own kitchen. Her confession earned her a scolding from one of her readers. She shakes her head: “But what can go wrong with meatloaf anyway?”

Marlis is a lifelong Moorheader. She graduated from Moorhead High in 1958, one of a group of friends who still get together for coffee. Until her health began to limit her, she was an avid gardener, winning ribbons in Horticulture Society competitions. She has also been part of the quilting group at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church and has made a quilt for every one of her own grands.

Twenty-five years into her marriage to Bill, Marlis got her first job off the farm (“for the medical insurance,” she notes). She became executive director of what was then the Heritage Villa retirement complex, a position she held for 13 years. “I love the elderly,” she reflects, then adds, “and now that I’m one of them, I like myself, too.”

She loves to cook, bake and share her goodies at retirement homes around town, but didn’t do as much during the past holiday season. Her health problems have kept her home more and slowed her down from the bustling pace she had maintained throughout her life.

Now that she has stepped aside from her role as the Extra’s kitchen guru, Marlis is more than willing to share her method for choosing recipes her readers are likeliest to enjoy: “I look at the ingredients. If I already have them on hand or can easily find them at the store, I’ll give it a try. I avoid anything that’s too exotic.

“I’ve never been a gourmet cook. I’m more of a clean-out-the-refrigerator kind of person.”

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