Food & Drink

Iowa City's 'Meemaw Eats' food blogger writes about cooking as a love letter to her kids, grandkids

Patty Mishler improvises by topping a pumpkin bundt cake with powdered sugar before serving it with ice cream sprinkled
Patty Mishler improvises by topping a pumpkin bundt cake with powdered sugar before serving it with ice cream sprinkled with cinnamon sugar at her home in Iowa City on Sunday, December 8, 2019. (Cliff Jette/Freelance for The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — Walk into Patty Mishler’s Iowa City home and you never know what goodies await you — but you can be guaranteed there will be something there. If you happen to catch her off-guard, it’s likely she’ll open her cupboards or her refrigerator, put a few things together, and still offer up a feast or treat fit for royalty.

That’s just the way she likes it.

“I just love to cook,” she said. “It’s my happy place.”

Mishler learned to cook when she was young, watching her mother in the kitchen and occasionally taking over the family meal.

“My mom was an incredible cook, an incredibly good cook,” Mishler recalls. “She was a farm wife, but she also worked — she was one of those rare women who had a full-time job outside the home. She worked at the post office in Kalona.”

Because her mother worked, young Patty was often called upon to make dinner for her parents, younger brother and herself. It was how she started honing her own cooking skills — but there were some fails in there, too.

“I remember the first time I cooked dinner,” she recalled. “Everything was set up at the table, and my brother started to laugh. My mom stopped him right then and said, ‘Don’t you dare laugh, Patty worked very hard on this meal.’ ”

“I don’t remember what it was, but I’m sure it was terrible,” she laughed.

“Terrible” isn’t a word ever used to describe her cooking now.

With two grown sons and seven grandkids, Mishler and her husband are referred to as Meemaw and Peepaw. So she named her online blog “Meemaw Eats.” Filled with dozens of recipes in 27 different categories, Mishler blogs about cooking and travel and daily life. Recipes vary from cilantro jalapeno dip and Hawkeye deviled eggs to chicken cordon bleu and Meemaw’s Cajun jambalaya. And she’s e-published a book of recipes, “Meemaw Eats Ultimate Tailgate Guide.”

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“My blog is really our love letter to our grandkids,” Mishler said. “There are stories that go along with the recipes, and it’s just about making and leaving memories. Someday they’ll be able to look back and read these stories and remember.”

What they won’t find, however, are a lot of precise measurements and directions. That’s not how her mother cooked, Mishler said, and it’s not how she does.

“I’m not really one for recipes,” she said. “I would much prefer to just test things as I go. You start with a recipe at first, and then you decide what would make it better for you. Pretty soon you’re not following a recipe at all.”

For that reason, she said, she prefers cooking over baking.

“Baking is a science. You have to really pay attention to the recipe and follow along,” she said. “I’m much more of a rebel in how I cook.”

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