- Associated Press - Sunday, November 22, 2015

MASON CITY, Iowa (AP) - From troubleshooting the earliest microwave models to cooking for meat safety-related panels, women who are part of a North Iowa home economics group have done it all.

The networking group is for individuals who have a four-year degree in home economics, now commonly known as family consumer science. Members of the group, which is celebrating 50 years, hail from across the region.

The Globe Gazette (https://bit.ly/1LmQKde ) reports that some members taught in area schools while others’ careers took them in different directions.

Sara Innes, Fertile, once fielded microwave-related questions for people all over the U.S. when the appliances were first released.

“One lady said the saleswoman told her a microwave took a fourth of the amount of time to cook something,” she recalled.

Having baked potatoes in the oven for an hour, Innes said the woman assumed they’d take 15 minutes in the microwave.

“They just fried up,” Innes said, as she laughed.

Innes also for a time demonstrated during Blue Light Specials at Kmart.

“I remember a time I was doing a demo in the back of a store when a woman shrieked, ‘I’ll have a heart attack,’” she said, noting the “danger of radiation” sign that was on the unit.

When the appliances were first released, educators at Iowa State University told her the model they had in their lab, a commercial unit that cost $3,000 at the time, probably wouldn’t catch on.

Carolyn Mott, Mason City, worked at Iowa State’s food science labs in the late 1960s, where she did research to prove pork was safe, jucier and a better product when cooked to 170 degrees.

At a time when the government was irradiating beef and canning it, Mott and her colleagues cooked goulash, turkey and other meats for test panels but had to swear off the meat for a while.

“Oh my gosh, I couldn’t cook a turkey at Thanksgiving for several years after smelling it,” she said.

Florence Ferden, Manly, who graduated from ISU with a degree in home economics in 1948, had a long career with the university’s local extension offices.

Ferden, who was in charge of 4-H projects, first worked in Mitchell County, later assuming the head position in Worth County.

“I was like the mailman,” she said. “I went through rain or snow to get to meetings.”

While she majored in household equipment, she also had a career in journalism and experimental cooking which included working in the test kitchens of “Better Homes and Gardens” and being assistant food editor for “Successful Farming.”

Nicki Bleakney, of Mason City, is one of several members who once taught home economics skills to adults.

“I think we could use that program again as a service for people who use food banks throughout the area,” she said, noting vegetables like butternut squash or starches like potatoes don’t come with cooking instructions.

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Information from: Globe Gazette, https://www.globegazette.com/

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