Included in the pages of the Utsalady Ladies Aid Cookbook is a history of Camano Island — a place that once had ferry runs that linked it with Oak Harbor and where guests at Utsalady’s Mellum Hotel often danced to old-time fiddle tunes.
The Jack Brown Shingle Mill donated the lumber for the Ladies Aid building that opened in 1924, with construction costs hitting the tidy sum of $566.73.
Utsalady Ladies Aid, founded in 1908, has continued to flourish for more than a century, holding the title of the second oldest organization in Island County.
Ties to the group’s early days remain strong, with some third-, fourth- and even fifth-generation members.
Utsalady Ladies Aid members have long been known for their cooking skills, which are showcased in the hundreds of lunches they prepare during the island’s annual Artists Studio Tour in May, and the dozens of pies they bake for the Old Fashioned Fourth of July celebration.
“That’s our trademark — our cooking,” said Mary-Margaret Haugen, a state legislator for three decades who now is in her second term as the organization’s president. The group was founded on her grandmother’s farm.
“Everybody who attends our functions says, ‘This is so wonderful, can we get the recipe?’”
Minutes from the earliest days of the Ladies Aid Society show the group organized lutefisk and clam dinners to help raise money for its building.
The most recent edition of the group’s cookbook, now in its third printing, includes recipes for everything from drop doughnuts — “a favorite since 1955” — to local main course favorites such as Camano sunset clams.
Haugen said they updated the book to save recipes from the group’s older members who aren’t cooking much anymore.
When several members were asked to name one recipe in the book the group now is most associated with, the vote was near-unanimous: their aptly named Utsalady Ladies Aid Signature Cookies.
Made with oatmeal, coconut and cranberries, “it’s almost a breakfast cookie,” Haugen said, “very hardy.”
The group continues to get requests for copies of its cookbook, but you’ll have to put in a little extra effort to get it. It’s not available online, nor at local bookshops. You’ll have to make the trip to the club’s historic white building — listed on the National Register of Historic Places — at 78 Utsalady Road. Call ahead before you go.
Danielle Mickelson, a fourth-generation member, spent about two years helping to collect the recipes and produce the latest edition of the cookbook, which also includes historic photos from the island.
Mickelson’s two girls, Emily, 15, and Breanna, 12, are enrolled as fifth-generation members.
Her mom, Jeni Bottin, a former president of the organization, joins Michelson and her girls in decking the group’s building in patriotic bunting for the Fourth of July.
Mickelson and her daughters also make an annual trip to pick out a Christmas tree for the Ladies Aid building. They decorate it for the group’s holiday soup and bread community dinner.
The history of the group and its role in continuing Utsalady’s traditions are among the reasons Mickelson, and now her daughters, are members.
Michelson’s great-grandmother helped found the group in an era when members walked to its monthly meetings in members’ homes.
She said her daughters love the group “and love all the ladies — they have all these ‘grandmas.’
“It’s fun to have them involved,” she said, “so they know about their heritage.”
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alaska baked salmon
1 cleaned salmon, about 5-6 pounds
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1½ cup mayonnaise
Zest from 1 large lemon
⅓ cup brown sugar
Juice from 1 large lemon
1 each green, red and yellow peppers, sliced
½ teaspoon salt
1 medium onion, sliced
¼ teaspoon pepper
⅓ cup dill pickle relish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix mayonnaise, brown sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, relish, Tabasco sauce, and salt and pepper together.
On a sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil big enough to wrap the fish in, spread ⅓ of the mixture. Then place ⅓ of the onions and peppers on top of the mayonnaise and sugar mixture. Place salmon on the mayonnaise mixture. Next, spread another ⅓ of the mayonnaise mixture in the cavity of the salmon. Place another ⅓ of the onions and peppers in the cavity. On the top of the salmon, spread the remaining mayonnaise mixture and top it with the remaining onion slices and pepper slices.
Wrap in foil. Bake for 1 hour or until salmon is cooked through.
— Recipe by Jeanie Larsen
Utsalady Ladies Aid signature cookies
1 cup butter or margarine
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup white sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups rolled oats
2½ cups all-purpose flour
2⅔ cups flaked coconut
2 cups craisins (dried cranberries)
2 teaspoons vanilla
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and beat well. Mix dry ingredients except for coconut and craisins together and add to wet ingredients. Mix well. Add coconut and craisins. Drop dough with cookie scoop on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned.
— Recipe by Laurie Ware
The Utsalady Ladies Aid Cookbook costs $20. It is only available at the organization’s historic building, 78 Utsalady Road, Camano Island. The book will also be available at the Fourth of July celebration, when the group has a bake sale, one of its annual fundraisers. Go to utsaladyladiesaid.org for more information.