WALBRIDGE — Darlene Sigler Limmer’s family has a collective memory of what Walbridge likes to eat.
|Darlene Limmer of Rossford is seen with her Swedish meatballs and a copy of the Walbridge Community Cookbook, published in conjunction with the 100 year celebration for Walbridge. (Photos: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
That’s because it was her dad, Wes Sigler, and before him, her granddad Ray and great-grandfather AJ, who owned and operated the town’s main grocery going all the way back to horse and buggy days.
That's pretty much when the village of Walbridge came into existence, as 2013 marks its centennial year.
"I started working selling penny candy to the kids after school when I was about 11 or 12 years old," Limmer recalls. "I 'worked up' to the cash register. I even learned how to keep the books. It was so much fun, and quite a family affair."
In fact, says, Limmer, "the struggles of running a business drew our family close together. My sister and I pitched in to keep the home and business running" in the years after the Sigler family's "new" store opened, in 1937. The family lived next door, behind the store.
"In those days, we kept the back door of our houses and even the back door of the store unlocked. We closed around 6 o'clock, if I recall correctly.
People would sometimes come to the house, if they needed something after hours, and we'd take them over and let them make their purchases."
She also recalls the family delivering groceries in cardboard boxes to people who couldn't get to the store.
"Walbridge was a big railroad town. I have memories of taking boxes of groceries with my dad, when I was very young, to the 'cook car' down at the railroad yards." It was a little kitchen inside of a railcar, manned by an employee in a white hat and big white apron.
This week marks the high point of Walbridge's centennial observance. The three-day celebration begins Thursday.
Limmer lives in Rossford these days. But because "Walbridge is so much a part of me," she was willing to take on the presidency of the Walbridge Centennial Committee shortly after the April kickoff event.
Limmer was also happy to lend a hand to the creation of the Walbridge Centennial Cookbook, which includes several of her favorite recipes in its 70 pages, including today's Cook's Corner recipe: Swedish Meatballs.
The cookbook is selling fast, but some copies are available, for $10 apiece, at the Walbridge Library.
Other Limmer recipes in the book include her chicken paprikash, zucchini nut bread, her grandmother's Christmas cutout cookies, and her mother, Sue Sigler's meatloaf.
The Swedish Meatballs recipe was also mom's, who Limmer says "was a whiz with ground beef because (since) we owned the general store, this was about the only kind of meat my grandpa would let us have."
No squandering pricey steaks on the immediate kin, in other words.
As time wore on, big-box chains starting invading Main Street America and the Sigler business was hurting.
"I was a junior in high school when we closed the store," in 1969.
"In the last months of business, I recall driving to Joseph's at the Great Eastern (Shopping Center) and getting ice cream and pop and coffee cheaper - on sale - than we could buy at the wholesale stores."
The Great Eastern had a limit of four per customer, "so Mom would go in and buy four" of the coffee or whatever. Next "I'd buy four, then my sister would go in and buy four."
Limmer graduated from Bowling Green State University in 1973. Her 38-year teaching career was spent teaching K-3 blind and vision impaired students in Toledo. She retired in 2011.
For her students, she pulled out one of her favorite recipes - for snow ice cream.
"You use four cups of clean snow, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1/2 cup milk and 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla.
"It was an annual tradition in my classroom," but one she couldn't schedule in advance. It had to await the first good snowfall.
She and husband Mark, who wed while she was still an undergrad at BG, have lived in Rossford for 40 years.
Currently, Limmer is a docent at the Wolcott House Museum in Maumee, where she ran last week's children's history day camp.
Her Grandma Sigler was one of the queens in the 1976 Bicentennial Parade "and that's when I started volunteering, in 1976."
The Wolcott experience is serving her well with Walbridge's centennial.
She hopes lots of people make her Swedish Meatballs.
"It's the only recipe I've ever used" for that dish, which has a singular, stand-out flavor.
She credits the combination of spices, including ginger, nutmeg and allspice.
"Usually, when we've made meatballs it's with tomato sauce, and this is a nice variation on it."
The recipe suggests using a melon-baller to create the meatballs, but Limmer just rolls them with her hands. "They may be a little bigger than melon-ball size."
Limmer usually makes a double batch at a time, "as long as you've got all those spices out anyway." She freezes half until she's ready for it. Then she pops a serving in her slow cooker and lets it simmer a little longer.
"It makes a quick way to get a meal on the table."
½ C. bread crumbs
2 Tbs. onion flakes
½ C. milk
1 pound ground chuck
1 tsp. salt & a dash pepper
¼ tsp. each: ginger, nutmeg & allspice
2 Tbs. butter or margarine
1 can cream of mushroom soup
Soak bread crumbs and & onion flakes in milk. Meanwhile, mix the egg and meat with salt, pepper and spices. Add milk and bread crumb mixture to meat mixture. Using large end of melon ball maker, form into balls and place in skillet with melted butter. Shake pan back and forth while browning, to keep balls nice and round. After balls are golden brown, pour soup over them and turn to simmer until soup is thoroughly melted and distributed.
Can be placed in casserole dish and reheated if made ahead of time. (May also do meatballs in microwave, 4 minutes on high, turning once or twice. Shake occasionally to keep rounded shape)