A year ago today, local author, Sara Dahmen, released her first novel, Doctor Kinney's Housekeeper. A first place winner of the Chanticleer Book Review for Women's Historical Fiction, the story is set in the Dakota Territories in the late 1800's, and nearly everything important in the book takes place in the kitchen. The story, along with a love of cooking and a strong entrepreneurial spirit, inspired Dahmen's latest venture: a line of historically-inspired cookware called Housekeeper Crockery.
"I wanted to go one step beyond the food discussion," said Dahmen. "We're buying organic, local, sustainable food, but when we bring it home, what do we cook it in? Cookware made in China with a bazillion chemicals in it."
Housekeeper Crockery consists of a line of cast iron and copper pots and pans, ceramic bowls, wooden spoons, and cotton towels that are entirely made in America. In fact, the cast iron is poured in Kaukauna, Wisconsin, and the pottery comes from Rowe Pottery in Cambridge, Wisconsin.
Dahmen has been very hands on in the cast iron and copper process, learning traditional methods from tin and copper smiths, and talking shop with anyone she can.
"Cookware is a man's world, but the information sharing has been wonderful. Even competitors share, because they want a really good product; it's more than just making money. These products are meant to last a lifetime."
The venture has created work for small artisans across the country -- in some cases, workers are being re-taught skills in order to make the cookware. When searching for a place where the line of copper cookware could be made, Dahmen learned that copper pots have not been made en masse in the United States for 90 years.
In keeping with her commitment to local, Dahmen is also working with local businesses to sell her products. "I'd rather support mom and pop boutiques, and keep the jobs here. Integrity and transparency are important to me."
Housekeeper Crockery can be found at Blue Heron Artisan's Marketplace in Port Washington, as well as the Rustic Palate in Cedarburg, who will be having a product launch party for the line on May 21st from 11-4.
Interestingly, the book that inspired the cookware line has inspired another book: a request for a non-fiction book about cookware, which will be Dahmen's next project.
Not only is Dahmen a writer and a business owner, she is also a successful event planner and a mother to three children under the age of 6. This begs the question: How does she do it?
Dahmen smiled. "I'm lucky to have a very supportive husband."