Excerpted from Heavy Table
Before Beatrice Ojakangas, there was no cookbook for Finnish cuisine. Today her first book, The Finnish Cookbook, is in its 38th printing. “I guess I’ve just been a bit lucky,” says Ojakangas, who is a member of the James Beard Cookbook Hall of Fame (2005). According to her husband, Dick, “Around here [Duluth] I am Mr. Bea Ojakangas. It doesn’t bother me a bit, as long as she feeds me.”
To make a good cookbook, “it has to have a theme or a hook,” says Ojakangas, who has recently published Petite Sweets, a book that veers from her Finnish expertise. Not all of her cookbooks have been Scandinavian themed, but the ones that have are among the most popular. The Great Scandinavian Baking Book received a James Beard Award. Scandinavian Feasts, a book that Ojakangas wrote after traveling to all of the Scandinavian countries, went out of print after 14 months. Recently it has been brought back into print along with 7 other books by the University of Minnesota Press. “The U of M press says they want to keep all my books in print,” says Ojakangas.
in 2009, one of Ojakangas’ newest books, The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever, was nominated for a James Beard Award for single subject. “You can find casseroles all over the world,” says Ojakangas, who, like many Minnesotans, often calls a casserole a “hot dish.”
In 2005, her book, “The Great Scandinavian Baking Book”, was inducted into the KitchenAid Cookbook Hall of Fame from the James Beard Foundation. The honor also cited her long list of published cookbooks. A James Beard Foundation Award is the highest industry honor awarded to a culinary professional.
She has appeared on major television shows, including “Martha Stewart Living”, “Good Morning America”, and “Baking with Julia Child”, and has shared her culinary expertise in developing recipes for major food companies such as Pillsbury, Louis Kemp Foods and Chun King.