New Honoree Into Miss NiNi’s Royal Baking Court

Recently while driving, I saw a sign flashing, “Hospitality Is Our Middle Name.” In the case of my new honoree into Miss NINi’s Royal Baking Court, “Hospitality” could, indeed, be her FULL name! I am so pleased to introduce you to Margaret (Mrs. Tom) Magill and highlight her life’s baking story.

In separate conversations with Margaret’s children and two adult granddaughters as well as visiting with Margaret herself, the association of food and generous hospitality epitomized the story of who she really is. But more about that later.

In our little chat, the first words voiced by Margaret were, “I do not measure.” Margaret is pretty much what I call a “dump and mix” baker. She expressed, “With cookies, if the first batch goes flat in the oven, you add a little more flour.” If her baking efforts go awry, she works to solve them in order to turn out a product that is enjoyed by those she seeks to please.

Margaret is an independent “fixer” and self motivator. In her baking world, this even began back at age 13 when she recalled having baked for the first time. “I tried to make an apple pie. I worked that dough until it was grey. I wouldn’t let Mother help me. That was an awful-looking pie, but I wanted to prove to somebody that I could do it!”

With a college degree in chemistry and biology from Tarkio College, Tarkio, MO, it’s easy to understand her natural desire to experiment with ingredients to invent or create a positive outcome. She frequently does not use a recipe. When asked if she had a recipe file, Margaret shrugged her shoulders and said, “No.”

It wasn’t until Tom and Margaret were married that she received her first cookbooks as wedding gifts. “Joy of Cooking was my favorite because it was very detailed.” Now, in today’s world, this inquisitive, technology-savy grandma of five uses as her go-to baking source. “If I have an ingredient I want to use, I will Google this web site to give me help.”

As dairy farmers, Tom insisted that Margaret baked with butter. He expressed to his wife that he just liked the flavor of food when it was made with butter. Holstein cows milked in their grade A dairy produced an abundant supply of fresh white liquid even before the “Got Milk?” campaign became popular.

The subject of Margaret Magill’s delicious home-baked dinner rolls and cinnamon rolls was repeatedly presented to me by multiple Dear Readers. As a matter-of-fact, these rolls may not only be home-baked but are angel-touched, church-baked in many cases. It’s not unusual for Margaret to mix up her bread dough at home, then put this into the trunk of her car, and drive to church where she will later bake fresh rolls for after-church coffee or annual dinners.

How often, Dear Reader, does your nose get the lovely blessing of inhaling the most wonderful aroma of freshly baked cinnamon rolls as your minister delivers the Sunday morning sermon? I would find it extremely challenging to focus on the message. Wouldn’t you agree?

Oh my, Dear Reader, we would be in awe of the dozens and dozens and dozens of dinner rolls and cinnamon rolls Margaret has so generously made and provided for her church and various other community events and meals.

She does admit that cinnamon rolls are her favorite item to bake. She objectively speaks like a genuinely experienced baker with these words, “I can have cinnamon rolls on the table in two hours.”

Margaret states, “I enjoy feeding people!” She so freely gives of her heart and hands to provide satiety for others.

In 1978, Wallace’s Farmer magazine worthily honored Margaret Magill as an Iowa Master Homemaker. This is a national organization including eight states. Their selection process is based upon what a woman has done for her church, family, and community.

Daughter-in-law, Margo, lovingly voiced this about Margaret, “Hospitality and generosity are expressed through her baking.” She went on to say that when her husband, John, and she were students at Iowa State University, they would always come home to Margaret’s homemade bread and cookies. But Margaret’s generosity didn’t stop there as she would then send multiple home-baked treats with John and Margo as they journeyed back to Ames.

I found such delight in reading emails from two of Margaret’s granddaughters, Sarah Magill and Rachael Smith. Their love for Grandma Magill overflows with praise!

Sarah writes of her baking memories with her grandmother like this: “I have so many baking memories with Grandma…the biggest chocolate chip cookies ever…learning to make bread (I make her recipe at home when I need to cheer myself up.)…learning to make apple pie (At a pie baking party, my friends were all amazed by my crust skills, especially because I’m not known for my domestic abilities here.) But one of my favorite baking memories with Grandma is when I came home and told my family I had started eating like a vegan. The timing wasn’t great because we had planned a big cookout, and our usual Iowa cookout foods weren’t exactly vegan friendly. But what was Grandma’s immediate response? ‘Oooh! Let’s make falafel burgers!’ She had stocked up on falafel mix from an international grocery store in Chicago, and she was excited to use it. That’s Grandma: Her baking is an extension of her hospitality. Whether she’s making bread for communion at church or whispering, ‘The apple pie is vegan’ to me at Thanksgiving, her cooking welcomes people in and lets them know they belong.”

Granddaughter Rachael expressed that her favorite baking memory has to be baking Grandma’s big sugar cookies. “I have wonderful memories of sitting on a kitchen stool while we talked and made her cookies together. When I was at college, she would mail me batches of her sugar cookies or send me home with frozen dough when I came home for the holidays. Her cookies got me through finals and any case of homesickness. While everything my Grandma makes is unbelievably delicious, there has always been something special about these big sugar cookies and the time we spent together making them.”

Do you see why “Hospitality” could be Margaret Magill’s FULL name? It’s just part of her heart for others!

It is indeed my pleasure to award Margaret Magill a crown of golden stars in Miss NiNi’s Royal Baking Court!

Miss NiNi

NOTE TO READERS: Want to chat about baking? Contact me at

I welcome your suggestions of homemakers for possible inclusion into Miss NiNi’s Royal Baking Court. Remember, these worthy homemakers born prior to 1960, living or deceased, can reside or could have resided outside of Miss NiNi’s geographical area of southwest Iowa.

Look forward to a new baking crown awarded each month in upcoming columns. It just might be for you!

BACKGROUND- Janine Knop, aka Miss NiNi, grew up on the prairies of North Dakota learning to bake alongside her mother. As her passion for baking delicious treats grew, so did her creative flair in the kitchen. She is a graduate of North Dakota State University with a degree in Home Economics Education and a minor in Food and Nutrition. She served as a home economist for an upper Midwest power company promoting the use of electrical kitchen appliances through television, radio, and cooking schools. As an Atlantic-area farm wife and mother, she has honed her baking skills in her own kitchen by creating and testing hundreds of dessert recipes. Janine has been awarded numerous championship ribbons in the food department at the Iowa State Fair, the largest food competition of its kind in the United States. Her passion for dessert baking served as the catalyst which led to the creation of her own nationally known company, Miss NiNi’s Fine Desserts.