Scott Cawelti

About Scott Cawelti -

Scott Cawelti was born and raised in Cedar Falls, Iowa. He taught writing, film, and literature at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) from 1968-2008, and has written regular opinion columns and reviews for the Waterloo / Cedar Falls Courier since the late 1970s.  He played for years in a folk duo with Robert James Waller and still regularly performs as a singer/guitarist/songwriter. Scott continues to teach as an adjunct instructor at UNI.



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  • Angeleita's Amazing Tomato Pie

    • Posted on Sep 14, 2014 by Scott Cawelti

    Angeleita’s Amazing Tomato Pie

    Yes, you can find other “tomato pie” recipes, and yes, they have some of the same ingredients, and yes, they’re all savory with no sugar. 

    But none match Angeleita’s tomato pie, seen above in its fully baked glory.   

    I know this because I’m married to her, and have seen her bake dozens of them over the years, changing the recipe to fit her unerring instinct for what tastes and textures work.

     She has perfected the tomato pie but only makes it when fresh tomatoes, locally grown, are available, usually our own.  For us it’s a late summer, early fall dish, and compliments other harvest meals nicely. 

    If you can’t find fresh, meaty, ripe tomatoes, don’t bother.     

    I’ve also seen plenty of friends swoon when they finally taste the exotic warm mix of basil, fresh sliced tomatoes, Vidalia onions, and three cheeses mixed with grapeseed mayonnaise.

    It takes a bit of time, since it involves two layers of four ingredients per layer.  But it’s more than worth it.

    Here’s what you’ll need:

    1.     A Pillsbury pie nine-inch crust, the kind that comes in a box that you unfold to fit into a quiche dish.  If you prefer to bake your own crust, great.   Angeleita says that using the store-bought crust saves time and the Pillsbury version works well.  Note: the “pie” needs to be deep enough to accommodate all these ingredients, so we use a deeper ceramic dish rather than a standard pie plate—technically a quiche dish, 9-10” across.     

    2.     Fresh basil leaves, enough to cover the crust twice, in two separate layers. 

    3.     Thinly sliced Vidalia (sweet) onions, enough to cover crust twice.

    4.     Thinly sliced fresh tomatoes, enough, etc.  NOTE:  Make sure that you drain the tomato slices for several minutes onto paper towels; you do not want a soggy tomato pie.  Also, salt and pepper each slice.    

    5.      Grapeseed mayonnaise. Do not use sweet versions of mayo; this will ruin the savory character of the pie.  “Vegenaise” makes the kind we prefer. 

    6.     Three kinds of cheese, all freshly grated.  We prefer (1) sharp white cheddar, (2) regular mozzarella (not the kind that comes in a moist ball) and (3) smoky gouda—about eight ounces each.  Experiment with jalapeno cheese, or whatever you prefer, except do not use cheeses that don’t melt well, such as feta (goat) or parmesan.   For freshness, grate immediately before using. 


     We decided to make two, since once you have all the ingredients, it isn't much trouble to double it.  However, all the instructions and ingredients are for one pie.  
    Now, here’s what you do:

     First, bake the pie shell and let it cool completely.  Do not put the basil leaves on a warm crust; they will turn black.  

    Second, place the first layer of basil leaves (washed and dried) in the bottom of the cool shell.


    Third, place a layer of dried, thinly sliced fresh tomato slices over the basil leaves.  

    Fourth, place a layer of thinly sliced Vidalia onion slices over the tomato slices.


    Fifth, place half of the grated cheeses mixed together over the onion slices.          Note:  NO mayo with this first layer.  


    Sixth, repeat the basil, tomato, and onion layers above, then for the final layer, dollop in about two tablespoons of the grapeseed mayonnaise with the second half of the three-cheese mix.  Spread the final cheese mix in chunks over the now-completed pie.  


    Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and bake until brown and bubbly—75 (or more) minutes, depending on your oven.  

    Remove from oven and let cool several minutes before slicing.  Here's how it should look: 

     If you choose to store the pie, let it cool completely, cover well with foil and/or parchment paper to refrigerate, and when ready to eat, heat it again until bubbly.

    This may take up to 45 minutes.  Cover lightly with foil when reheating so the cheese doesn’t burn; remove foil for ten minutes toward the end to make sure the reheated pie is bubbling hot. 

     If you follow this recipe carefully, I wouldn’t be surprised if you too swoon at having created the perfect tomato pie.  Let me know how it works, especially if you try variations with bacon, different cheeses, etc.   And of course do comment with any suggestions or corrections to this recipe.  

    Believe me, this is a dish that causes paroxysms of pleasure from everyone who tries it--especially hot, right out of the oven, with fresh ingredients.   



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  • What Makes a Great Community--Cedar Falls' School Bond Election

    • Posted on Sep 01, 2014 by Scott Cawelti

    This appeared in yesterday's (8-31) WCF Courier.   Though I don't expect it to change any made-up minds, it might help a few people jump off the fence--in favor, I hope. 

    I REALLY hope it passes on Sept. 9, not only because it's right for CF Public Schools, but because I'm out $365 on Sept. 10 if it fails.   Pretty dumb idea, but I wrote it and meant it.  (See final paragraphs below.) 

    Over the years I’ve called several places home, meaning put down roots for at least a year and stayed.   I remember them all fondly, mostly.   

    Holstein, in western Iowa, wasn’t much fun for a single guy, and I left town as often as possible from 1965-6.  Regensburg, Germany, was remarkable for its long history and river, the Danube, that waltzed through it.   Orebro, Sweden, meant wonderful neighbors, long walks in the Swedish woods, and some of the best pastries on the planet.  

    Charleston, South Carolina, to where we retreat, combines several of these, making it my second favored city. 

    Then there’s my first, Cedar Falls.  It doesn’t have woodsy walks of Orebro, or the history of Europe and Charleston, but it does have strong advantages that attract and keep folks who come for a year and stay for decades.

    More than a few old friends who left have told me that if they ever find suitable work in the Cedar Valley, they’d move back in a heartbeat, winters be damned. 

    So what makes Cedar Falls such an inviting and vibrant community?  UNI, GBPAC, sports venues, bike trails, Hearst and Waterloo Art Centers—yes, yes.    

    And near the top:  Public schools.  It has some of the best-run and best-regarded schools in the state, and good schools attract families more than most other community features.  

    I’ll admit to a slight bias, since I’m a product of CF Public schools, graduating from CF High when it still had that new-school smell, in 1961. 

    Looking back, I received a first-rate education, with a balance of extra-curriculars and academics, memorable events and excellent teachers.    I didn’t think so at the time, but it allowed enough freedom to experiment, yet enough structure to keep me challenged and engaged.

    A great school will do that, and from all I’ve heard, CF schools carry on that tradition, though not without problems.  Our local schools have become overcrowded and just plain outdated.  CF High was built sixty years ago, and has been remodeled, fixed, and refurbished pretty much to the limit.  

    It’s time for an update, and that means replacing.  If this doesn’t happen, one of the prime reasons Cedar Falls becomes a beloved hometown will falter.  

    I’ve only heard two objections:  Cost and the choice of location, off West 27th St.     

    What will it cost the typical Cedar Falls homeowner?  About a dollar a day, say proponents of the upcoming bond referendum.  This is the first school referendum, by the way, since 1976, when voters approved $940,000 for swimming pools at Holmes and Peet Junior Highs. (Google “CF schools bond information.”)

    A buck a day? That’s less than a cup of coffee, and certainly less than the treats we grab for snacks.  Given what a daily dollar buys, it’s the best spent buck in the wallet.  

    Remember too that though CF Schools rank 17th in enrollment in Iowa, they’re 25th in terms of tax levy.  Clearly, an upgrade is in order.  

     As to location, the whole city’s moving west, and proximity to UNI makes sense, given the amount of interaction between UNI and CF High.  Remember this bond issue will also pay for additions to and remodel North Cedar Elementary, add to and remodel Orchard Hill Elementary school, and build a new elementary school in addition to a new high school.   It’s a city-wide shift to a mid-21st century educational system.  

     I believe strongly enough in keeping CF schools alive and growing that if the Sept. 9 referendum fails, I promise to donate $365 anyway—my buck a day for 2014—to the CF School district on Sept. 10. 

     It’s the least I can do, given what our local schools do for all of us. 

    What’s the least you can do?  Vote yes on Sept. 9.



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