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Economy & Business

Why Does A Wisconsin Energy Company Publish An Annual Cookie Book?

Kim Frank
The Wisconsin Gas Company also published a number of recipe books

The cookie book. If you’re a native of Wisconsin, it’s likely you know what we’re talking about. But for those who don’t, it’s a cookie recipe book that We Energies publishes every year—yep, the same We Energies that sends you a bill every month. The utility released its first cookie book way back in 1928. While the book is a crowd favorite, we wanted to know why an energy company is interested in the cookies you make.

At face value, Cathy Schulze admits, it seems a little odd that a power company would publish a recipe book for cookies. But she says not if you know the history.

“Back in the day, we had home economists that worked for the company. And these folks would teach customers how to use some of their newfangled appliances.  Stoves in the kitchen for instance. They wanted customers to be comfortable using their natural gas appliances. And so they developed a recipe book as a goodwill gesture to customers so that they could then use their stoves, try out the appliances, use our natural gas,” Schulze says.

Credit Courtesy of Michelle Maternowski
The Maternowski family baking Christmas cookies with recipes from We Energies' cookie books

The utility no longer employs home economists and for a while, the cookie book did go on hiatus, but Schulze says it’s been back now for years, and people expect it. She says this year, We Energies printed about 200,000 copies. And people like Darlene Maternowski line up for them.  

“I am a collector of them. I have some that go back to the 1960s and currently I make sure I get one every year for the last 10 years. I make sure that I show up either at the State Fair or Waukesha Expo and I make sure I get my cookie book,” Maternowski says.

Now full disclosure here, Maternowski is the mother of WUWM employee Michelle.

And while Michelle has a stack of cookie books from her mom, she’s not as excited about chasing them.

Credit Courtesy of Michelle Maternowski
Michelle Maternowski and her family showing off their cookies.

“I’m into eating cookies, and the cookie books are part of that. You have to make the cookies so you can eat the cookies. My favorite, favorite is fudge and that’s not a cookie, but I think they do have a recipe for fudge in some of them,” Maternowski says.

Michelle’s second favorite, chow Mein noodles covered in melted chocolate. Again, not an actual cookie, but who really cares. This year, maybe the family will send the newsroom a few of the leftovers.

By the way, back in the day, We Energies wasn’t alone in its production of recipe books. The Wisconsin Gas and Light Company once published a book, so did a few businesses in the Madison area.

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